How to Market a Sports Brand in China?

With Chinese citizens’ rise in consumption and increase in their purchasing power, more and more people (especially the younger generation) are buying products from foreign brands. On the other hand, the Chinese population’s lifestyle has also changed over the years, with people being more concerned about their health and appearance. Thanks to this phenomenon, the sportswear industry was able to emerge, at the profit of foreign brands.

Thus, China is a promising market for sports brands that want to attract a wide audience as well as expand their activities. In this article, we are going to give some tips and advice on how to market your sports brand in China.

The Sports Industry in China

The sports industry in China witnessed remarkable growth, with a market size of 3.12 trillion yuan achieved in 2021. Prior to 2019, it consistently demonstrated steady expansion. However, in 2020, the industry faced a setback of approximately seven percent as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic’s influence.

Health and Sports in China

In China, one of the biggest trends of the moment is undoubtedly the sports & fitness center market. Investments in individual equipment and fitness center membership cards are breaking records since the slogan in China seems to be “A healthy mind in a healthy body”.

A report from the General Administration of Sport of China shows that even though the majority of the Chinese population wants to do sports regularly, only one-third of them are doing it. Also, sports goods have now become the sixth expense for many Chinese families.

A Healthy Mind in a Healthy Body

As part of the criteria of physical beauty for both men and women in China, sports have become essential in order for them to maintain their physical condition and health. The wish to be thinner and healthy, as well as the benefits that can come out of it, are boosting fitness gyms and sporting events.

At the end of December 2021, China boasted a considerable number of approximately 129,000 gyms. The country’s growing emphasis on adopting a healthy lifestyle and maintaining fitness has sparked a notable increase in the establishment of new sports and fitness facilities across China.

The sport-style fashion in China

Chinese singer Ayunga 阿云嘎 for Lining 李宁
Chinese singer Ayunga 阿Chinese singer AyungaChinese singer Ayunga 阿云嘎 for Li ning 李宁 阿云嘎 for Lining 李宁云嘎 for Lining 李宁

For some people (especially the younger generation), wearing sportswear apparel is part of the latest trend. They are prioritizing style and luxury in their fashion choices, leading to the surge in popularity of athleisure, a blend of fashion and sports apparel. People can wear them casually in their daily life for example.

This fashion phenomenon is largely supported by major brands like Nike and Adidas, but also domestic brands like Lining. Many fashion shows are organized across China in order to promote sportswear apparel.

Foreign Sportswear Brands at the Conquest of China

Following China’s economic development, many foreign brands want to seize the opportunity to attract a wide and enthusiastic audience.

Segmentation of the sportswear market in China

According to its growth level, the sports market in China can be divided into 3 segments: the first-tier city market, the second-tier city market, and the rural market.

First- and second-tier cities in China

Top 10 first- and second-tier cities in China

The first-tier cities refer to those big cities like Beijing and Shanghai, the market of which has already been well developed. The market here is ready for high-class or expensive sports goods and consumers care more about quality and function.

Consumers in the first-tier cities are up-to-date with the latest products released and very enthusiastic about them. They are also willing to pay more in order to have high-quality products.

The sports goods market has already been well developed in big cities, while it is still undergoing rapid development in second-tier cities. China’s middle-class consumers are also more present in second-tier cities. They are looking for a better quality of life, and often seek to catch up with first-tier cities’ lifestyles.

Second-tier cities refer to those prefectural-level cities whose population is less than 2 million. Now there are about 600 cities categorized as second-tier cities in China and major growth of urbanization like population and financial growth rate in China will come from these 600 cities.

Rural cities

Rural cities are also developing rapidly, attracting every year hundreds of sports stores. Even though these cities were representing a small part of the sports market, they are even more promising over the years. So, it can be attractive to also consider expanding your activities to more rural cities.

How to Develop a Succesful Brand Strategy in China

Understand the target audience

Conduct research to gain insights into the preferences, values, and aspirations of Chinese consumers. Identify what motivates them and align your brand positioning accordingly.

