CBA’s Footwear Deal Causes Controversy

December 4, 2012

Several Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) players have expressed their frustration at being forced to wear footwear made by Li Ning, one of the league’s partners, and being fined for violations.

Li Ning recently signed a US$321 million five-year endorsement deal with the CBA and requires all Chinese players to wear its sneakers in games; foreigners may wear other brands, provided the logos are covered.

Twelve players, including Wang Zhizhi of Bayi Rockets and Beijing Ducks guard Stephon Marbury, were fined US$3,210 each after the first round of games of the season for not wearing Li Ning sneakers or covering competing brands’ logos.

Zhejiang’s Ding Jinhui and Beijing’s Lee Hsueh-lin were fined a combined US$8,025 last Friday for continuing to disobey the rules.

Players have been complaining about the league’s over protection of the sponsor’s rights.

“Every player has his right to wear what shoes are right for his feet to protect his body and well being while playing on the court,” Marbury said.

“It is not right that players can’t have a choice to wear what’s comfortable while playing at a high level. Safety is first and it’s my right.”

Marbury followed the league’s order and covered his 361 Degree branded shoes with tape in the third round to avoid more fines.

Ding, who used to wear adidas footwear, recently posted on his micro blog: “My feet got injured seriously last year and could not fit in the required shoes. It’s making a joke of my body. What can I do?”

Li Ning has said rival brands logos can be worn on court if the companies are willing to pay a fee of US$80,200 per player, five times the price former CBA sponsor, Anta, asked for last season.

Many domestic brands would be unable to afford such a high fee.

Following criticism from players and media, Li Ning is offering to provide customised shoes for players.

“We sent every player different kinds of shoes for trial during the preseason tournaments, and some of the players refused to try our products,” Li Ning’s Chief Marketing Officer, Zhang Xiangdu, said.

“We will send designing crews to measure  feet sizes and related figures to make new shoes for them. Make sure they fit them. We spent much more money to support the league than the previous equipment sponsor, so we deserve the right to market our brand within the regulations.”

Zhang said players are allowed to wear their own sneakers until the customised ones are delivered.{jcomments on}