Adidas unites football fever and Chinese calligraphy ahead of CNY

Key takeaways:

  • Adidas has been joined by global football icons from five internationally renowned football clubs to reveal a New Year series dedicated to the Chinese market.
  • While it taps into China’s continued football sensation with the Premier League still ongoing, the new collection also draws inspiration from Chinese calligraphy.
  • The New Year edition has been readapted into a toy collectible series in collaboration with a designer toy brand who specialises in featuring sports personalities to enhance its appeal to young consumers.

Whilst the curtain has rung down for the FIFA World Cup, the enthusiasm for football in China has not yet settled and striking while the iron is hot is Adidas. The German sportswear giant has rewritten the iconic emblems of five internationally renowned football clubs, including Manchester United, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Juventus, and Arsenal, in traditional Chinese calligraphy.

The special edition named BUFF is exclusive to the Chinese market and is dedicated to the upcoming Lunar New Year, or Spring Festival – the largest celebration in the Chinese calendar that falls on 22 January.

Rewriting the football spirit through Chinese calligraphy

To fully unleash the “Never Give Up” sports spirit that the collection embodies, the activewear maker invited a total of 11 football icons from the five clubs, including Manchester United’s superstar Antony dos Santos who was called up to play for Brazil during the recent World Cup. Others showcasing the new collection are football stars including David de Gea, David Alaba, Thomas Müller, and Paul Pogba.

This collaboration is hot on the heels of Manchester United’s comfortable victory over Nottingham Forest on 27 December 2022 whilst playing in the Premier League, timely tapping into another competition season that has also reignited the buzz amongst Chinese football supporters following the World Cup sensation.

Adopting a cursive writing style, the rather bohemian script is a nod to the unrestrained and rebellious tagline while catering to the expression of individuality.

Adopting a cursive writing style, which has been imprinted onto wearables including hoodies and winter jackets, the rather bohemian script is a nod to the unrestrained and rebellious tagline while catering to the expression of individuality that is highly valued by China’s Gen Z and Millennials.

The combination of football and calligraphy while smartly capitalising on the ongoing “Guochao” phenomenon, which refers to the practice of flavouring contemporary designs with a nostalgic cultural edge afforded by traditional Chinese elements, shows a strong alignment with the fashion trend “New Chinese Style”. This sub-category of Guochao carries a bolder adoption of Western aesthetics, which has been increasing in appeal amongst the shrewd demographics.

The endeavour sees a further digital push by the five football clubs who posted their endorsement of the campaign through their official accounts on China’s largest microblogging site Weibo. With them taking the lead, many fashion bloggers soon followed suit, sharing their poses at different venues. This user-generated content has propelled the hashtag “New Year BUFF” to garner more than 13 million views as of 12 January.

The new product release was also coupled with offline events installed at the brand’s centres in three major Chinese cities including Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, which ran from 31 December 2022 to 8 January 2023, leveraging the football phenomenon as the Premier League unfolds as well as the festivities in the run-up to Chinese New Year.

Interactive experiential spaces are in place, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the history of the five football clubs and to have a taste of the craved sport on site in exchange for credits that can be redeemed for one of the new designs and other New Year edition gifts. Additionally, consumers are encouraged to have a go at writing calligraphy on a plaque that will be delivered to the star players after the event, fuelling the domestic football fever with traditional Chinese culture.

Readaptation into toy collectibles

To win further endorsement from the young generations, Adidas has partnered up with Ace Player, a designer toy brand with a beat on cartoonising sports personalities. The partnership has given birth to a series of toy collectibles, readapting Adidas’ BUFF collection with a strong New Year mood. With the involved footballers in the feature, each collectible is a vivid embodiment of a Chinese idiom that is widely used as a good wish around the festive season.

These small toys remind Chinese football lovers of the sport’s significance to the country then and now.

From ()[()](fēi)(měng)(jìn) (progress by leaps and bounds) presented by the Portuguese player Bruno Fernandes to David de Gea’s ()(yuè)(lóng)(mén) (fish jumping over the dragon gate), these little additions are a clever wordplay to incorporate the Chinese zodiac of the Rabbit that is celebrated in the New Year with elements (such as the name or classic tricks) of strikers, furthering the synergy of global sports figures and the country’s festival traditions.

It is understood that the toy collectibles are a limited edition with a total of 2023 up for grabs from 28 December 2022. The gift box includes four collectible pieces and comes with a mini handicraft known as ()() (which means kicking a ball), which is a hollowed-out ball that symbolises China’s ancient football game, which is also the earliest known recorded game of football. The small giveaway, therefore, not only serves the decorative function during the festival but reminds Chinese football lovers of the sport’s significance to the country then and now.