WWDFAST: Five Golden Rings

The 2008 Summer Games in Beijing are mere months away, and the branding games have begun.

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“Beijing is crucial. It is like the peak of the mountain. It has the most visible media coverage for an activewear brand,” says Giuseppe Musciacchio, global marketing director for Arena, the leading Italian swimwear label and Speedo rival. He adds that the Olympic Games represent a significant share of sportswear brands’ marketing budgets. But he says it’s worth it.

“Return on investment comes through ‘winning’ each time an athlete has that podium shot—it is the most effective advertisement,” he explains.

Arena is in the sports spotlight, thanks to Laure Manaudou, the stunning French world championship swimmer whom the brand sponsors. She’s said to be a gold-medal contender in the Olympics.

Meanwhile, local activewear behemoths Anta and Li Ning are jockeying for position with the activewear giants. While they aren’t yet household names outside of China, Li Ning’s stock price has soared 300 percent during the past year. The company, which sponsors basketball great Shaquille O’Neal, was founded by former Los Angeles Olympic gold medal–winning gymnast Li Ning. It touts some 5,000 stores, in-store shops and outlets across Mainland China. Plans for the company include adding an additional 600 shops in time for the Games.

Game Faces
They may still be limbering up for the world’s biggest sporting event, but plenty of pretty young European Olympians are already competing in the style stakes. Ahead of the Beijing Olympics, a constellation of sporting stars is getting attention from fans and activewear brands.

Kristine Engeset
Age: 19
Country: Norway
Sport: Track, 3,000 meter steeplechase
Sponsor: Puma
“On or off the track, I want to have the perfect combination of sporty and cool,” says Engeset, the face of Puma’s new Puma Runway collection, a lifestyle line for runners. Engeset, who runs, on average, 120 kilometers, or about 75 miles, a week, has had Olympic dreams since she was 13. “It’s always been a goal, but the most important thing is to have a good season,” demurs Engeset, who certainly has a philosophical approach to her training: “I’m studying religion. It’s an interesting subject and the perfect combination with my running.”
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