The Mainland's Sneaker King

There's a tried-and-true formula for marketing success in the athletic-shoe business: find a major sports star, sign him to a hefty product-endorsement contract, and watch the cross-trainers fly off the shelves. For 13 years, Beijing Li Ning Sports Goods applied that formula, becoming China's largest athletic-shoe and sports-apparel brand—without blowing big bucks on superstars. Why were they spared the expense? Because the founder and chairman of Li Ning Sports, champion gymnast Li Ning, is also the company's chief spokesman. Li became a national hero to millions of Chinese after he won six medals—three of them gold—at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics....

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