Red army

Liverpool goes Chinese

Red army

Gerrard gets shirty: in Chinese

There must have been a few diehard Liverpool fans who thought they’d had one lager too many before the game (and after the season they’ve had, who could blame them for hitting the bottle).

As they squinted at Liverpool’s famous red shirts, something seemed different. A sudden realisation: whatever was written on the players’ chests wasn’t in English, it was in Chinese!

The team’s current sponsor, Carlsberg had decided that for Liverpool’s big home match against Chelsea it would dispense with its usual logo – in the Roman alphabet – in favour of its Chinese one.

Last Sunday’s game therefore made history: it marks the first time Chinese characters have appeared on the shirts of a top English football club. WiC predicts it likely won’t be the last occasion either.

For Carlsberg it was a smart move on several levels. The decision was ostensibly prompted by the brewer’s role as a partner of the Danish pavilion at the Shanghai Expo, which had opened to much fanfare the previous day (see And Finally). However, it also coincided with Liverpool’s last game of the year at Anfield and hence the last time the team would run out at home with Carlberg as sponsor – since it’s ending its 18 year partnership with the club this season.

So in those circumstances, why not go out with a splash and do something dramatic and eyecatching – like put a Chinese logo on the shirt instead…

The one-off move was also targeted at Chinese fans watching the game – among the many millions who were expected to tune in globally – and heighten awareness of the Carlsberg brand in the fast growing China beer market.

“We’re delighted to have been able to bring about this momentous occasion,” Keld Strudahl, Carlsberg’s sponsorship director told Media magazine. “We believe it’s a nice little gesture to our friends and fans of Liverpool in China.”

As to the Chinese logo, it’s made up of three characters which mean ‘good’, ‘man’ and ‘uncle’.

Some brands in China seek to create names invested with meaning (HSBC’s, for example, means ‘focus of wealth’). Others forge names that sound phonetically similar to their existing brand. In Carlsberg’s case, its Chinese name was originally designed to appeal to the Hong Kong market, where the Cantonese pronunciation of the three characters comes out as ‘Ga-see-ba’ (say it quickly, and you’ll get the point). But in Mandarin – i.e. the rest of China – those characters sound a bit less like the Danish original: ‘Jia-shi-bo’.

Liverpool was the first club in England to wear a shirt adorned with a sponsor (and a foreign one at that; Hitachi in 1979). So the fact that it is first to opt for Chinese script too is in keeping with its pioneering tradition.

Doesn’t get them into the Champions League, all the same.

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