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Chinese Take "Branding" To New Level And More...

Li Ning In The Right Direction?
Chinese shoe and apparel brand Li Ning couldn’t compete this time around for the rights to sponsor China’s Olympic team, so what did the company do? They signed the reporters and announcers. In a groundbreaking deal, reported by the China Daily, all hosts, hostesses and reporters on CCTV’s sports channel will now wear clothes with Li Ning branding on it through 2008.

It’s a move that I don’t think Nike or Adidas would ever consider because it’s more a logo plastering than performance thing, but I think it’s a brilliant move. Will it get as much exposure as the athletes? No. But for what I’m sure is a fraction of the price, it will get great exposure for the brand.

Li Ning is China’s largest sportswear retailer that plans to expand by over 30 percent in the next three years. The company plans to grow from its 4,300 stores today to 5,700 stores by 2009. Li Ning has signed Damon Jones and Shaquille O’Neal and says it will partner with two more NBA players this year.

The company was launched in 1990 by Chinese gymnast Li Ning and sponsored the Chinese Olympic team from 1992 to 2004. Although it doesn’t have the Chinese team, it does have the marketing rights for the Swedish Olympic team for the next two Olympiads.

While we’re on to the Olympics:
So the folks in China can serve some pretty crazy things, at least according to our standards here in America. Some of the favorites include bear’s paw, monkey’s brain and of course, the famous shark fin soup. Well, there’s someone in China who thinks the species delicacy has to stop in time for the 2008 games.

“Serving shark fin to foreign guests during the Olympic Games could greatly hurt China’s national image and officials should start to remove the dish from the dining table now,” Xu Hongzhi, deputy to the National People’s Congress and president of Peking University told the Xinhua news agency.

Both Yao Ming and Li Ning encouraged people to stop eating shark fin soup through a campaign last year, according Reuters.

While we’re on to the Olympics II:
Watching Michael Phelps break two world records in the last couple days really had me psyched up for the Olympics. You can see the races on ESPN.com, but if you’re really a swimming junkie, check out WCSN.com. For $4.95 a month, you can get highlights of all the Olympic sports as athletes compete in championship events. The site is actually run by Major League Baseball Advanced Media, who is also a financial partner.

The Next Bracket I’m Watching:

Nets Dancer
Nets Dancer

Dancing teams from 30 NBA teams will have a dance-off of sorts against each other in a single-elimination bracket. All we know at this point is that the contest takes place online with fans comparing the photo galleries and the video. I haven’t seen the bracket, but I know the Nets are taking on the Sixers dancers in the first round. The photo is of Jaclyn Sabol, a Nets dancer who was named to the 2007 NBA All-Star Dance Team. Having watched a bunch of teams this year, my call is for the Dallas Mavericks dancers.

The Sports Search Engine:
I love the idea a search engine that can really handle sports stats. That’s what www.enth.com does. The site just signed a partnership with STATS that will give the site real-time data updates throughout the MLB and NFL seasons. If you put in questions in the search function of the site, it actually works very well. It quickly told me that Zach Thomas had the most tackles in the NFL in 2006 and that Carlos Silva gave up the most home runs in 2006. The problem is that the site doesn’t offer to answer any NBA questions. I typed in Michael Jordan and it told me he had four receptions for 21 yards. Until they are able to offer stats for all sports, this site won’t get any traction.

Shaming Rights:
I’m always surprised at how nuts people go over the naming rights deals. They say they hate the company that just plastered the corporate name on their stadium. Well, I don’t have any problem with this - it’s just part of capitalist America, right? - unless, that is, the name is really stupid. So now, you probably know where I’m going with this here, the stupidest name on a stadium I’ve ever heard. It was happened because of a merger of sorts. Apparently the folks at the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, a minor league baseball team, really wanted to sell the naming rights but they also wanted to keep the name of their old stadium. So they kept Fox Cities Stadium and they sold 10 years worth of naming rights to Time Warner Cable. So the name, earlier this month, became Time Warner Cable Field at Fox Cities Stadium. What’s next? Coke Field at the Pepsi Dome?

Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com