The luxury fashion house Prada has been named an official partner of the Chinese women’s national football team days after the brand’s celebrity spokesperson Cai Xukun was hit with a major scandal.
The announcement landed on Chinese social media on July 10, accompanied by an official group photo featuring the entire team dressed in Prada suits and the brand’s signature loafers. The news comes as the Steel Roses head to Australia ahead of the FIFA Women’s World Cup later this month. Members of the team, including head coach Shui Qingxia and captain Wu Haiyan, were spotted sporting Prada at Adelaide International Airport.
Just days ago, the Chinese internet was abuzz with the “forced abortion” scandal of Prada’s most high-profile ambassadors, popstar Cai Xukun. Prada has been known to quickly drop Chinese brand ambassadors in the past for similar transgressions but has not yet terminated its contract with Cai, who has been a partner of the brand since 2019.
In light of this, the focus of internet discourse was on Prada’s choice of a supposedly failsafe brand partner. Netizens called the Steel Roses a “stable” and “reliable” partner for Prada and joked that the luxury house has now abandoned the entertainment industry altogether. The topic “Prada finally found the right one” hit Weibo’s Hot Search list with over 100 million views, whilst the main news of the announcement separately garnered over 200 million views. Jiemian News made the same connection, writing “traffic stars are no longer the only option under consideration” in reference to the digital traffic-driven stardom of pop idols like Cai.
Prada has previously provided custom sportswear for individual Chinese athletes at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics and in May named the basketball player Yang Shuyu as a brand ambassador. The partnership with the women’s national football team comes as the FIFA Women’s World Cup is set to kick off in Australia on July 20. The team reportedly hopes to make it to the top eight having last made it that far in 1999, when China was considered a leading power in women’s football.