Companies in China have successfully registered the trademarks of ‘Cristiano Ronaldo’ toilets, ‘Messi’ fruit juice and ‘Harry Kane’ babywear using the football stars’ translated names.
Other wacky products which use the Chinese names of famous World Cup players include ‘Neymar’ tyres, ‘Suárez’ pots and pans as well as ‘Pogba’ pyjamas.
Retired footballers are also the targets of ambitious Chinese businessmen.
Requests to make condoms with Zidane’s Chinese name and artificial breasts with David Beckham’s Chinese name have been filed to the national trademark authority, and are pending approval.
Among the stars who have appeared in this World Cup, 31-year-old Argentinean Lionel Messi has the most popular name among Chinese firms, apparently.
There are 166 applications containing Messi’s Chinese name ‘Mei Xi’ in the Chinese trademark registration system, and the products range from cakes and fruit juice to lamps.
Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo, who is known as ‘CLuo’in China, has seen his Chinese nickname being used to sell ties, gloves, dietary supplements and shirts.
The first ever ‘C Luo’ trademark was registered by a Guangdong-based company in 2008 to sell toilets, showers, dishwashers, etc.
The 33-year-old’s name was nearly used by a company in Yiwu to sell ‘C Luo’ sanitary pads and ‘C Luo’ nappies in 2015, but the application was later cancelled by the firm.
England’s golden boy Harry Kane, or ‘Ha Li Kai En’ in Chinese, is apparently adored by Chinese fashion companies, which have lodged applications to use the 24-year-old captain’s name to sell babywear, swimming suits, skirts and glasses.
In addition, there have been 30 trademark applications to use Neymar’s Chinese name ‘Nei Ma Er’, 14 to use Suárez’s name ‘Su Ya Lei Si’ and seven under Pogba’s name ‘Bo Ge Ba’.
Some of the applications were submitted by the football stars themselves though.
Messi filed seven trademark applications in China in 2007 for a wide range of merchandise, including deodorant, toothpaste, postcards, alarm clocks and board games.
On the other hand, Cristiano Ronaldo has 15 ‘C Luo’ applications made by himself in China to cover some rather unconventional businesses, including computer software, gemstones, Christmas decorations and even nursing homes.
Football is one of the biggest sports in China, and successful football players are well loved by people of all age groups — from children to pensioners.
In 2003, Brazilian footballer Ronaldo’s image was used by a pharmaceutical company, Golden Throat, without his consent.
In the TV and printed advertisements, Ronaldo was seen smiling while holding a box of the company’s throat-soothing sweets.
Ronaldo complained about the ‘illegal’ usage in 2007 and even hired lawyers to prepare for a lawsuit against Golden Throat.
The report claimed that Ronaldo had missed seven contracts with an estimated total worth of €22.4million a year because of the Golden Throat advertisements.
However, the lawsuit didn’t proceed due to unexplained reasons, reported Chinese financial news site yicai.com.
Golden Throat subsequently replaced Ronaldo’s image with that of Kaká, another Brazilian football player.
Kaká was officially contracted by Golden Throat and was paid 14.3million yuan for three years for the advertisements, according to yicai.com.
While small Chinese firms compete to be the first to register football stars’ Chinese names as trademarks, more and more high-profile Chinese brands are shelling out to sign international football stars to represent their products.
Mengniu, China’s second-largest dairy company and an official sponsor of World Cup 2018, has hired Lionel Messi to be its ambassador. The signing fee is said to be 40million yuan.
Wahaha, China’s largest beverage company, inked a deal with Portugal national football team earlier this year to be their official World Cup sponsor in China.
Wey, a made-in-China car brand, engaged Cristiano Ronaldo in a minute-long advertisement to be aired throughout China during World Cup. Ronaldo is also the latest ambassador of the auto label.
These impressive commercial contracts also came after China Super League teams had spent billions in the past few years to buy top-notch players from European clubs.
Meanwhile, Chinese advertisements are ubiquitous in the Russian stadiums during this year’s World Cup – even though team China is not even in the game.
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