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Subject category: Marketing
Published by: Asia Case Research Centre, The University of Hong Kong
Published in: 2009

Abstract

On 18 August 2008, Liu Xiang, China''s biggest celebrity sports icon, withdrew from the 110-metre hurdles event at the 2008 Beijing summer Olympic Games due to an Achilles injury. Liu was China''s first-ever Olympic gold medallist in men''s track and field, his victory at the 2004 Athens Olympics had made him an instant national hero. Since then, he had become the most marketed individual in China. Liu''s withdrawal from the Beijing Olympics not only caused disappointment amongst Chinese people who had high expectations of him defending his title on their home soil, but was also a blow to his sponsors, including Nike, who had invested millions of dollars in his celebrity status. As soon as the news broke, Nike tweaked its advertising campaign and launched a new tag line: ''Love competition. Love risking your pride. Love winning it back. Love giving it everything you''ve got. Love the glory. Love the pain. Love sport even when it breaks your heart''. Would Nike be able to turn Liu''s withdrawal from the Beijing Olympics into an opportunity to further boost its brand image? Against the backdrop of increasing nationalist sentiment in China, what were the implications of Liu''s withdrawal? How could Nike avoid or minimise the losses that might result from Chinese consumers'' disappointment?
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Abstract

On 18 August 2008, Liu Xiang, China''s biggest celebrity sports icon, withdrew from the 110-metre hurdles event at the 2008 Beijing summer Olympic Games due to an Achilles injury. Liu was China''s first-ever Olympic gold medallist in men''s track and field, his victory at the 2004 Athens Olympics had made him an instant national hero. Since then, he had become the most marketed individual in China. Liu''s withdrawal from the Beijing Olympics not only caused disappointment amongst Chinese people who had high expectations of him defending his title on their home soil, but was also a blow to his sponsors, including Nike, who had invested millions of dollars in his celebrity status. As soon as the news broke, Nike tweaked its advertising campaign and launched a new tag line: ''Love competition. Love risking your pride. Love winning it back. Love giving it everything you''ve got. Love the glory. Love the pain. Love sport even when it breaks your heart''. Would Nike be able to turn Liu''s withdrawal from the Beijing Olympics into an opportunity to further boost its brand image? Against the backdrop of increasing nationalist sentiment in China, what were the implications of Liu''s withdrawal? How could Nike avoid or minimise the losses that might result from Chinese consumers'' disappointment?

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