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Yao's Injury Disappoints Olympic Sponsors, Fans

Chinese basketball fans, bloggers and multinational companies all expressed their condolences yesterday to Yao Ming, the 27-year-old, 7-foot-6 superstar center, who announced Tuesday that a stress fracture in his foot would prevent him from finishing the season with the NBA's Houston Rockets and threatens his participation in the Beijing Olympics in August.

Yao's grin seems to be plastered everywhere in China, from cans of Coke to billboards for Visa. A Web site launched by a "Yao-o-meter" of Chinese support for the star, measuring the growth in digital sentiments such as clicks and phone messages.

So far, the corporate sponsors are being sympathetic--and cautious. Reebok, which has staked much of its aggressive push into China's giant athletic-gear market on its sponsorship of Mr. Yao, says it's too early to say how the news might affect its marketing plans. Most of the ads featuring Yao that will be aired during the Olympics have already been filmed, marketers say.



Read the whole story at The Wall Street Journal »

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