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Li-Ning Inks Deal to Outfit Spaniards
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If Spanish tennis wunderkind Rafael Nadal stands on the podium at the 2008 Beijing Olympics wearing Li-Ning Co Ltd's sportswear, it will exemplify the Chinese firm's slogan: Anything is possible.


Li-Ning yesterday unveiled its plans for international expansion and signed a cooperation agreement with the Spanish Olympic Committee (SOC) to outfit the Spanish team at next year's Games.


Juan Antonio Samaranch, honorary president of the International Olympic Committee, represented the SOC in the agreement with company founder and board chairman Li Ning.


The Spanish Olympic Delegation is the second team to partner with Li-Ning for the 2008 Beijing Games. The Swedish Olympic Delegation entered a similar partnership earlier this year.


"We are still looking forward to more sponsorship cooperation with delegations from other countries," said Jason Guo, Li-Ning's chief operation officer.


But the company lost its 12-year sponsorship of the Chinese delegations to international rival adidas, which will pay some $80 million for the sponsorship, according to reports, a figure more than Li-Ning's entire annual marketing budget.


Guo said deals with foreign Olympic delegations are a significant step toward international expansion.


"To make our presence felt in the global market, Li-Ning must be a brand with high recognition and reputation first," he told China Daily.


The company, which opened its first European store in Spain in 2001, now has almost 30 test stores on the continent. The stores account for no more than 2 percent of Li-Ning's total business.


But Guo said the company will still open stores in the Netherlands and Belguim soon. As the top sports brand in China, Li-Ning will have 5,100 stores across the country by 2008, with locations in all first- and second-tier cities and many third-tier cities.


The company earlier said it aims to be listed among the top five sports brands in the world by 2018.


(China Daily June 26, 2007)


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