What are these guys doing? Are they flashing a gang sign? Nope. It’s a gesture that mimics the logo of their sponsor, Li-Ning.
Now, in the news today, you can follow a nicely evolving story about this practice (here, here, and here for example).
The immediate cause of the story was in incident on a podium at the Asian Games involving gymnasts Lu Bo, Teng Haibin and Hisashi Mizutori…
… After the all-around ceremony, Teng was forced to explain a hand gesture he and Lu made on the podium, where they appeared to aim a gun at Mizutori. The two Asian powers have a long history of war and animosity.
“I would like to explain that the gesture which looks like I am using a gun is not hostile,” Teng said, explaining that the gesture is meant to symbolize the Li Ning logo.
Mizutori made the same gesture back, though he said later he was not sure what it meant.
“I thought maybe I should just go along with it, so I just did it,” Mizutori said. …
Amanda Turner – IG
So, are these gymnasts doing something improper? On the one hand, taking a ‘high’ semiotic perspective, a gesture such as the one they display is a typical symbolic sign. In gesture terms, it is an emblem. As such, it is much the same as the sponsor logos on athletes’ clothing (which are accepted).
On the other hand, the method of delivery, the carrier of the symbolic meaning may be very important here. A logo on a shirt delivers a message much more quietly than a gesture made on a public podium. Humans are hard- and/or softwired to pay attention to gestures, because there may be some important communication on that channel that may concern you. That is at least how I see it. It is nearly imposssible to see a man and ignore his gestures. That is not true for a logo. I can easily ignore a logo.
In other words, I would not be surprised if we look back in about five years time, and remember how Li-Ning pioneered a sales tactic that became booming business. I am very curious if the gymnasts will be sanctioned.