Why ANTA Brought Home Gold at the Olympics

ANTA Sports, an official sportswear partner of the 2022 Winter Olympic Games and Paralympics Winter Games, has transformed its partnership with Chinese freestyle skier Eileen Gu into a unique marketing opportunity, catapulting the brand into the global spotlight. 

Last week, Reuters declared that ANTA Sports was the “clearest winner” of all the Chinese brands associated with this teen sensation, stating: “Its shares are up 67 percent since signing Gu as its brand ambassador in January 2020. The company, which led a roughly $5.2 billion takeover of Finnish ski-wear specialist Amer in 2018, is betting that China’s nascent winter sports market will take off following the games.”

ANTA signed Gu as its brand ambassador in January 2020. Photo: ANTA’s Weibo

Indeed, by looking outside its target audience of basketball enthusiasts and expanding into winter sports, ANTA has maximized its brand exposure. Moreover, by becoming the first Chinese supplier of sportswear uniforms to The International Olympic Committee (IOC), ANTA has strategically aligned itself with the elements and values that symbolize the Olympic Games: success, prestige, diversity, and harmony. It doesn’t hurt that the event pulls in large global audiences, bringing ANTA to markets like the United States or Western Europe that are notoriously tough for Chinese brands to break in.

Nearly 600 million Chinese people watched the Winter Games during its first week, according to The South China Morning Post. But more importantly, the Winter Olympics drew in over 100 million people in the US. Meanwhile, in Europe, “the total number of streaming viewers after only four days of competition had surpassed PyeongChang 2018’s total viewership,” according to The South China Morning Post.

Yet ANTA Sports’ Olympic triumph is hardly a one-time wonder. The Chinese sportswear giant has built a winning business through smart acquisitions (Fila, Salomon, Atomic, KOLON Sport, and Descente) while consolidating its position in the Asia-Pacific and avoiding market saturation at home. At the same time, the focus on different marketing communications tools has helped ANTA reach more consumer segments. 

Generally speaking, China’s “nationalist consumption” trend has also helped ANTA and its Chinese peers. Bloomberg News‘ analysis of data compiled by Taosj.com highlights that the controversies and scandals sparked by Western corporations in China “are having a more lasting impact than before.”

“Nike and adidas, which said they would not use Xinjiang cotton, were sent on a downward trajectory in sales that have not yet bottomed out,” says Bloomberg. “Months after the scandal, Chinese rivals like Anta Sports Products Ltd. and Li Ning Co. — which put out statements of support for Xinjiang cotton — continue to surpass them in sales.”

All that said, ANTA Sports knew how to leverage every opportunity to boost brand awareness and increase demand for its products. And make no mistake: ANTA’s efforts and success have opened the door for challenger brands like 361 Degrees International Ltd., which, until recently, were out-gunned by sportswear giants.