Photo: Ray Ally
With the Olympics well into the second week the race between the sporting brands is approaching the final bend. Li Ning’s spectacular ultimate ambush of the opening ceremony is now a distant memory as the battle is really only between the two giants of Nike and adidas.
Nike who has dressed the Chinese athletes and adidas the official sponsor are neck and neck but it looks like things are changing. Adidas could be striding ahead by its association with all the gold winning Chinese athletes that are being photographed on the Olympic podiums.
China’s ambition to win the most gold medals on home turf has been no secret for years. They have been planning this since they won the right to host the games back in 2001. However I don’t expect that they believed they would be doing quite so well, having lead the gold medal race from the start.
To support their positioning adidas has erected a number of Chinese medals counters around the city which update electronically every time China gets a medal. These are located at prime shopping locations around the city and outside their flagship store in Sanlitun, Beijing.
Interest in China’s medal tally is so important to Beijingers that many office buildings have their own home made medal counters in their lobby, which is updated by hand by the reception staff. Talk at lunchtime and around the office water cooler is always about ‘how many gold medals do we have now?’.
Last weekend I went to the largest adidas store in the world, which just happens to be in Beijing. It is a four floor, 3,000sqm Brand Centre which, for the first time has all the adidas divisions, Sport Performance, Sport Style, Originals and Y-3 under one roof.
The place was so packed you could hardly get inside as locals, and tourist were buying up everything Olympic in site. Replica China shirts and tracksuits worn by the Chinese athletes on the medals podiums had almost sold out. Similarly anything with the Beijing logo or Olympic sporting icons was also in short supply. It was a shopping frenzy that reminded me of Oxford Street in London during the Christmas sales.
So if what I witnessed in Beijing is also taking place across their other 5,000 stores in China, then adidas is looking a sure thing, as is China, to win the most gold from the Beijing games.