Li-Ning and the “Social Olympics”: Breaking Into the U.S. Market


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The power of social media

Social media is quickly transforming the dynamic between businesses and their customers. The past decade has seen over 200 social media platforms spring up, with 13 of these sites attracting over 100 million users. According to a recent McKinsey study, The social economy: Unlocking value and productivity through social technologies, social media platforms draw 1.5 billion users globally, and that number only continues to grow.

Social networks give consumers more power than ever before, but with this changing paradigm, companies have also been presented with numerous opportunities to improve their products and their visibility by engaging with customers through social channels. As international events like the Olympics have grown more social, the opportunity for companies to leverage those events has also grown.

Social media in the Olympics

Image 1: 2012 marks the first “social” Olympic Games

In 2012, social media finally saturated the summer Olympic Games. During the 16-day event, fans tweeted about the Olympics 150 million times, with sprinter Usain Bolt generating 80,000 tweets per minute during the 100m race.

The prevalence of social media was so strong that spectators at the men’s road cycle race were blamed for disrupting coverage of the event itself due to an overload of tweets jamming the broadcasting network. Ryan Seacrest reached 1.47 million people with just two photos posted to Instagram. There is no doubt that the 2012 Olympics demonstrated the reach and power of social media on a global scale, opening the door for companies to socially engage fans during this event.

Image 2: Even traditional ad campaigns benefit from social media when they are seasonally relevant

Li-Ning: Promoting using the Olympics

Li-Ning represents one company determined to benefit from the Olympics with or without social media. In 2008, the former Olympic gymnast and founder of Li-Ning Company Limited promoted his company through lighting the Olympic cauldron in Beijing, utilizing his T.V. presence and sponsorship of various Olympic teams to raise brand awareness.

Li-Ning’s Olympic marketing efforts continued in 2012 as his company attempted to gain traction in the United States, albeit with a stronger social focus this time around.

Entering the U.S. from China

Three-time Olympic gold medalist Li Ning founded a company with his namesake that now does over $1.4 billion in annual revenue. The majority of this revenue comes from its Chinese market, but in 2010, Li Ning brought his company stateside. As an unknown brand in the Nike and Adidas-dominated United States, Li Ning capitalized on social media in the 2012 Olympics to promote his brand by increasing social activation and engagement.

Following social media best practices

Li Ning maximized the benefits of social media by first posting Facebook updates about Olympic training to draw fans in with valuable information, and then hosting a limited-time, exclusive offer for 50% off + free shipping on any Li-Ning running shoes. Moreover, the offer was posted using Moontoast’s Social Store, maximizing engagement by allowing customers to see the offer in their newsfeed and complete checkout without ever leaving their page. By combining these best practices, the campaign saw a conversion rate of 4% — 50% higher than average eCommerce conversion rates.

Image 3: Li-Ning followed best practices to achieve a 4% conversion rate

The Chinese shoe and sports apparel company also used Facebook to raise brand awareness by posting pictures of the Li-Ning jerseys worn by the Spanish and Argentinian national basketball teams throughout the Olympic Games, generating 1.2K interactions over the course of the campaign. More importantly, Li-Ning discovered and tapped into a new market of Argentinian and Spanish fans through social media, which they otherwise would not have been able to reach through traditional media.

What it takes to succeed in our social media infused world

Li Ning found success by using social media in a new market to interact with customers through an event that was both seasonally relevant and pertinent to the brand itself. Social media acts as an equalizer, giving less recognized brands like Li-Ning the same opportunities as big brands like Nike and Adidas. For more information on how to succeed in the social space, download one of our free eBooks here.

Do you have a social media success story related to the social Olympics? Share your favorites with us on Twitter or Facebook!

Blair Heavey
Blair Heavey is the CEO of Moontoast, a leading social marketing, social commerce and analytics company. Gartner Research has named Moontoast a "Cool Vendor" in Music and eCommerce, and Billboard Magazine called Moontoast a "Top Startup of 2011". Blair has over 20 years of experience in building and leading innovative high-growth technology companies and is responsible for Moontoast's strategic direction and execution. Blair was the CEO of MyPerfectGig and prior to that, an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at North Bridge Venture Partners.


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