Issue: March 2006 Issue
Leave it to Damon Jones, the outspoken point guard of the Cleveland Cavaliers, to become the first American NBA player to endorse a Chinese-branded sneaker and apparel by Beijing-based Li-Ning Sports Goods Co.
Jones, who on his arrival to the Cavaliers last year from the Miami Heat dubbed himself â€œthe best shooter in the world,â€ might have regretted that statement in January, shortly after his endorsement deal closed, as his stellar three-point shooting percentage dipped below 22 percent as a starting guard. His average for the Heat last season was 43 percent.
Jones first wore Li-Ningâ€™s â€œFei Jiaâ€ basketball shoes in November. Li-Ning will provide Jones with three types of shoes and sportswear in six colors this season.
Although it is now one of a kind, Jonesâ€™ deal may be a sign of things to come.
â€œThere is an enormous opportunity to import foreign products and services and do so using athletes as the messengers in the same way Nike and others have leveraged Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods over the years,â€ says David M. Carter, executive director of the University of Southern California Sports Business Institute. â€œAs the business barriers are broken down worldwide, there is no reason to doubt that the sports industry will find a way to successfully take advantage of an increasingly borderless economy.â€
According to the terms of the endorsement contract negotiated by Jonesâ€™ agent, Mark Termini, attorney and president of Cleveland-based sports management agency MTA Inc., Jones will wear Li-Ning basketball shoes during NBA games and he also will wear its basketball sportswear in training. The terms of the deal were not disclosed, although Jones is being paid $16.1 million for his four-year contract with the Cavs.
Founded in 1990, Li-Ning Co. Ltd is the largest sneaker company in China with a whopping 2,500 stores covering every province, with plans to open 1,500 more by 2008.
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