Li Ning Seeks to Reignite Growth in China

BEIJING — Even as it continues to expand abroad, athletic firm Li Ning is ramping up efforts at home.

Li Ning executives said at a press conference here last week that the lucrative Chinese market, where Li Ning has lost significant ground to competitors, including Nike and Adidas, remains their primary focus.

“As a brand, we’re looking at how to stand out and excel,” said Li Ning CEO Zhiyong Zhang.

As part of the event, held last Wednesday to mark the company’s 20 years in business, top executives unveiled a new slogan and logo in a high-energy show that featured founder and former Olympic gymnast Li Ning, as well as Chinese athletes and dancers.

The brand’s new tagline, “Make the Change,” is supported by an updated and stylized version of Li Ning’s former logo. It illustrates the company’s increased push toward innovation and quality in its products, the executives said. The new symbol splits the original logo into two more clearly delineated pieces, the first “l” and “n” in the founder’s name.

Li Ning will keep its original logo — long noted as markedly similar to the Nike swoosh — on a line of classic products.

“We need very unique branding and positioning,” said Zhang.

The company has faced several challenges recently, in particular a marked slowdown in growth in the Chinese athletic segment, as well as increasing labor costs in China.

The Chinese sportswear market grew by 30 percent annually through the 1990s, Zhang said, but that growth has slowed to 10 percent to 15 percent per year since 2008, partly because of the global economic downturn and market saturation.

Chinese consumers, Zhang said, have become more discriminating, and their demands are greater. Plus, he added, the massive country is unlike western markets in how quickly it changes.

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