Chinese sportswear company Li-Ning and Heat G Dwyane Wade today formally announced a multiyear partnership involving the creation of a new athletic footwear and apparel brand called “Wade.” The brand will serve as the centerpiece of Li Ning’s int’l basketball strategy and be shaped by Wade’s creative and strategic direction. The line will be available soon at Li-Ning retail stores and online throughout China, and is set to debut in the U.S. in ‘13. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Wade will serve as Chief Brand Officer, and be responsible for guiding the creative direction of all Wade products. Prior to the official launch of his signature shoe, Wade will wear two specially-created Li-Ning-branded basketball sneakers during upcoming Heat games, including two preseason games to be played later this week in Beijing and Shanghai. Li-Ning also has plans to launch a Wade kids footwear and apparel line in the future. CAA Sports brokered the agreement for Wade (Li-Ning). Wade said that he “expects the Li-Ning deal to continue through at least the remainder of his playing career.” The AP’s Tim Reynolds noted Wade “wore Converse for his first six seasons, then Jordan Brand for the past three years.” Wade said, “It was a great nine years, but for me, it was just time to move on. I have certain goals that I want to reach and I felt that I had to leave to reach those.” Li-Ning “plans to auction off the sneakers” from the two China exhibitions. Reynolds noted the shoe Wade is wearing in China for the exhibitions “is not a true unveiling of his brand.” Wade: “What you see in China will not be the final product” (AP, 10/9).
TRADING COOL FOR GLOBAL: Wade said that he “weighed the pluses and minuses when considering whether to leave Jordan.” Wade: “In the end, the pros outweighed the cons. Jordan might have that cool factor, but I’m at a different point in my career. I want to be involved in building something.” ESPN.com‘s Darren Rovell noted the exact financials are not known, but “it’s a multimillion dollar deal and will last until Wade retires and into his early retirement.” CAA Sports’ Henry Thomas, who reps Wade, said his client will also get “significant” equity in the company. When it came time for Li-Ning Brand Initiative Dir Brian Cupps “to pitch to Wade, he explained to him the China paradox.” Cupps said he told Wade, “In order to be global, you have to win China. And in order to win China, you have to be global.” Cupps said that Wade’s first shoe “will appeal to the growing Chinese middle class, as the shoe will sell for about $130” (ESPN.com, 10/9). In Portland, Alan Brettman notes the move to Li-Ning “is curious as Wade was a centerpiece of the Jordan Brand, portrayed in company-sponsored videos as a Batman/James Bond-like superhero.” He leaves the “comfort of Nike, the world’s largest sporting goods company, for Li Ning, which for the past year has posted disappointing earnings.” A basketball shoe “designed in Portland for another Li Ning NBA player, Baron Davis, barely saw shelf space in the United States.” The shoe was “pulled from the shelves of Champs, a Foot Locker subsidiary and former Li Ning partner, shortly after the start of the 2010-11 NBA