A couple of years ago, it was almost impossible to imagine China being into winter sports. Especially after the Covid-19 pandemic, the pursuit of health and sports activities surged. Chinese people are changing their food habits (a slow but rising part becoming vegan), fitness centers are booming, and sports practices are evolving. The popularity of outdoor activities was reinforced after the need for the local population to go outside after spending long days in their apartments due to lockdowns. Among the sports equipment and sportswear category, mountain climbing, snowboarding, or even camping is the new go-to of Chinese consumers. We are now talking about a multibillion-dollar industry, with continuous growth.
Winter Sports Market in China
The health concern is now moving from average fitness clubs to niche sports. The key industry to watch in 2022 is definitely winter sports, especially ski and snowboard. Why? Because the current context is a smart combination of consumers’ habits and government new policies.
The Success of Winter Sports Equipment on Tmall
On Tmall, winter sports equipment sales increased by 140% YoY in the first hour of 11.11 sales. While this festival is often dedicated to beauty, personal care, and food, the winter sports equipment met an unexpected growth. Many Chinese consumers purchased equipment ahead of Winter Olympic Games. Meanwhile, luxury malls are opening indoor ski resorts for ski training and luxury brands dedicated to ski items.
This trend is definitely a must-watch, especially with the opening of Wintastar Shanghai, aiming to be the World’s Largest Indoor Ski Resort. The e-commerce luxury leader Tmall is definitely ready to boost and highlight winter sports-related products. And this success is mainly due to the coming Chinese Winter Olympic Games taking place in February 2022, which the Chinese Government is promoting much more than usual.
The Chinese Enthusiasm for Winter Olympic Games in Beijing
From February 4th to 20th, the Winter Olympic Games will be organized in Beijing. Traditionally, Chinese people’s enthusiasm is devoted to the Summer Olympics, while fewer people pay attention to the Winter Olympics. But in 2 or 3 years, as China won more gold medals in the Winter Olympics, Chinese people are paying more and more attention to winter sports.
Among famous winter sports Chinese athletes, we can talk about Wu Dajing and Eileen Gu. Wu Dajing is a member of the Chinese men’s shirt track speed skating team. He is especially popular in China because he won the country’s first gold medal in short-track speed skating… and even broke the world record at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
On the other hand, Eileen Gu is a Chinese freestyle skier benefiting from huge popularity in China. In 2019, Eileen Gu announced through her social media that she had changed her nationality from American to Chinese. Her participation not only covered the vacancy of the Chinese Winter Olympic team in the freestyle skiing event but also enabled China to win a new gold medal.
Many luxury and fashion brands jumped on this opportunity to build a local campaign focusing on winter sports. In September, Prada launched the campaign “Prada On Ice” with a small and exclusive collection of winter outfits. The brand even organized a pop-up store at the SKP Atrium in Beijing to promote its new campaign. Meanwhile, outerwear and sportswear brands decided to implement co-branding campaigns.
CANOTWAIT x Salomon: The Luxury Limited Edition
After criticisms about its lack of creativity, CANOTWAIT tapped into the growth opportunities offered by the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games. This collaboration with Salomon is definitely a game-changer to tackle the winter sports market with a larger and more established brand.
Brand Exposure: Focus on Weibo and Followers Engagement
The co-branding campaign CANOTWAIT x SALOMON is a decisive strategy to reach higher exposure. The Chinese brand, owned by the celebrity William Chan 陳偉霆, was recently launched in 2020. At its launch, the brand featured a yellow smiley to highlight its core values of happiness and goodwill. But the first FW20 collection received some backlash due to the high similarity with the brands Smiley and DREW HOUSE by Justin Bieber.
This co-branding campaign can definitely give CANOTWAIT a new positioning of luxury and desirability due to the very limited edition and high exposure enabled by the +174K Salomon’s audience on Weibo. So far, the announcement of the collaboration reached a high exposure and a high engagement from both sides.
If you plan to launch a new campaign in China, the strategy implemented could be insightful for you. Both brands started with a teasing campaign of the products and ended with a Tmall event in the mountains to show the products worn on the ski tracks. The Chinese followers were expecting the official launch of the products to be among the “few ones” to acquire these items.
Online Reputation: Build a Positive E-Reputation Through Co-Branding
The collaboration is a perfect blend of sportswear and artistic values. They did not only unlock a new sales potential with ski lovers but also communicated their core values: passion, goodwill, and playful creations. The majority of comments from users are positive on social media and Chinese blogs and forums. Most compliments are saying it is ‘beautiful’ and a ‘perfect integration of trend culture and snow sports’. For luxury and fashion brands, the key is always to maintain a positive reputation.
But what is a negative reputation in China? In general, you can talk about a negative one when you have no recognition at all or strong exposure due to a bad buzz or “badvertising”. If you plan to launch a collection in China, this case study is particularly interesting. It is all about having a good e-reputation: engage with people on your brand’s values, incorporate Chinese cultural elements, and propose an outstanding design.
Sales: A Winter Sports Equipment Collection Only Available on Tmall
In China, Tmall is the star e-commerce platform for luxury and fashion brands. Owned by Alibaba, Tmall gathers the majority of luxury brands like Gucci, Dior, and Cartier. The platform offers interesting features from live streaming to high-quality consumer service. The CANOTWAIT x SALOMON limited edition was sold exclusively on Tmall in January 2022.
In terms of activations, both brands organized a ski lottery to offer a special gift from the collection to the winner. In this type of campaign, having an excellent flagship store or having a close collaboration with Tmall is mandatory. If you are a new entrant in China, it would be ideal to work with a TP (Tmall Partner). Why? Because KOLs and star influencers were invited to participate in the Songhua Lake Ski Resort for the Tmall Ice and Snow Festival on the occasion of the New Year… wearing the CANOTWAIT x SALOMON outfit before the official launch of the collection on Tmall.
Build your Own Co-Branding Campaign with a Local Agency
The ability to propose a limited edition to tap into the winter sports market in China is often a dream for luxury and fashion brands but rarely a reality. You don’t have the capabilities to get the right insights and implement quickly such an ambitious campaign? It is recommended to partner with a Chinese agency. But who?
At Gentlemen Marketing Agency (GMA), we always follow the last trends to build a powerful and disruptive campaign. Especially with Olympic Games in China this year, our creative and e-commerce teams are working on unique designs to seduce ski and snowboard lovers. If you want to receive the last insights and discover what could be the solutions for your brand in China, you can contact us.