Many people in China are proud of their international sports stars like Yao Ming and Li Na, but back home, the state-controlled athletic environment still makes it difficult for brands to take advantage of sports-related marketing like they do in the West. This week’s episode of Thoughtful China interviews experts from brands and agencies to see where there are opportunities to develop commercialized sports in the country.
In the video above, sports and entertainment advisory Gemba Group Director and CEO Rob Mills, Lululemon Athletica International Showroom Manager Jen Loong, social media agency Mailman Chief of Staff of Andrew Collins, advertising agency TBWA Shanghai Business Director Catherine Talpey, and youth consultant group China Youthology COO Kevin Lee discuss the challenges international and even local sports brands face while operating in China.
“Professional sport is still a relatively new concept in China, and it’s easy to forget that when the market moves so quickly,” says Mills. “The commercialization capability is not where it needs to be.”
Lee says that previously people in China saw sports as a commitment only young children make, molded by the country’s rigorous juguo tizhi Olympics-training system (literally “nationwide system”). According to him, it is only with the rise of Chinese athletes who have made it big outside of China, like Li Na, that people in China can start to see sports as being recreational and accessible.
“They’re trying to give an alternative option to sports,” says Lee on international brands’ efforts to cultivate a new outlook toward sports in China. “Not just a professional one, but a recreational one.”