Product and brand localization inspiration from Nike

Shanghai is a city with growing global clout, so it’s no surprise that brands from around the world are scheming and strategizing about the best ways to make a serious impact on the city’s cultural and business landscape. Nike is taking a novel and interesting approach, however, and it demonstrates a lot about the state of design and branding in modern China.

WILDDESIGN is no stranger to working with foreign shoe brands; our projects with British shoe manufacturer Clarks taught us a lot about adopting footwear branding to Chinese tastes. That’s why we were excited when Nike revealed a line of ten new shoe designs intended specifically for the Shanghai market last month – there are no plans to sell the shoes elsewhere, even in other cities in Mainland China, at least in 2013. The unveiling was a true exhibition of Nike’s international marketing might, with cryptic promotional photos and videos hinting at the shoes’ design themes.  The shoes themselves have received mixed reviews, but what’s most interesting are Nike’s branding and design decisions for this campaign. Why did they decide to target Shanghai and go so far as to specifically tailor their designs to the Shanghai market? What, from a design perspective, defines the “Shanghai market” anyway?


It appears that Nike is tapping into the theme of the collision of the modern and the classical in China, and reflecting that in their design choices. One Shanghai-specific shoe edition is a refitting of the classic Hyperdunk 1 with red detailing (a somewhat unadventurous choice) and a new kind of webbed mesh pattern material, supposedly designed for Shanghai’s extreme humidity. The familiar Nike “swoosh” is accompanied by a nifty logo centered around the Chinese character 申(shen1), a historical shortened name for Shanghai that is still in use today.  This logo will supposedly be featured on all the Shanghai designs, along with the text “Luwan Never Gone 310103,” a reference to the city’s former Luwan District (since absorbed into the larger Huangpu District), considered by some to be the home of Shanghai street fashion and culture. Choices like these suggest that Nike is seeking to touch on classical Chinese themes with their designs, while noting how the modern and the historical interact in a unique way in China.

Nike Ignite Shanghai


Another Nike offering in Shanghai is a shark-centered design, meant to evoke the city’s nautical history (and popular basketball team) with a sleek silver finish and oceanic accents. Nike’s design and marketing choices are particularly interesting for us at WILDDESIGN, as we are also constantly looking for the best ways to adapt design and branding practices to fit the Chinese market. By honing in on Shanghai in particular (as well as other cities with later models), Nike has made a clever attempt at aligning design not just with consumers’ tastes, but also with the collision of modern street art and classical Chinese culture that defines so much of what goes on design-wise in Shanghai today.

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Originally written by Miriam Dabrowa, 26. August 2013. Last updated 15. May 2023


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