Not all shoes are made alike
Cashing in on one of the league's most popular stars figures to be one of the most challenging endeavors in Reebok's 25-year history. That's because investments made by Western companies are sometimes hamstrung by massive counterfeiting efforts.
Yao Ming, the Houston Rockets center with a rock star following in China, said he is sure his fans will be able to differentiate between the authentic, high-quality product and the inferior alternative available at discount prices.
Those familiar with the Chinese marketplace say counterfeit merchandise often is very close to the original. Many consumers in China are not ethically challenged with buying knock-offs.
"It is definitely a threat to doing business there," said Marc Ganis, a sports consultant with SportsCorp Ltd., a sports marketing firm that has been working with the Chinese sports ministry. "It's a common practice to make fake goods because a lot of people don't care as long as it's cheaper."
Counterfeiting is $250 billion annual problem for American businesses, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Athletic shoes comprise a significant portion of that total. On Oct. 4, 100,000 pairs of shoes, made in China and with a street value of $22 million, were confiscated and destroyed in Romania. The pirated brands included Reebok, Nike, Puma and adidas.
Despite this obstacle, Ganis said there is a sizeable portion of China's 1.3 billion population that values genuine luxury goods. That population, Ganis said, makes it worth it for Reebok to attempt to do business on a massive scale in the country.
There will be features of the High Post, Yao's signature shoe, that will make it hard for counterfeiters to replicate given their cost of doing business, said John Lynch, Reebok's vice president of sports marketing. The shoe will debut in the United States on Nov. 1.
Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, can be reached at Darren.email@example.com
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