Adidas has revealed American-Chinese actress Liu Yi Fei as its new brand ambassador in a new TVC for Chinese New Year 2020.
This comes as part of adidas’ latest campaign to launch its new collection across its adidas Sport Performance and adidas Originals ranges. Along with Liu, the CNY campaign ad features a medley of other athletes and celebrities performing together in a traditional Tang-Dynasty-inspired Chinese banquet. Following the ad’s release, adidas confirmed Liu’s position as an ambassador.
The Chinese New Year collection from adidas has incorporated traditional Chinese cultural elements such as spiritual animals (including the tiger, crane and koi fish), Chinese flowers (such as the peony, begonia, and lotus), the Twelve Ornaments, and other traditional Chinese totems. Designers also came up with three CNY– themed patterns – “Tiger and peony”, “Crane and begonia”, and “Lotus and koi fish” – inspired by land, sea and air to incorporate in its fashion sportswear and gear designs.
Though we will not deny that the campaign’s videos have gorgeous production design elements, we at Marketing have to concede that we’re slightly disappointed by how safe it is. Over the last few years, we have seen some very interesting and experimental work coming out from sports brands in China, and these party ads feel like a step back to what resembles 90s coke ads. They’re light, poppy, and feelgood, but there’s nothing particularly memorable about the actual execution beyond its starry lineup.
However, we will admit adidas was bold in one element; to take on Liu as the face of its brand. The actress – who is soon to appear in Disney’s live-action remake of Mulan – drew a lot of fire online recently for comments she made regarding Hong Kong’s ongoing protests, where she voiced support for the city’s currently unpopular police force. Reaction to Liu’s posts was so negative, it led to #BoycottMulan trending as a hashtag worldwide. Putting her front and centre in its new China ads may be a result of adidas simply not considering that as an issue or it may be the sports brand intentionally portraying a lack of concern for international criticism in order to court mainland audiences. Whatever its reasoning, adidas is risking backlash on a cheery campaign that would otherwise be safe as houses.