Highlight unique selling points

Determine the unique qualities and features that set your sports brand apart from competitors. Emphasize these strengths in your brand positioning to differentiate yourself in the market.

Establish brand values

Define the core values that your brand embodies, such as quality, innovation, sustainability, or the pursuit of excellence. Ensure that these values resonate with the values of Chinese consumers and align with cultural norms.

Craft a compelling brand story

Develop a narrative that communicates your brand’s history, mission, and vision. Chinese consumers value authenticity and storytelling, so create a compelling brand story that emotionally connects with your target audience.

Language localization

Translate and adapt your brand messaging into Mandarin Chinese, ensuring it is culturally relevant and resonates with local consumers. Use appropriate idioms, expressions, and colloquialisms to connect with the target audience effectively.

Tailor communication style

Chinese consumers value modesty, humility, and harmony. Adopt a communication style that reflects these cultural values while still highlighting your brand’s strengths. Avoid overly boastful or confrontational messaging.

Emphasize social proof

Chinese consumers heavily rely on recommendations and social proof. Incorporate testimonials, user-generated content, and positive reviews into your brand messaging to build trust and credibility.

Consistent visual language

Develop a consistent visual language across all brand touchpoints, including packaging, marketing materials, websites, and social media. Maintain a cohesive and recognizable style that reflects your brand’s personality.

Incorporate Chinese cultural elements

Consider incorporating subtle Chinese cultural elements into your brand identity to show respect and connection with the local culture. However, ensure that it is done tastefully and does not come across as tokenism.

Organize offline events and sponsorships

Offline events and sponsorships can create valuable face-to-face interactions with Chinese consumers. Consider organizing sports events, workshops, or seminars related to your brand’s niche. Engage with local sports clubs, gyms, or community organizations to collaborate on hosting events.

This allows you to showcase your products or services directly, create memorable experiences, and foster personal connections with potential customers.

Collaborate with local sports teams or athletes

Partnering with local sports teams or influential athletes can significantly enhance your brand’s visibility and credibility. Identify well-known athletes or rising stars in the Chinese sports industry who align with your brand values.

Collaborate with them through endorsements, sponsorships, or joint marketing campaigns. Their association with your brand can attract the attention and loyalty of their fan base, thereby expanding your reach and credibility.

Offer customer service in Mandarin

To effectively communicate with Chinese consumers, it is essential to provide customer service in Mandarin Chinese. This includes having a dedicated Mandarin-speaking customer support team that can assist customers promptly and efficiently. Offering multichannel support, such as phone, email, and live chat, in Mandarin will help address customer inquiries and concerns effectively.

Case Study: sports specialization company

Social Media: The Best Way to Promote Your Sportswear Brand in China

As you already probably know, because of China’s attractiveness, the Chinese market is getting tougher for new brands. So, in order to stand out amongst your competitors, you will have to focus on social media to promote your brand. For example, one successful social media campaign was Nike on WeChat.

Nike used WeChat to promote its campaigns, one of them was called “We own the night”. Fans following Nike’s WeChat account were able to receive many updates from the event and upload their pictures while adding some effects to it. They were then able to print them in Nike’s stores.

WeChat: The Most Popular App in China

Launched in 2011 with over 920 million daily active users, WeChat is the most popular app in China. Thus, it has become a powerful marketing tool for both individual entrepreneurs and international companies. You can create your brand’s account on WeChat to keep in touch with your Chinese consumers.

Nike on WeChat

A WeChat official account is kind of like a micro-website, where you can post news, put your contact information, create an event, and even open a WeChat Store for selling. What makes WeChat better than any other social media platform is that when you put new things, there is an alert on the main page of WeChat. Every person that followed your account will be notified.

In addition, everyone in China uses WeChat in their daily life, all day long. So if you want to promote your sportswear brand in China, WeChat is a must-have.

