Upping the ante in its battle for market share over rivals Yonex, China-based sports major Li-Ning signed a 22-month deal with Karnataka Badminton Association. The deal, signed on Wednesday, is worth Rs 2 crore, and will involve a cash component of Rs 12 lakh for the first year and Rs 15 lakh for the second year. Li-Ning has already signed up the Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand, Odisha and Sikkim associations.
The state association will receive merchandise, tournament expenses and player support in exchange for the exclusive rights to Li-Ning as official sponsor. Announcing the deal, Ram Malhotra, Li-Ning business head for India, said it was in keeping with Li-Ning’s strategy to tie up with state associations. “Badminton is doing very well in India,” Malhotra said. “We are seeing a decline of sales in cricket and football equipment, but our badminton sales have been very good. In the month after Saina won the Olympic bronze, our monthly turnover doubled.”
NC Sudhir, Secretary of the Karnataka Badminton Association, said the deal was the first in the country to be decided after a competitive bid. “We had a transparent tender, and
invited many companies. We opened the tender on August 31st. Li-Ning’s offer was very high. It is very good for badminton. We’re clear on what we should do with the money.
We want to conduct ranking tournaments in Bangalore and backward districts, where it is tough to raise money.” Sudhir said the state association had purchased Li-Ning track suits and T-shirts two years ago and the quality has apparently satisfied everybody.
Li-Ning is one of the world’s biggest sportswear and equipment manufacturers. Over the last few years, it has emerged as a big badminton brand as it is the official sponsor of the Chinese team. With a string of stars at its command – including all the current world champions and Olympic champions – the company has plenty of leverage in the racket sport.