From the Economic Times (link):
You’d be pretty happy if Yao Ming represented your brand, wouldn’t you? One of China’s most recognised and loved celebrities, and one of the few with global visibility as a basketball player for the Houston Rockets.
So, if you were Gatorade’s marketing team and Yao was waving your beverage on posters across China, you deserve a pat on the back, right? Except Gatorade’s not the only brand Yao’s fronting. He has also appeared in ads for Mc-Donald’s , Reebok, Tag Heuer, Apple, China Unicom (mobile network), Sohu (web portal ), Garmin (GPS services) and Upperdeck (trading cards) in the past year.
Some are one-offs , others are longer-term , but the overall effect is that when you see Yao in an ad, you think Yao, not the brand he’s accompanying . Instead of Yao supporting a brand, brands are just giving him additional media space, and boosting his celeb status.