What Happened: The pandemic has unexpectedly made a hit livestreamer of singer and actor Liu Genghong. On Douyin, Liu and his wife Vivi Wang have sparked a fitness revolution: they gained more than 64 million followers within a single month (for perspective, the fitness app Keep took seven years to accumulate 34 million monthly active users) and their livestreams have been viewed roughly 100 million times. Chinese musician Jay Chou’s songs are often used by the influencer as his background music, and his song “Herbalist’s Manual” (本草纲目) went viral thanks to the workout classes. The interactions between Liu and his wife during the workouts have been credited as a prime reason for the duo’s popularity.
The Jing Take: According to the keep prospectus, China’s online fitness market increased from 35.6 percent in 2019 to 44 percent in 2020, and is expected to climb to 60.6 percent in 2026. The lockdown is helping to accelerate this growth. Given this vast potential, brands have been tapping sports stars as ambassadors and KOLs. Now, sports companies can also incubate their own influencers on social media such as Douyin, Xiaohongshu, and Kuaishou. With any luck, they hope to emulate the success of the mainland’s latest livestreaming crush: Liu Genghong.
The sports label Fila were quick to spot their popularity, and has become one of the first international names to be worn by the couple. According to an informed source, this month, the company reportedly spent nearly $2.53 million (17 million RMB) to appear in the livestream (being worn by the pair) for two days. Videos where the two praised the comfortable sportswear and recommended netizens purchase similar items when exercising have received 1.32 million likes in total so far.
Working with influencers is essential for a business to build its reputation and boost sales. KOLs can help firms stand out and foster trust. But in this case, timing has been essential. As the country moves out of lockdown, Liu may struggle to maintain his leading position in the sports livestream sector, and Fila has been smart to act quickly. Long-term, rather than just selling items in livestreams, brands could produce their own content — like sports tutorials — as a more sustainable approach to driving sales.
The Jing Take reports on a piece of the leading news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debate sprouting on Chinese social media.