Sponsors pledge commitment to Liu, through the pain and glory

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 August, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 August, 2008, 12:00am

More of Liu Xiang's sponsors expressed their support yesterday, the day after the athlete pulled out of the Olympic 110 metres hurdles, and pledged to continue co-operating with him.

Nike, whose shoes Liu wears, ran full-page advertisements in several mainland newspapers yesterday. One was published on the front page of Shanghai's Oriental Morning Post and the back page of China Daily and other publications, show his face, partly in shadow.

An accompanying slogan ends with the line: 'Love Sport Even When It Breaks Your Heart.'

'It was specifically tailored to events,' Nike spokesman Derek Kent said. 'This ad is really sending the message that we support Liu Xiang. We look forward to working with him in the days and months and years ahead.'

Nike finalised the advert at 11pm on Monday and 'worked through the night' to place it in yesterday's newspapers, state media said.

One public relations industry executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: 'From Nike's point of view, it's a good thing to do. The prevailing mood seems to be one of sympathy.

'As a company that's spent a lot of money to associate themselves closely with Liu Xiang, they want to make sure they're seen to be part of that and to express their own sympathy.'

Sponsors did not appear to be pulling their support for the athlete amid an outpouring of national sympathy, but it remains to be seen if those companies end or alter their commercial relationships.

'Immediately in the aftermath of his withdrawal, when there is this surge of emotion and sympathy, it makes sense to do something positive and constructive,' the executive said.

'The longer-term question is much hazier: what's his value as a product endorser? If he's no longer a world-class athlete, then of course his value for athletic endorsements is going to drop.'

Nike declined yesterday to give details of its sponsorship agreement with Liu.

On Monday, Coca-Cola Pacific Group communications director Kenth Kaerhoeg said his company's association with Liu would continue, as 'his achievements both on and off the field continue to inspire fans and consumers throuhout China'.

GM China agreed, saying: 'Having some problems with his ankle is understandable. We still support him.' Liu has been involved in a year-long campaign for Cadillac through Shanghai General Motors.

And computer maker Lenovo, clothing maker Shanshan Group and shoemaker Aokang Group added their praise and pledges.

Mr Kent said the Nike ad was about rebounding from adversity. 'It's a 'Just Do It' spot, which is really about getting back up when you fall down and coming back stronger.'

Xinhua quoted Zhu Jinqian, a Nike spokeswoman in China, as saying: 'Just as our ad slogan communicates: love sport. That means love everything, no matter whether it's the highs or the lows.'