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Bottega Veneta Taps Top Chinese Athletes for 520 Campaign

The lineup includes Olympic gold medalists diver-turned-socialite Guo Jingjing, table tennis player Xu Xin and swimmer-turned-golfer Ning Zetao.

Bottega Veneta Taps Top Chinese Athletes for 520 Campaign

Guo Jingjing stars in Bottega Veneta’s latest 530 campaign

LONDON — Bottega Veneta is betting on high-achieving Chinese athletes with major followings to boost the brand’s visibility during China’s own Valentine’s Day, May 20, which sounds like “I love you” in Chinese, amid a challenging retail landscape.

The brand enlisted four-time Olympic gold medalist-turned-socialite Guo Jingjing, table tennis player Xu Xin and swimmer-turned-golfer Ning Zetao to appear in this year’s 520 campaign, directed by Guo Dongxun with photography by Yuan Xiaopeng.

Shot on location in Shanghai and Chongqing and depicting themes of love, anticipation and reunion, the campaign was inspired by local architecture and public space, as the camera followed the three traversing neighborhoods and buildings on their way to meet someone special.

The style of the films — which see Guo, Xu and Ning moving across seemingly ordinary urban environments in head-to-toe Bottega Veneta — is reminiscent of cinema classics from the late ’80s and early ’90s, such as the work of Edward Yung, a famed Taiwanese director known for films like “A Brighter Summer Day” and “Yi Yi.”

Bottega Veneta Taps Top Chinese Athletes for 520 Campaign

Table tennis player Xu Xin stars in Bottega Veneta’s latest 530 campaign.

The campaign highlights the brand’s 520 capsule collection, which includes a small Andiamo bag in travertine with a braided chain strap.

Guo, a former diver, is married to Kenneth Fok, the grandson of Hong Kong tycoon Henry Fok. She is tied with her partner Wu Minxia for winning the most Olympic medals of any female diver in history. Often hailed as a role model for female excellence, Guo now spends most of her time in Hong Kong and is an ambassador for UNICEF Hong Kong and the Ocean Park Conservation Foundation. She is also an ocean ambassador for WWF China.

Xu is an accomplished professional table tennis player. He reached his career-high singles ranking of world number one in January 2013 and won the men’s team gold medal at the 2016 Summer Olympics alongside Ma Long and Zhang Jike.

Ning, meanwhile, was an overnight sensation in China when he broke the Asian records for the 4 × 100-meter freestyle relay and 100-meter freestyle at the 2014 Asian Games. In 2019, he retired from swimming and is now a professional golf player.

Following a slew of major brands suffering from the fall of top entertainment personalities acting as their ambassadors in China for various reasons, such as Kris Wu, Zheng Shuang, Zhao Wei and Fan Bingbing, it’s been a common practice for brands to work with athletes to attend events and promote new products in the market. They are generally considered safer options with wider and longer-lasting appeal.

Bottega Veneta Taps Top Chinese Athletes for 520 Campaign

Swimmer-turned-golfer Ning Zetao stars in Bottega Veneta’s latest 530 campaign.

In recent years Bottega Veneta has been a leader in adapting to the Chinese market with dedicated campaigns and activations. For the Year of Dragon, the brand released a campaign featuring award-winning actress and brand ambassador Shu Qi.

Under the creative direction of Matthieu Blazy, the film was Bottega Veneta’s fourth collaboration with Chinese director Jess Jing Zou. Titled “The First Sunrise With You,” it celebrated the first dawn of the year for different characters in a variety of urban and panoramic settings. 

Last year, the brand had a series of drastic changes in the market, starting with quietly returning to social media after a two-year hiatus. For 520, the brand conscripted two models to play a couple holding hands and watching the sunrise on the top of a mountain, while showing limited-edition bags, shoes and accessories the brand offers for the special occasion.

In June, the brand promoted Dario Gargiulo to chief executive officer of Greater China to elevate its positioning and client experience in the region. This was followed by a reprised fall 2023 show in Beijing a month later. The event garnered more than 36 million views on Weibo and WeChat combined, thanks to a star-studded front row that included Chinese actresses Angelababy and Dong Jie; the Japanese American singer Mika Hashizume; C-pop star Stefanie Sun; Chinese actor Jin Boran; Thai actress Pimchanok Leuwisetpaibul, and actor Dew Jirawat Sutivanichsak.

For Qixi, another key gifting opportunity between lovers in China, the brand found four pairs of modern-day Qixi couples as they embark on journeys searching for their better halves. Hashizume, a friend of the house, was the key protagonist this time. Against a backdrop of various cityscapes, he and other players were motivated by the pure joy of their race toward love, according to the brand. Bottega’s Orbit sneakers and intrecciato bags were prominently featured in the video.

In 2022, Bottega Veneta took over part of the Great Wall to celebrate the Chinese Lunar New Year. The message of “Happy New Year” was written in Chinese, together with the company’s logo, displayed in shades of the brand’s signature green and tangerine, which is a symbol of luck in Mandarin, on a sloped portion of the Great Wall.

Together with this installation, the Italian brand pledged a donation to support the renovation and maintenance of the Shanhai Pass, the starting point of the eastern end of the Great Wall. Historically, this pass is known as the “first pass under heaven.”

As of 2024, Bottega Veneta operates 48 points of sale in mainland China, eight in Hong Kong, six in Macau and 11 in the region of Taiwan.