The curious case of Kuznetsova’s sponsor Qiaodan
In the beginning of 2013 Russian tennis ace Svetlana Kuznetsova switched from well-known brand Fila to Qiaodan, a relative unknown brand. The partnership between the two-time Grand Slam champion and the Chinese clothing brand Qiaodan is a remarkable one. No other tennis player of name wears the brand and the brand has little recognition outside of China, making it an unique agreement. The company often customises its clothing to Kuznetsova’s wishes, resulting in shirts with her initials on it or a shirt that shows her beloved dog.
Qiaodan vs Michael Jordan
What makes Qiaodan a curious case is the controversy surrounding the brand. For years Qiaodan – the Mandarin transliteration of Jordan – has been in legal battles with basketball legend Michael Jordan. The American superstar accuses Qiaodan of benefitting from his personal brand, while the two parties have no connection. The company uses, just like Nike’s famous Air Jordan logo, a basketball player as logo. These similarities, together with several other Jordan-related names and logos the company has tried to trademark, has resulted in Michael Jordan and his representatives taking legal action.
Qiaodan can no longer use the Chinese characters
Since 2012 multiple court rulings have gone against Michael Jordan. At the end of 2016 the basketball icon finally made some progress, as a Chinese court ruled that Qiaodan can no longer use the two Chinese characters for ‘Qiaodan’. However, the company can still use ‘Qiaodan’ in Roman letters and the logo that very much resembles Jordan’s Jumpman logo.
The sportswear company has great brand recognition in China, with some people not even aware that the company is not affiliated to the legendary Michael Jordan. With the latest legal ruling, more Chinese customers will become aware that the two are not affiliated. It will likely not change the way Qiaodan goes about its business, nor will it affect the commercial success the company enjoys.
Qiaodan raising its profile
In 2016 Qiaodan entered a four-year partnership with the International University Sports Federation (FISU) to be their exclusive sports gear supplier. Having also supplied the National Olympic Committees of Mongolia, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan in the past and still sponsorsing Russian tennis player Kuznetsova, the brand is constantly raising its profile beyond the Chinese borders and away from Michael Jordan.