Weibo: The Most Popular Micro-blogging Website in China

Launched in 2009 by the Chinese technology company Sina Corporation (新浪), Weibo (微博) is one of the biggest social media platforms in China. As its name indicates (“micro-blog”), Weibo provides micro-blogging services and is often compared to Twitter. However, it has evolved into a microblogging hybrid with Instagram, Pinterest, Reddit, and YouTube over the years.

weibo kol
李现ing weibo account

Partner with Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs)

Partnering with Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) is an effective strategy to enhance brand visibility and credibility in the Chinese sports market. KOLs are influential individuals with a significant online following and strong influence over consumer opinions. To successfully collaborate with KOLs, consider the following steps:

Identify relevant KOLs in the sports industry

Conduct thorough research to identify KOLs who have a strong presence and influence within the sports industry in China. Look for KOLs who align with your brand’s values, target audience, and marketing objectives. Consider their expertise, reputation, and engagement with their followers.

Collaborate with KOLs for brand endorsements and promotions

Once you have identified suitable KOLs, establish partnerships with them for brand endorsements and promotions. Work with them to create authentic and engaging content that highlights the unique qualities and benefits of your sports brand. Collaborate on sponsored posts, product reviews, live streaming, or promotional campaigns to leverage the KOLs’ influence and reach.

Leverage KOLs’ online presence and influence

KOLs have a strong online presence and a loyal following, making them effective channels to reach and engage with Chinese consumers. Leverage their influence by having them promote your brand through their social media platforms, such as WeChat, Weibo, or Douyin. Encourage KOLs to share their experiences using your products or participating in your brand’s events, creating a buzz among their followers.

Additionally, consider organizing events or activations where KOLs can actively participate, providing opportunities for them to engage with their fans and endorse your brand in person. This can further strengthen the association between your sports brand and the KOLs’ influence, fostering trust and interest among their followers.

Remember, building a successful partnership with KOLs requires careful selection, collaboration, and aligning your brand’s goals with the KOLs’ image and audience. By identifying relevant KOLs, collaborating with them for brand endorsements and promotions, and leveraging their online presence and influence, you can effectively amplify your brand’s reach and credibility in the Chinese sports market.


Give your Sportswear brand Online Visibility in China with Baidu SEO

Create a Chinese Website

A Chinese website is mandatory if you want to do business in China. Not only it will allow you to attract Chinese consumers, but it will also help you with your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) on Baidu. The higher you’ll be ranked on Baidu, the better the exposure will be. If we look at the following pictures, we can see that Adidas is ranked second after Jordan on Baidu when looking for “Sports shoe brands” (运动鞋品牌)

By creating a Chinese website, Adidas is extremely visible on search engines such as Baidu, and easily accessible to Chinese consumers. The website is simple and clear, and consumers have access to many categories.

Therefore, building a good Chinese website is very important, so that potential customers can browse your website and look at your products. If you can, you should also try to optimize your website not only for computer users but also for smartphone users (most of the Chinese population is now using their smartphones for online research).

The Importance of Ranking on Baidu

After creating a Chinese website, you need to start to increase your visibility. As the most popular search engine in China by far and the 5th most consulted website in the world, Baidu is simply a step you can’t skip if you want to sell on the Chinese sportswear market.

In order to master Baidu, you will need first to optimize your website for it to be ranked on the first results of Baidu. Moreover, you can also display and advertise your company as Baidu is like an open window on the internet. Statistics show that if you do not appear on the first search page, you may lose 65% of your potential internet traffic.

Sports footwear on Baidu – Adidas

Therefore, it is strongly recommended to do search engine optimization in order to rank on the home page. Find the right keywords in order to be ranked higher on Baidu. This Chinese website will be your “storefront desk” in China, and PPC is also a great way to complement your ongoing search engine optimization. 

Some tips for Baidu

Your website will have to be optimized & audited on the ‘back end’ (meta tags/descriptions/titles, etc) for the most effective SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

  • 8-10 pages
  • Keyword repetition in line with selected keywords
  • A static site, i.e avoid videos and complex graphics
  • Internal links to other relevant pages
  • Clear and interesting content
  • You can also put your Wechat QR Code on your website

If you want more information about Baidu, you can check our complete guide on Baidu SEO. Also, if you have more inquiries or questions, do not hesitate to contact us.

E-commerce Platforms: The Best Way to Sell Your Sportswear in China

Following China’s digitalization over the last decade, Chinese consumers are spending more and more time on their phones, thus contributing to a shift in consumption from shopping in brick-and-mortar stores to online shopping.

Chinese consumers are more willing to purchase online because of the convenience and the greater range of available items on e-commerce platforms. Nowadays, Chinese consumers have a huge appetite for foreign products, and e-commerce platforms are now the main channel of purchase for Chinese shoppers.


Founded in 2008 under the famous Alibaba group, Tmall (天猫), is a subsidiary of the e-commerce website Taobao (淘宝网). Its target market is primarily B2C (Business-To-Consumer). Tmall’s concept is ambitious and wise as it allows both local Chinese and international companies to sell their products through the platform in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan.

Tmall stands out from its competitor’s thanks to its strict standards in terms of quality and renown. Indeed, if you already have a strong online presence in China, Tmall can be a powerful tool for you to considerably increase your sales.

Founded in 1998 by Liu Qiangdong in Beijing, JD (which stands for Jingdong 京东) is one of the most popular e-commerce platforms in China. In 2004, it opened its online retail platform and quickly became one of the two massive B2C online retailers in China with its competitor the Alibaba-run Tmall. Now, is partly owned by the giant Tencent, which has 20% of its stake. As of 2021, has over 470 million active customers. Like Tmall, you should try to apply for to sell your sportswear to Chinese consumers.


Launched in 2003 by the Chinese giant Alibaba, Taobao (淘宝网) is one of the most popular online shopping platforms, specializing in both B2C and C2C transactions, as well as the most popular online entrepreneurship platform, enabling thousands of young entrepreneurs to be successful. It has hundreds of millions of products and service listings, which are appreciated by Chinese consumers. As of 2019, it has 300 million daily active users and 668 million mobile monthly active users. Taobao accounts for nearly 60% of the total e-commerce sales in China.

Sportswear on Taobao

Expand Your Sports Brand in China – Contact Us for Marketing Solutions

GMA Fashion Agency is your digital marketing agency in China. Our agency offers a complete range of services for e-commerce marketers from e-commerce consulting to digital marketing operations. You can also take a look here at our services and case studies. Do not hesitate to contact us for more information or inquiries.

contact GMA

Our mission is to accompany Fashion and Luxury brands on their Chinese journey. We guide you through the specificities of the Chinese market by introducing you to new channels and helping you show your creativity and know-how.

GMA was born to serve international brands with expert insights and expertise about China. Its market, language, and culture. We believe in branding and in innovation and how the location is at the heart of each of our solutions. We will help you embrace the Chinese culture while keeping and valuing the identity that makes your brand so unique!

What do we believe in?

  • Our clients are not just clients but partners
  • With the right tools and advice, everyone can succeed in China
  • We establish a relationship of trust to have a long-lasting working relationship with our partners

A dedicated team of 70+ digital experts, all passionate about the Fashion & Luxury world. Founded by Olivier Vérot and Philip Qian, GMA is cultivating the know-how of a multicultural team. We are striving for perfection while staying optimal thanks to tailor-made solutions. We constantly study, experiment, and develop new digital solutions to offer the most up-to-date services to our customers.

If you want more information about our agency and our services, do not hesitate to contact us directly.

Luxury fashion case studies China - GMA


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  • Slytherin76

    Such an interesting article!! Chinese consumers are doing a lot of sport to take care of them and keep a good health, we can see new sports emerging everyday in Shanghai.

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