Miami Heat’s Dwyane Wade visited China on Wednesday for the first time since signing a multi-million dollar contract with Chinese sportswear company Li Ning last year, but the sneakers that bear his name are in short supply.
Chinese stores are slowly being re-stocked with the “Way of Wade” shoes, but they won’t be widely available on U.S. markets for some time.
With hundreds of fans cheering at a promotional event in Beijing, the six foot-four inch tall Wade chest-thumped the diminutive Chinese host on stage and towered over Olympic gymnast Li Ning, the founder of the company that bears his name.
“Li Ning is what I believe in, it’s my style,” the NBA superstar said, wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with his face and the signature gold and black Wade sneakers.
But Li Ning has left customers on both sides of the Pacific wanting for the Wade shoes, unable even to profit from the Heat being crowned NBA champions last month. Wade’s teammate LeBron James’s Nike sneakers recorded the highest U.S. sales of any NBA player last year, drawing $300 million.
Li Ning, backed by Singapore sovereign fund GIC and U.S. private equity firm TPG Capital, lured Wade from rival Nike last year in a sponsorship deal worth an estimated $100 million over 10 years.
The company, which is refocusing efforts on China after posting a $318.8 million loss last year, is struggling even on its home turf, with few resources to spare for other markets.
But it may be getting its act together. Besides the start of the re-stocking, the NBA superstar will visit Shanghai and Guangdong to promote the shoes.
However, overseas markets, including the United States, will come only later.