China Hongxing sponsors 2008 DPRK Olympic team

UPDATE 3 (2010-6-3): China Hongxing bid to sponsor the DPRK’s 2010 World Cup football team, but was beat out by Italian firm Legea.

UPDATE 2 (2008-8-14): The Wall Street Journal did a follow up story on China Hongxing:

During the Opening Ceremonies, for instance, the North Koreans refused to wear Erke’s logo for fear it would compete with their country’s Communist red-starred flag.

and…

The North Korean sponsorship cost Erke $2 million to $3 million, said Wu Rongzhao, deputy chief executive at China Hongxing Sports, which owns Erke. The Singapore-listed Hongxing reported net profit of $59 million for fiscal 2007.

Yet Erke’s sponsorship of the North Korea team has been “a very painful process,” said Mr. Wu.

Erke had to scrub plans for a marketing event timed to the Games’ opening because of red tape and bureaucracy, said a person familiar with the matter. For instance, Pyongyang’s Olympic officials would communicate only by email, not by phone.

Nor are North Korean athletes a sports marketer’s dream. Most are conditioned to be self-effacing and to credit their victories to the North Korean regime and its leader, Kim Jong Il. Weightlifter Pak Hyon Suk, who won North Korea’s first gold in Beijing on Tuesday — wearing Erke — said her victory was the “the best present for the president, for the people, for the country and for myself,” according to Xinhua, China’s state-run news agency.

UPDATE 1 (2008-7-28): Reuters follows up with China Hongxing:

Hoping to achieve what Michael Jordan did for Nike, a little-known Chinese sportswear brand is banking on the North Korean Olympic team for publicity.

“[The Chinese] tend to watch the North Koreans compete in the events that the Chinese are also strong in, so sponsoring North Korea will get a lot more eyeballs,” [Jenny Yeo, company spokesperson] said.

North Korean athletes in the Beijing Games will be sporting a stylized swan logo from China Hongxing’s “Erke” brand, which means “you conquer” in Mandarin.

China Hongxing will be kitting out the team with leotards, soccer boots and the red windbreakers the athletes will wear to the August 8 opening ceremony. Erke will be selling some of this sportswear in China and expects buyers seeking novelty value.

ORIGINAL POST (2007-7-25): Since China’s star Olympic athletes have signed endorsement contracts with western sports apparel firms, their Chinese competitors have looked to the DPRK to help them cash in on the ’08 Olympics (and beyond).

China Hongxing Sports Limited is one such companies, and they have issued a press release here (PDF) announcing their deal with the DPRK Olympic team and the women’s football team.

Slate has more on the retail strategy:

Chinese companies can’t compete with the world powers when it comes to locking up megastars. Olympic gold-medalist hurdler Liu Xiang, who will likely emerge as the biggest Chinese star of the Beijing games, has a deal with Nike. One of China’s leading sports-marketing consultants told me that every starter on the national basketball team has a deal with a foreign brand. Yi Jianlian, whom the Milwaukee Bucks selected with the sixth pick of the NBA draft, had a Nike contract by the time he was 16.

At the same time, Chinese shoe companies’ Billy Beane-like quest for hidden value has led to a few questionable decisions. Most sneaker companies would shy away from sponsoring the North Korean Olympic team. At the 2004 Summer Games in Athens, the DPRK won a grand total of five medals, none of them gold. Besides, the Hermit Kingdom doesn’t exactly conjure up the kind of brand associations most shoe companies are looking for. But Erke’s [China Hongxing] sponsorship of North Korea has a simple explanation. North Korea’s strongest sports include gymnastics, table tennis, and diving, all of which draw huge support and TV audiences in China.

Read the full stories here:
Chinese Companies Sponsor Countries Others Won’t Touch
Wall Street Journal, Page A14
Mei Fong
8/14/2008

North Korea’s Olympic outfitter hopes for publicity gold
Reuters
Melanie Lee
7/29/2008

Female Weightlifters, Spanish Basketball Stars, and Kim Jong-il
Slate
Jacob Leibenluft
7/25/2007

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