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Reebok Gives Playing Time To Yao Ming

After having lured Houston Rockets star Yao Ming away from Nike in 2003 with a 10-year contract paying up to $10 million a year, Reebok is now utilizing the standout center in an advertising campaign in his native country. Using a theme called "Fuel Yao's Unlimited Power," a slew of television and digital ads encourage Chinese consumers to support their hero as he prepares for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

Four years after signing Yao, Reebok is in sixth place in China's athletic-shoe market, far behind rivals, including the leader, Nike, Puma AG Rudolf Dassler Sport and Mizuno.

Paul Harrington, Reebok's CEO, attributes the "underutilization" of Yao to Reebok's too-large stable of star endorsers and lack of focus by Reebok's Chinese distributors. Another reason for keeping Yao on the marketing sidelines lies in disputes between Reebok and parent company Adidas. After the acquisition, some factions within Adidas allegedly wanted to move Yao to the German brand. Adidas and Reebok say there was some discussion about moving Yao to Adidas, but no dispute.



Read the whole story at The Wall Street Journal »

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