Sports have always played a prominent role in Chinese life. If you wander in the streets of Shanghai when the sun rises up, you’ll see people in line, dancing to the sound of traditional music. You’ll also admire Chinese men practice wushu in front of the huge building appearing in the dawn. China’s love affair with sports has taken on a new life the past few years. This is partly down to COVID-19’s impact, which has made people focus on their health and increases their physical activity. The total sport market size in 2019 reached RMB 2.95 trillion, and had an annual growth rate of 10.9%. The sports market in China is expected to reach 5 trillion RMB by 2025 through the Chinese government lifting the sports industry as a part of a national strategy. A gigantic market with a special marketing. What are the newest sports marketing in China? Let’s take a look!
Let’s scan some of China’s best sports marketing trends.
The pandemic has been a pivotal moment for the sports market in China. More time at home presents new opportunities for brands and audiences to get connected and new digital formats for sports have emerged. China saw it as an opportunity to speed up its online development. Digital workouts from home, online fitness communities, fitness apps, fitness influencers… a whole new range of way to do sports and sell sports has appeared. Li Xinyan, general manager of Keep, a Chinese social fitness app, said that he has worked with numerous institutions and fitness fans, doing a lot of live streaming videos to encourage people to work out at home. As of 2019, there were 165 million online sports and fitness service users in China, increasing from 35 million in 2016. This number is only expected to grow, as people’s sporting habits during the epidemic will continue according to Li.
With online sports goes online sports marketing of course. In China where social media rule the world, this online sports era is golden for sports marketing. Tom Elsden, Senior Client Manager at Mailman said to « Tune In Asia » : “Weibo and WeChat are the top two social channels that brands can use to launch their own presence online. Weibo is your Twitter-like publishing platform for brand awareness and follower acquisition. Meanwhile WeChat is similar to a membership platform, where a brand’s core fans sign up to receive daily push messages. The sports media dominate the top apps, Tencent Sports and Sina Sports apps are particularly strong.” On those platforms, you can work with KOLs that are very popular nowadays in China, but also do paid promotion, media buy, polls, etc. It generates a lot of interaction and tend to always work in China.
AliPay, Hisense, TikTok and Vivo take on the Western world for sponsorship
Another practice that works well in China for sports marketing is sponsorship. This technique consists of an association between a company and a sports team or event. Chinese sports brands have sponsorship deals with many of the world’s top athletes and teams. Chinese fans love to play basketball, while only enjoying to watch football. Ever since President Xi Jinping pledged to make China a major power in the game, football has been gaining popularity in China. That’s also why football has become the main sport for Chinese companies to sponsor. Alipay, Hisense, TikTok, and Vivo sponsored the Euro 2020 soccer tournament, accounting for one-third of official sponsors and making China the biggest source of sponsorship for the event. Alipay also signed an eight-year deal to become a sponsor, from 2018 to 2026, of UEFA’s men’s national soccer tournaments, which include Euro 2020, Euro 2024, and the UEFA Nations League finals.
The Beijing Olympics as a fresh start for winter sports in China
China also really benefited from the 2022 Beijing Olympics. A while back, only a part of the population was familiar with snow as a leisure activity. But since Beijing’s successful Olympics bid in 2015, the number of ski resorts grew by more than 40% to roughly 800, according to the 2020 China Ski Industry White Book, and the number of ice rinks tripled to more than 650. By 2020, the winter sports industry was worth 600 billion yuan. The olympics has also been the perfect opportunity for e-commerce platforms to work with some famous Chinese athletes. Eileen Gu, the American-Chinese star skier has worked with some of China’s biggest brands… but you can also see her face all over Western brands. Her performance in the Games only intensified the young lady’s ambassador’s carrer as she became China’s first female gold medalist at a Winter Olympics.
China being considered as the largest developing country in the world, we can only expect new marketing and business trends to emerge. More chatbot services, AI marketing, technological innovation, ecological transition, and surely some innovations we can’t even imagine… Stay tuned!
To read more about the Beijing Olympics, click here