After Nike and Adidas, who would you say is China’s third largest sneaker manufacturer? Nope, not Puma, or Mizuno, or Converse, nor Asics…none of these can lay claim to the world’s largest domestic market after the two big guns. And you’d be forgiven for not knowing, as our two former sporting hero brands are firmly imprinted into sporting and societal consiousness throughout the world, with a firm head start of over thirty years - and China is, well, a really far far way away…well, it’s about to get closer, and with a brandmark, product lineup and inspired suite of brand imagery that turned my head and got me looking in, Li-Ning is set to make its presence felt in the West, and the efforts of our two former sporting brand Titans are going to have to step up a gear and accept that the spoils are going to have split up even further.
With a firm footing in eastern staples like badmington and basketball, and the signing on of the likes of the man-mountain that is Shaquille O’Neal, be assured that these guys are looking even further east, right over to the USA, and, with Shaq in tow, thinking big - really big.
If an identity icon should capture the essence of a brand’s business and ambition, as Nike’s swoosh® does, talking to dynamism and winning, Li-Ning’s marque displays a graphic confidence and grace of form that is refreshingly credible, implying a sense of scale and agility and which feels as if it’s been in play for far longer. I love the heritage of Asian calligraphy and flowing ribbon coming through in the billowing and caricatured form, contrasted with the simple downstroke to complete the L letterform - this is an L, but it’s also so much more - inspired, intelligent, balanced, energetic, fleet-footed, and muscular.
In sport, as we all know, presence and image gives one an immediate perceived advantage, and in these stakes i’d wager 15-love to Li-Ning. There is an Asian storm on the rise, and Nike and Adidas are going to feel a wind blowing across their bows. In the meantime, for sports fans and athletes alike, the upside is that every dark cloud has a silver li-ning.