BEIJING: China Mobile and Nike are the brands which are currently considered to be the most engaging and aspirational by consumers in China.

R3, the consultancy, partnered with CSM, the media research firm, to survey a total of 6,000 people aged between 15 and 40 years old in the ten largest cities in the country.

China Mobile, the biggest telecoms operator in the Asian market, headed the rankings, on 85 points, a result attributed both to its communications strategy and the specific features of its services.

"China Mobile is winning the 3G war through web-centricity, strong brand values and solid customer base," said Greg Paull, principal of R3.

"Their latest marketing initiatives, featuring Ge You and other approachable stars, continue to drive strong connections."

Nike, the US sports titan, came in second, on 63 points, having recently reaffirmed the considerable importance of the world's most populous nation to its future growth prospects.

More specifically, of the six firms in this sector which are associated with the NBA in China – a list that also includes Adidas and local rivals Li Ning, Anta and Peak – Nike recorded the most "mentions", on 35%.

"On top of this, they have strong celebrity recall for their associations with Kobe Bryant, Yi Jianlian" and other basketball players, Paull added.

Coca-Cola, the soft drinks giant, was in third in the overall rankings, on 59 points, but led the standings when it came to brand recall.

The beverage maker was also credited with having successfully leveraged its long-term links with Yao Ming, who plays in the NBA, the athlete Liu Xiang, and its broader marketing efforts.

"Coke is the only non-sports brand with a strong NBA association, and they are also getting positive recall of some of their TV and digital investments," said Matt Brosenne, business development director of CSM.

Nokia, the Finnish mobile specialist, claimed fourth position, on 57 points, followed by Mengniu, the dairy company, which made up the top five, on 44 points.

Adidas, Lenovo, Sony, Samsung and KFC closed out the ten offerings that were considered to be that most effective at connecting with consumers and communicating aspirational values.

In terms of the most popular social networks, Tencent's Q-Zone was pre-eminent, on 83 points, ahead of Tieba, run by Baidu, and Kaixin001, on 69 points and 64 respectively.

Half the ten most widely-recalled brand sites on the web related to pages that had been established on Kaixin001, covering products like Minute Maid, Yili and Coca-Cola.

"We've seen marketers already invest in the social media space in China, but in the next year, it will really come of age," said Paull.

The NBA was also named as one of the five most engaging programmes, but series like Happy Camp and Day Day Up, both shown on Hunan Satellite, were considered to be "appointment viewing".

In concluding, the R3/CSM study suggested that the correlation between high levels of adspend and consumer preferences was not clear-cut.

"The days are over where media budgets mean everything," said Brosenne.

"Today's consumers are far more selective in their TV consumption, and brands need to activate the right passion points, not just push for mass exposure."

Data sourced from R3; additional content by Warc staff