German sportswear firm Adidas has signed a deal with the Wanda business empire of China’s richest man Wang Jianlin to sponsor two of Wanda’s endurance events, promote soccer and basketball in the country and open stores in Wanda’s malls.
The agreement announced on Tuesday is the latest move by Adidas to try to strengthen its position as it goes head-to-head with bigger rival Nike in basketball-obsessed China.
China was the fastest growing market for Adidas in 2015, with sales up 18 percent to 2.5 billion euros ($2.76 billion), 15 percent of the group total.
Adidas said it would become the sole sports brand sponsor of two Ironman triathlon events in China this year and also work with Wanda to support the development of soccer and basketball in China and worldwide.
Adidas and Wanda also signed a partnership to jointly develop their business in cities across China. Wanda will support Adidas plans to open more stores in its malls and other properties.
“Both Wanda and Adidas share a number of common goals, both in a commercial sense and in our genuine desire to nurture sport not only in China but around the world,” Wang said.
China’s government is seeking to transform the country’s sports sector into a 5 trillion-yuan ($752 billion) business by 2025.
Wanda is boosting its investment in athletic events, marketing and stadium construction as part of a broader effort to develop what it calls its “cultural industry” arm, which Wang wants to build into a core business.
It owns a 20 percent stake in Spanish soccer club Atletico Madrid, one of a growing number of investments by Chinese groups in European soccer.
Adidas said it would expand its grassroots activities in China after last year agreeing a partnership with the government to promote soccer in schools.
Former England captain David Beckham, a long-time Adidas representative, opened a new store in Guangzhou on Mondayand played with 30 students from a local primary school on Tuesday.
While Adidas’s sports-inspired fashion is popular in China, it is at a disadvantage to its larger rival in the country as soccer the sport in which it has its roots is far less popular there than basketball, which Nike dominates.
Earlier this month, Wanda signed a partnership deal with basketball’s international governing body (FIBA).
In March, Wanda became the first Chinese top level sponsor of FIFA, the world soccer governing body. Adidas is also a FIFA sponsor.