Chinese sportswear brands are losing out to their Western counterparts as local preferences shift, Wall Street Journal reports.

Sales of Chinese brands, such as heavyweight rivals Li Ning Co. and Anta Sports Products Ltd., soared in the wake of the Beijing Olympics in 2008. But competition from foreign brands that cater to the growing trend-conscious Chinese market is threatening to outdo local brands.

Advertisement is key, says Core Pacific-Yamaichi analyst Eugene Mak. “Because they do less on research or advertising, Chinese sports brands have lost touch with what consumers want,” he added. Besides price cuts, Nike Inc. got basketball star Jeremy Lin as an endorser, which appeals to his huge Chinese fan base.

Inventory levels for domestic brands climbed 36% to 58% from a year earlier, according to annual reports. Western brands, on the other hand, have been gaining market share – up to 28% by next year from 24% of China’s sportswear and shoes in 2010, Barclays estimated.