Chinese dairy processor Yili will not be affected by the withdrawal of one of China's biggest Olympic medal hopes and face of the Yili brand, Liu Xiang, executive president Zhang Jianqiu said yesterday (21 August).

Injury forced the athlete to drop out of the first round of the 110m hurdles in Beijing on Monday, raising concerns of losses for his numerous sponsors, including Yili. But Zhang shrugged off the concerns, saying the company and general public were both standing by the hurdler.

"From the reaction of the public you can see that this will not affect the place of Liu Xiang in the hearts of the nation and therefore it won't affect the brand," Zhang told a press conference in Beijing.

Yili is also an official sponsor of the Olympics and claims its brand value has increased from CNY13.6bn (US$1.99bn) when the sponsorship was announced in 2005 to CNY20.1bn this year.

"Consumers are more familiar with our brand," said Zhang. "Many Hong Kong citizens now know about our brand too."

An Ipsos study this year suggested that many consumers believed rival Mengniu was in fact the dairy sponsor for the Games after it backed a TV programme about the country's amateur athletes. Zhang declined to comment. The two companies compete closely for sales and scarce raw milk supplies.