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Chinese sports megastars in the “system”—co-creation by Chinese system, media and capital

By Yutang Sports Tuesday, 21 Apr 2015 17:30

With respect to the unpredictable sports performance, the invisible hand—market is traceable.

 “Looking for stars”

“Looking for stars”—namely signing with athletes is a kind of gambling property in itself for the domestic enterprise.

It was in March 2003 when Qin Zheming, previous sports marketing manager of Coca-Cola Company met Liu Xiang for the first time. The nineteen-year-old guy was energetic, answering Qin’s question with a little shyness.

At that time, Liu Xiang is a new star in track and field, who got gold medal in Bushan Aisan Games for his 13.27 seconds. For Coca-Cola Company represented by Qin Zheming, Liu is a potential stocks for company’s long-term marketing.

After that, we all know that Liu is one of the hottest athletes in 2004 Athens Olympic Games.

Xie Long, director of Olympic Games Sponsorship of Lenovo Group, was regretful for late sponsorship with Liu. Lenovo’s solution at that time was to find other famous athletes such as Du Li, the first Chinese winner of gold medal in shooting. 

Hereafter, Lenovo signed a series of Olympic sports stars, while the methods are almost the same: find a third brokerage firm that can help to connect varied sports management center with their broad human relationships. Then, the coaches would be sent out to negotiate with advertiser and sponsors. In the management center, the coach is a parent, broker, and also a political gate-keeper for athlete rather than a simple coach, because, athletes grew up in sports school, without knowing too much about our society, and most of them are quite innocent. Therefore, what they could do is just to listen to their coaches. That’s the development mode of athlete in China until today. 


There is another well-known story. In 2008, Liu Xiang said goodbye to 110m hurdle temporarily for his injuries. 

For that a large number sponsors terminated their cooperation with Liu. Cheng Guo, the consultant of Olympic Sponsorship of Lenovo commented, “Most of domestic enterprise, at least at that time, were shortsighted. After the Olympic Games, most of them would withdraw their investment and look for other industry.”


Liu Xiang, representing the unique altitude of the national developmental mode, symbolized the end of an era of Chinese sports megastars. People are looking for another generation of sports megastars. Swimmer Sunyang, Ning Zetao, golfer Feng Shanshan, as well as International Chess “Qeen” Hou Yifan, all of them are granted with great expectations. 

It would be better to say that the achievement of megastars like Liu Xiang, Yaoming and Li Na is the common result of the “system”, media and capital, instead of the sports performance accomplished by themselves. Whether mode of the “system” is applicable for next generation of sports megastars is still a problem to be discussed in the future developmental process of sports industry.



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