Breaking Through: The Influx of Chinese Brands in the NBA

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This NBA season has been filled with memorable Kicks on Court moments. One of the more interesting observations, however, has been the increased presence of Chinese footwear. In the 2013 NBA Finals, there are four players, including superstars Dwyane Wade and Tony Parker, who lace up sneakers from Chinese brands Li-Ning and PEAK. It seems that Chinese brands are beginning to gain traction, and with more and more players lacing up PE versions of sneakers, it is only a matter of time before one of these brands snag at least one more megastar. As we take a look a the Breakthrough of Chinese Brands in the NBA, one can only project who the next star will be.

Taking the PE (Player Exclusive) even further, custom sneakers have made their way onto the court thanks to a number of NBA players. The word uniform, in itself, speaks to blending in. Outside of tattoos, athletes rely on their footwear to express themselves. For basketball players in particular, your sneakers are an extension of your persona. It is the most important component of one’s athletic wardrobe. It is only fitting that players want to have a say in what they wear on the court. Chinese brands allow that. Since back when Baron Davis and Shaquille O’neal signed with Li-Ning years ago, the majority of players that sign on to these brands get PEs to play in. Their shoes are their shoes. At no point can a player signed to PEAK or Li-Ning, look down their team’s bench, or across to the opposing team’s sideline and see a player wearing the exact same shoe in the exact same colorway. That exclusivity is something that not all players can boast. The lack of duplication allows for those shoes to always draw attention.

PEAK first signed Shane Battier back in 2006. At the time, he was viewed as a major grab for the brand. However, the next year, PEAK signed a 4-year deal with the NBA that allowed them to advertise globally with the league, and has since signed a 4-year deal with the Toronto Raptors. This year, the brand boasts a 14-man roster, including perennial All-Star Tony Parker. Nine of those 14 players participated in the NBA playoffs, so visibility was at an all-time high. As PEAK Sports Brand Director Kenny Carrol puts it, “If you are with PEAK, you can play.” The success of the players in the shoe speaks to the brand’s mantra.

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