How Luxury Brands Can Tap Into The Tokyo Olympic Games

What Happened: China has proved a strong presence at the Tokyo Games this year, collecting 34 golds as of Thursday and ranking first in the gold medal count to date. Its outstanding performance, despite the ongoing pandemic, drove substantial social buzz in China. Yet, the eyes of netizens are not only on the games but also on the athlete’s looks.

The hair clip featuring a yellow duck worn by Chinese shooter Yang Qian, who won the first gold of the Olympics, has gone viral, with sales of her hair clip surging on Taobao over the past week. Elsewhere, the appealing body shapes and appearances of Chinese male swimmers like Wang Shun and Zhang Jixiang have also become a big topic, with them attracting a large number of social followers.

Meanwhile, two skateboarders representing Team China at the Games brought the sport to the general Chinese audiences. Though skateboarding is growing in popularity among the younger generations — and several cities have built skateparks for riders — the sport is less familiar to the public in China than in other countries where street culture is more developed.

The Jing Take: An Olympic partnership is one of the most coveted deals for sportswear brands. And, in China, homegrown giants Anta and Li Ning have divided up the market by sponsoring uniforms and game gear. Endorsements from athletes, along with China’s booming patriotism during the Olympic season, fueled these two leading players’ social traffic — as well as sales transactions.

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Although fashion brands are rarely seen as Olympic sponsors, there are still marketing opportunities for them. As such, early adopters have been keeping an eye on the athletes who medaled at the Olympics. Chinese sports superstars Ning Zetao and others were featured in the Prada panel discussion Ocean Source of Tomorrow (an episode of Your Prada Possible Conversations) and Bottega Veneta’s digital zine, released in June. In the beauty sector, Japanese cosmetics label SK-II featured the Chinese female swimmer Liu Xiang in its short film series “VS Obsession,” produced by its creative powerhouse, SK-II Studio.

SK-II features Chinese Olympic swimmer Liu Xiang in its “VS Campaign” series, which encourages women to overcome stereotypes and fight for their goals. Photo: Screenshot, SK-II

These energetic faces hold potential as brand ambassadors for luxury fashion and beauty brands. Compared to entertainment idols who court controversy, these athletes should be relatively “safer” choices for brands.

Moreover, sports like skateboarding are seeing increasing popularity among local youngsters. And many, such as golf and equestrianism, are favored by high-net-worth individuals — a potential sweet spot for luxury brands.

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.