Li Ning is a Chinese gymnast and entrepreneur. In 1982, he won six of the seven medals awarded at the Sixth World Cup Gymnastic Competition, earning him the title "Prince of Gymnastics", and is most famous for winning 6 medals at the 1984 Summer Olympics, the first Olympics in which China participated. Li retired from sporting competition in 1988, and in 1990 he founded Li-Ning Company Ltd, which sells footwear and sporting apparel in China. Li remains chairman of the company's board of directors.
Sponsorship deals put Anta, Li Ning on right track
Anta Sports is going head to head with Li Ning in a battle for brand supremacy in the Chinese sportswear market.
Anta this year clinched a high-profile sponsorship deal to supply the official sportswear for the Chinese national teams competing at 11 major international competitions, including the 2012 London Olympics. The Fujian-based company is already sponsoring the Chinese Basketball Association teams and national volleyball leagues.
And with brand ambassadors in women's tennis including last year's world No1 Jelena Jankovic and Chinese No 1 Zheng Jie, the company is showing ambitions to lead the industry.
Claudia Lo, Anta's vice-president of investor relations, said the company's focus on high-performance athletes and key events has helped it gain nationwide recognition.
It was Li Ning, though, that scooped the best free advertising when its founder, the gold medal-winning gymnast Li Ning, mimed racing around the Bird's Nest while suspended in the air to light the Olympic flame in Beijing last year.
The company has also signed sponsorship deals with sports stars including NBA's Shaquille O'Neal and Russian pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva, who recently broke her own world record wearing Li Ning apparel.
Sports marketing consultant Terry Rhoads said: 'Consumers see her doing that and position Li Ning as an authentic world-class brand. Breaking into that elite, small circle of world-class brands is tough, and there is no short cut.
'You need your athletes to do incredible things, demonstrating that your sportswear is part of their success.'
Raising the bar
Li Ning recorded sales of 6.69 billion yuan last year, a year-on-year increase of: 49.7%