Former Xiaomi brand ambassador under public scrutiny after switching to iPhone

Su Bingtian, a Chinese sprinter dubbed “flying man” has come under the spotlight after one of his eagle-eyed followers spotted that a post he shared on Weibo (China’s answer to Twitter) on 3 April was made from an iPhone 14, thanks to Weibo’s unique feature that displays the device that users use in their posts.

The reason Su has been called out is due to his history as a brand ambassador for the homegrown smartphone maker Xiaomi. The two parties shook hands in August 2021, right after the veteran clocked an impressive 9.83 seconds in the semi-final at the past Tokyo Olympics, setting a new Asian record and making him the first Chinese sportsman to reach the Olympic 100-metre final.

The partnership was also significant because it made Su Xiaomi’s first-ever brand ambassador. Following the announcement, Asia’s fastest man responded saying “I like Xiaomi and am proud to be Xiaomi’s brand spokesperson.” The latest switch, therefore, is deemed contradicting to his former belief.

Replying to the comment that sparked the heated discussion, Su explained, “[The partnership with] Xiaomi ended last year. I continued using the brand after that. It wasn’t until only recently that I changed my phone because the screen was smashed.”

Despite the swift response, the online debate continues to ferment, propelling the hashtag “Su Bingtian responds to using iPhone 14 to post on Weibo” to draw in over 310 million views as of 6 April.

Some netizens appear to be critical, arguing that domestic products these days are of better quality and are much more cost-effective. “Why is a national athlete not willing to use a homemade smartphone?” one questioned, “if every Chinese supports domestic products, it will further push the rise of the label Made in China.”

Others, however, have jumped to Su’s defence, saying it’s his freedom of choice to choose whichever brand he wants for his personal use and should not be judged for doing that. “Being a national hero doesn’t conflict with using a foreign product,” read one comment.

“It’s quite common that celebrities use iPhones while being in ambassadorship for other brands…if homemade smartphones want to take over iPhones, they must prove themselves and convince consumers to buy them, rather than using the tactic of moral kidnapping. Product quality is all that matters,” said another, which garnered over 20,000 likes.


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