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What should Chinese brands do to overcome situations such as the Ganten and Australian Open controversy?

By Yutang Sports 25 Jan 2018

As the Australian Open attracts the attention of tennis fans from all over the world, a Chinese sponsor of the tournament has become embroiled in a brand controversy. 

Since the tournament began last week, Australian spectators have taken to social media to express their outrage at finding Shenzhen-based Ganten branded water for sale at the venue. An Australian current affairs TV program reported that rather than selecting an Australian brand, AO organisers were selling Ganten bottled water, which has been shipped from the Chinese city of Shenzhen. 

As a response, Tennis Australia said in a statement that the tournament had “a long history of partnering with international brands”, and “Ganten water is a premium brand that is associated with other major tennis, sporting events and teams including Juventus FC.” The governing body also emphasized that the tournament has also partnered with “iconic Australian brands such as Jacobs Creek, Coopers, Vegemite and Country Road”.

Seemingly, this statement might have been the best way for Tennis Australia to respond to the controversy, which has reflected Australian Open’s attention to domestic brands and the tournament’s endeavour to expand its global reach and partnerships. 

In October 2017, the Chinese mineral water brand Ganten struck a deal with the Australian Open, making Ganten the first ever Chinese food and drink brand chosen by the Grand Slam tournament as their partner. This deal also made a splash in the Chinese sports sponsorship market. 

In fact, before this partnership, Ganten has been known as an experienced player from the bottled water industry, in tennis sponsorship. In 2014, Ganten enhanced their sponsorship portfolio by joining forces with the Wuhan Open, followed by the China Open and the ATP Shanghai Masters.

However, this experienced player has faced some obstacles in its adventure in the Australian Open. When we enquired about this controversy from Ganten’s staff, they expressed the brand’s gratitude for people’s concern but no more comments about this controversy would be forthcoming.

In fact, Ganten is far from the only Chinese brand facing these problems during its overseas marketing campaigns. 

The Chinese smartphone brand Huawei also met an obstacle in the US market. Huawei had been struggling to enter the US via partnering with major US mobile carrier AT&T, but  negotiations reportedly finished earlier this month. As CNN Tech reported, deals between Huawei and AT&T fell through on occasions for a variety of reasons, and it was not immediately clear what caused the talks with AT&T to fail.

Another Chinese smartphone giant OPPO was also involved in controversy in India last year, due to the brand’s sponsorship deal with the Indian cricket team. In March 2017, OPPO Mobiles India, captured the 5-year sponsorship rights to the Indian cricket team from April 1 last year 

Under this sponsorship deal, OPPO’s logo would be featured on the chest of the team’s shirts. However the deal also ignited many Indian cricket fans’ dissatisfaction by posting their grievances on social media. Some of them thought that it was a bad thing that their national team was sponsored by a Chinese brand and some even thought it indicated that “China is still harming the Indian economy”.

The facts mentioned previously may indicate that being boycotted by some local customers might be hard to avoid by brands wishing to enter overseas markets. However, it is also not difficult to see that those customers do not hate the brands themselves but they do not have a positive impression of Chinese brands and products. Other factors such as local “patriotism” are also causes of this problem. 

Then, what can Chinese brands do to solve these problems?

First of all, they need to envisage and accept the reality that being boycotted by some local customers in overseas market is not a rare thing. Secondly they need to improve the quality of their products and services, which would help to switch their negative impression of Chinese brands and products. 

Finally, localization is what brands need to find. It means that Chinese brands should learn to communicate with local customers in the new markets they want to enter. Meanwhile, integrating their brand and products into local cultures is also a key lesson to learn. 

Proofread by Raymond Fitzpatrick

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