And Finally

Into extra time

France’s World Cup win has had commercial consequences in China


France won, but did Vatti lose?

The final whistle was blown at the World Cup in Russia two weeks ago but the off-field commercial battles in China are lasting much longer.

Kitchenware retailer Vatti, for one, is having a serious World Cup hangover. The Guangdong-based firm was as an official sponsor of the French national football team and in an audacious marketing gimmick, the Shenzhen-listed company also announced before the tournament that it would refund any customers who purchased a special set of its gas stoves and extractor fans if the French were the victors.

So once Les Bleus lifted the trophy Vatti had to pay up – and the bill came to Rmb79 million ($11.8 million) as customers submitted their refund applications before the deadline this week.

The size of the payout has obviously rattled investors, as Vatti’s share price has dropped nearly 40% since the World Cup started. The company tried to put a brave face on things, insisting the refund cost is no more than a fraction of the budgets of bigger Chinese brands advertising at the World Cup (see WiC414). Besides, Vatti also said the the media exposure it generated would result in a spike in sales.

However, the company has since attracted less desirable publicity, on complaints that customers were offered gift cards which could only be used on online platforms to purchase Vatti products.

Consumer protection groups have since accused Vatti of backing out of its promise.

“Full refund means a refund in money, not through gift cards,” Qiu Baochang, director of the Consumer Rights Protection Committee of Beijing told the China Daily.

“We hope Vatti fulfills its promise and for all consumers in line with its pre-sale agreements. Integrity is the perfect footnote for any marketing campaign,” the China Consumer Association also said last week.

Also causing a stir is France’s sensation Kylian Mbappé, who scored four goals in the tournament. The 19 year-old’s breakout performance has unleashed more than 180 China trademark applications, most of them for the local Chinese transliteration of Mbappé. Filings to use his name have been made in a wide array of commercial fields including construction materials and animal feed.

There’s not much chance that either the footballer or his advisors have been making the applications so Mbappé could be heading for the kind of legal battle that beleaguered the basketball legend Michael Jordan in his long running trademark dispute with Qiaodan (see WiC402).

All of the new applications for the Mbappé name will now go through an approval process. And most will likely get the nod, one expert told Global Times.

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