Chinese Olympic Sneaker Wars Recruit Yao Ming

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Well excuse me! I thought the only two sneaker brands in town for the Beijing Olympics were Adidas and Nike. Looks like I overlooked little old Reebok. Yes, Reebok, the very thought of which evokes images of frosted-haired aerobics instructors of the 1980s, and of course those sneakers with the Velcro instead of laces. How lazy! Remember that horrible sound of the scratchy Velcro rip? That, my friend, was the sound of sloth. The only other sounds like that back then were produced by rip-stop nylon wallets with the Velcro closures, and of course those great Ocean Pacific surf shorts with the Velcro fly (in both cases, I imagined someone was getting screwed).

Anyway, Reebok is scrambling to catch up with the big boys and banking on the star power of Houston Rockets center Yao Ming, who will be balling for the Chinese Olympic team. When the 7-foot-6 athlete arrived in China to prep for the Games, he was welcomed by a 40-foot statue of himself next to a Reebok billboard, and the task of shouldering the company’s largest advertising campaign ever. “With a huge global event like the Olympics, and with Yao as such a huge figure for the country, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity as we make our charge into China,” Reebok’s sports and entertainment marketing veep limited edition Yao Ming sneaker. At $130, the sneaker market of 1.3 million Chinese will likely expect the kicks to improve their mad dunking skills. Just like Yao, whose own personal version of the sneak (pictured) is even more ornate.

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