Too Good to be True?

"Stop the presses!" I hear myself shouting, before realizing this is a blog and there are no presses involved, but that's the kind of story this is to me. The idea that Nike would dedicate US$200 million to the Chinese Super League (CSL), the Chinese domestic soccer league, over a period of 10 years is just shocking.

Just a few years ago, the league went from large companies sponsoring it (and its tournaments) like Siemens, Pepsi, and Midea to no sponsor, then had a British internet phone company sponsor them and pull out shortly into the season. Kingway, the Shenzhen based brewery, was league sponsor in 2007 a decent step up, but then in 2008, they were replaced by small Chinese wine brand Jinliufu. Siemes, iPhox (the British internet company), and Kingway all signed multi-year deals with the league and ultimately pulled out of them after a season (or less).

The nitty-gritty of the Nike deal looks like this:
  • 2009: US$15 million spread between 12 clubs
  • 15% annual increase of that US$15 million
  • eventual sponsorship of all 16 clubs

So what does this all mean? For one, finally some major muscle is coming in and serving as China soccer's white knight. CCTV recently agreed to broadcast CSL games, after having suspended their broadcast last season. The league still has the stink of corruption, on-pitch battles, and walk-offs, but one of the league's biggest concerns over the past 5 years, sponsorship, will no longer be an issue. In the long run, hopefully this will take the Chinese league from general oblivion into one of Asia's premier leagues. While the national team is probably beyond saving at this point, a good run of form by one of the Chinese teams in the newly expanded Asian Champions League would help the league's reputation.

Currently, only 2 of the 16 teams (last year's winner and runner up Shandong and Shanghai, respectively) wear Nike. While it would be expected Nike would want to very quickly re-establish its ties with Beijing Guoan, the capital club will continue wearing Adidas in 2009.

Nike's signing on is a major investment in Chinese soccer, hopefully this will mark a turning point for all of Chinese soccer, though it should guarantee that the domestic league will be improved. The league begins next month, the past two seasons have gone down to the final match, hopefully the same drama (without the negativity) will be seen this year (and most of all, hopefully Beijing will finally be champions!).

No comments: