#Sports & Outerwear

How to market a Sport Brand in China ?

Last modified: May 19, 2021

With Chinese citizens’ rise in consumption and increase of 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 that are 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 market is now just at the beginning stage. With more money and time, Chinese citizens are going to spend more time doing sports activities, thus contributing to the success of sports brands. According to China’s General Administration of Sports, more than 40% of the Chinese population will practice sports activities regularly by the end of 2021, representing 680 million people.

This statistic shows the retail sales of sportswear in China from 2014 to 2019. In 2019, the sales revenue of sports apparel had reached around 316.6 billion yuan in China.

Data by statista

Health and sports in China

In China, one of the biggest trends of the moment is undoubtedly the sport & 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 a Chinese family.

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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. According to the 2016-2017 China Fitness Industry White Paper and the CAA (Chinese Athletic Association), in the past couple of years; over 37,000 fitness clubs mushroomed in China, and 2.8 million people participated in 328 marathons in 2016.

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 Lining 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. 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 Chinese 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.

China’s sports market segmentation

According to its growth level, China’s sports market 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 expansive 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 it. 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 in the second-tier cities, it is still undergoing rapid development. 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 finance growth 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 interesting to also consider expanding your activities in more rural cities.

Social media: The best way to promote your Sportswear brand in China

As you already probably know, because of China’s attractivity, 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 and with more than 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, 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.

Give your Sportswear brand Online Visibility in China with Baidu SEO

Create a Chinese Website

Having 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 “Sport 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 in China if you want to sell sportswear. 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 shoes 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 of 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 a most effective SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

  • 8-10 pages
  • Keyword repetition in line with selected keywords
  • A static site, i.e avoid video’s 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 doing 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.

  • Tmall

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.

  • JD.com

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, JD.com is partly owned by the giant Tencent, which has 20% of its stake. As of 2021, JD.com has over 470 million active customers. Like Tmall, you should try to apply for JD.com to sell your sportswear to Chinese consumers.

  • Taobao

Launched in 2003 by the Chinese giant Alibaba, Taobao (淘宝网) is one of the most popular online shopping platforms, specialized 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

Contact us for more information about marketing your sports brand in China

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.

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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 in 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!

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2 thoughts on “How to market a Sport Brand in China ?”

  1. Pingback: What you need to know about the Chinese sports APP Hupu - SEO China Agency

  2. 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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