BEIJING: Li-Ning has turned to viral marketing in a bid to appeal to US consumers, releasing a YouTube ad which plays on stereotypes about Chinese branded goods.

In the spot, which has been viewed 55,000 times since its launch on November 30th, US customs officials interrogate a Chinese importer, refusing to believe that the Li-Ning products are real shoes.

The Chinese sportswear firm was founded in 1990 by Li Ning, a former Olympic gymnast.

Its first US flagship store was opened in Portland, Oregon - the home of Nike - in 2010.

Currently, just 2% of the company's revenues comes from its international operations.

Speaking to Bloomberg, Jay Li, general manager for Li-Ning International, said: "Our founder Mr Li Ning has always said his vision was never about building China's Nike, it's about building the world's Li-Ning.

"You can't be global without having a legitimate claim of market share in the most mature sporting goods market."

He added: "I always optimistically look back on the Japanese brands in the '50s and '60s and the Korean brands in the '80s and '90s. It's our turn. We'll get there."

In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, Zhang Zhiyong, Li-Ning's ceo, said that the firm will spend around $10m (€7.3m, £6.3m) in 2011 to build its presence in the US.

Li-Ning's international ambitions reflect its strong position in the Chinese market.

Euromonitor figures cited by this warc.com paper show that, on current prices, the sportswear sector in China grew to 338bn yuan ($51bn, €38bn) in 2010, up from 169.7bn yuan in 2005.

In China, Li-Ning had the third highest adspend for a sportswear firm, behind Nike and HongXing Erke.

It came second for market share in 2009, at 10% just behind Nike's 10.2%.

A global study from financial services group Credit Suisse released last year also named Li-Ning alongside Facebook and Mercedes Benz as one of the "great brands of tomorrow".

Data sourced from Bloomberg/YouTube/Euromonitor/Credit Suisse; additional content by Warc staff