Adidas partner with Chinese government to teach children football skills

Adidas have partnered with China’s Ministry of Education and TV channel China Education Television to teach footballing skills to Chinese children.

365 three-minute videos will be produced and aimed at teaching children fundamental football skills as China tries to build a side capable of winning the World Cup in the coming decades.

It may be a long shot to expect a couple of hundred three-minute videos to produce World Cup-winning stars, but the key to the project is laying the groundwork for a footballing culture to grow up in the country. Without that, even China, with the largest population in the world, would have trouble competing for trophies regularly.

The other side of the coin, though, is that there is a willingness – if not an eagerness – amongst European football teams to get involved in the Chinese market. The fact that the partnership seems so mutually desirable, then, will help European clubs to grow their fanbase, and will help foster a uniquely Chinese way of interacting with the game.

As a result, we have seen football teams create profiles on Chinese news apps, and some have even created schemes and competitions to take Chinese football fans to games in Europe as VIP guests.

It’s not just football teams who are willing to get in on the action, though. Adidas’s partnership is also significant, especially in a climate where European football teams are gaining a foothold.

Since the 1970 World Cup, Adidas has sponsored the competition as well as having a close relationship with the Olympic Games. The rivalry between the German brand and their American adversary Nike is well known in Europe and America. In the run-up to the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles – at which Adidas was the official sponsor – Nike ran so many ads tying their brand to the city with ads featuring Nike athletes and famous Los Angeles landmarks, whilst in the background, Randy Newman’s ‘I Love LA’ played in the background. It also features some of the massive billboards the company bought up around the city during games, too. The rivalry has always been huge.

And the German company suffered a similar setback to yet another ambush marketing campaign at the 2008 Olympics held in Beijing. Chinese sportswear company Li Ning tried its best to gain official sponsor status, but Adidas held firm. Li Ning was founded by the former Chinese gymnast of the same name who won three gold medals at – ironically – the 1984 games in LA. He was given the honour of lighting the Olympic torch inside the Bird’s Nest stadium whilst suspended in the air.

The performance wowed the crowds and created a link between Li Ning and the Beijing games in a way that Adidas simply weren’t able to do. Indeed, Li Ning was wearing official Olympic-branded clothing made by Adidas when he lit the torch. Unfortunately for the German brand, nobody cared. Li Ning capitalised without having to fork out the sponsorship money.

Perhaps this new move, then, shows that Adidas is leaving nothing to chance. Teaming up with the Chinese government is one thing, but having their brand broadcast to children every day and having their logo become synonymous with football for an entire generation of Chinese children could turn out to be a very smart idea indeed.

Football seems to be taking off in China. People may look incredulously at the vast sums of money the Chinese Super League is throwing at players of questionable value plying their trade in Europe, but it’s worth remembering that growing an entire sporting culture doesn’t happen overnight. If adults become interested in watching the sport, it’s their children who will become the hardcore fans and even learn play the sport in their droves. And these children will see the three stripes when they’re taught how to play.

The 2008 Olympic Games may have brought back painful memories of 1984 for Adidas who may well be trying to shore up the next big sporting success story for China, the rise of properly good Chinese football teams.

It’s not just clubs who see new opportunities in China.

About author

Chris McMullan
Chris McMullan 480 posts

Chris is a sports journalist and editor of Digital Sport - follow him on Twitter @CJMcMullan_

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