What Happened: September 22, Coach debuted its Spring 2021 campaign by creative director Stuart Vevers. The virtual presentation, called “Coach Forever,” included images and a short film “shot remotely around the world” by the German fine-art and fashion photographer, Juergen Teller. The brand invited a diverse cast of actors, artists, models, athletes, and musicians including Megan Thee Stallion, Xiao Wen Ju, and Kiko Mizuhara. However, the campaign photos of Jeremy Lin, the former NBA star who joined the Chinese Basketball Association’s Beijing Ducks team in 2019 and recently announced his departure and plans to try for an NBA comeback, appears to have offended a host of Chinese netizens. Lin, decked out in Coach’s American street vintage style, stands alone, the sky a hazy, almost smokey orange. From the overall cast of the photos, reminiscent of the ongoing California wildfires, to Lin’s rather casual outfit, the campaign has been criticized for being “tasteless” or “Tu” (traditional, rural look).
Jing Take: Coach is Jeremy Lin’s first fashion endorsement; Lin is the first American of Chinese descent to play in the NBA and one of the few Asian Americans to have played in the league. Given this, he has garnered a considerable amount of fans in both the US and China. Coach invited Lin to be the ambassador of the brand’s men’s collection back in May, with the hope of delivering the spirit and style of this American brand to a wider Chinese audience, but all hasn’t gone according to plan. Many Chinese netizens, it appears, have drawn a fine line between retrospective and tasteless, with the new ad being described as “farmers from 1900s” by netizens. This isn’t the first time a global brand has misfired a bit with a campaign in China and it won’t be the last. Lin is a national sports icon in China, and Coach’s retro American campaign presents a plain, homey image of Lin instead of the flash and zeal of a true sports star in the eyes of some Chinese netizens. Oddly enough, they commented that the 6 foot 3 basketball star somehow looks like he is 5 foot 2 in the photos, which certainly didn’t help. The topic #JeremyLinkRrepresentCoach ((#林书豪为COACH蔻驰代言#) had over 30 thousand views on Weibo.
The Jing Take reports on a piece of the leading news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debate sprouting on Chinese social media.