Strategies for Sports and Outdoor Adventures in APAC

From sustaining local sports to involving urban outdoor explorers, brand approaches engage the consumers of the APAC region.

Sectors & Markets

03 May, 2024

Table of contents

Since post-pandemic, consumers are interested in a health-conscious life. Sports and outdoor activities, being one of the prominent parts of leading a happy and healthy life, are getting more attention now. APAC consumers are involving themselves in more adventurous and active hobbies to engage with.

With the success of the 2022 Beijing Olympics, China is becoming one of the largest winter sports markets in the world. For the 2024-2025 season, over 520 million people are expected to participate in ice leisure activities, with a forecasted revenue of $101,1 billion. By the end of 2021, over 400 million people were engaging in outdoor activities. From 2021 and 2023, the search volume of the keyword “outdoor” on Tmall increased by more than 600%.

The National Sports Participation Survey 2022 recorded that around 74% of respondents from the age of 14 and above have agreed to participate in at least one sports activity in a week in Singapore. Sports participation in the country has grown to a new record through casual activities such as jogging and walking. South Korea is planning to grow its participation rate in sports to 70% by 2028 and expand its value size in the sports industry to KRW₩105 trillion driven by the development of a mega hub in K-sports, expansion in training, and sports loans.

Here are some brand strategies to follow.

Support Local Sports

Brands should take the main stage in showing their support for local sports and fans. They can sponsor a domestic sports event. Anta was a key partner in the China University Basketball League (CUBAL) in 2002 and has signed an agreement to offer all the equipment and balls for the tournament in 2024.

Preparing niche-referenced aesthetics, team uniforms and equipment with a major focus on the identity and image of the local team for the fans to purchase is an ideal option. The companies have to focus on the domestic players of niche sports and the sports played by Western players. Additionally, the brands have some major opportunities - the AFC Asian Cup and Paris Olympics - to delve into.

Japanese Major League Basketball player Shohei Ohtani is the brand ambassador of New Balance and has participated in the pop-up opening in Seoul with another MLB player Kim Ha-seong.
Prada has teamed up with the Women’s National Football Team of China for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup and released a campaign with three-star players in November 2023. The label also features four Olympic athletes such as shot put player Gong Lijiao, marathon runner Li Zhixuan, water polo player Xiong Dunhan, and basketball player Yang Shuyu from China in its Spring 2022 campaign in January 2023.

Lululemon and Dior hired the first Chinese F1 Grand Prix driver Zhou Guanyu as their brand ambassador. The former dropped a capsule with the personality in March 2024. Calvin Klein has featured Son Heung-min, the Korean football player, in the Fall 2023 campaign.

Focus on Brand Positioning

It is important to do a detailed analysis of the area and consumers that the brand is going to target. Be it a coastal town or a snow mountain, the marketing and production strategies change according to the place and people.

Adidas has commenced operating its South Korean production and marketing in a separate sector from other APAC markets to reach the consumers quickly as it is losing its position to the competitors - Nike and New Balance. Nike introduced the Nike Sports Research Laboratory in China to focus on creating unique products for specific needs in sports and outdoors.

The labels and companies have to consider the nomadic and sports-traveling consumers too. They can encourage the consumers to an outdoor exploration with educational content through podcasts and playlists featuring pro-athletes and outdoor enthusiasts.

In December 2023, Tmall allied with The North Face to organize the North Face Mountain Festival at the Vanke Songhua Lake Ski Resort as a way to tap into the booming interest in winter sports in China. It involved climbing and camping activities in the town of Yangshuo. Anta did an outdoor-driven podcast in collaboration with National Geographic China, featuring real-life stories from enthusiasts and experts who did outdoor adventures.

Keep an Eye on Social Media

Social media channels such as Xiaohongshu (Little Red Book), Douyin, WeChat, Weibo, and Kakao Talks are the dream spots for many brands to promote their products and lifestyle trends as a way to focus their (social commerce) []. Lululemon and Xiaohongshu are conducting community events in many genres such as encouraging consumers to go out and play their sports, conducting outdoor sports, and many more. The brand also holds a dedicated community in WeChat to let the users know the offline events such as yoga classes and let them buy products from the WeChat shopping mall.

When it comes to the APAC regions, the culture and tradition change with each area. China is facing a specific outdoor style trend, popularized in Xiaohongshu initially, with a traditional touch. The consumers are expecting the brands to appreciate the local heritage and history by putting the culture forward. 64% of young Chinese customers are seeking products that are more meaningful with immense fulfillment and cultural embellishment.

Xiaohongshu partnered with food brands including Weilong and White Rabbit to come up with campaigns on the “Outdoor style” trend in China. They utilized Midjourney and a famous Chinese song, Xiaoyu, to come up with videos and images of a serene localized outdoor experience.

Another best approach is to collaborate with trendsetters and key opinion leaders (KOLs). Hiring people from the sports and outdoor sectors whom the consumers can easily relate with is an optimal way to gain the trust of the customers. The brands can showcase content related to the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics on social media.

Standardising Urban Sports Enthusiasts

Urban adventurers are the budding and potential target audience for the brands. It is forecasted that over 55% of the Asian population will become urban by 2030. However, the east Asian urban cities are facing more extreme heat waves than the rural areas. This demands indoor sports participation to engage the urban population.

Brands have to invest in local boutique gyms with a design concept that brings the consumers close to nature. This can act as a physical channel to engage loyal customers and boost engagement in targeted ones. They can also introduce an educational touch point in their initiatives that can be easily adapted even by a beginner with perks for participating (i.e., discounts and offers). The staff must be rich in recommendations and other information to guide the customers.

Lululemon is conducting outdoor activities in customer-friendly areas in China. Nike Korea has Playground For All, an inclusive and modular zone for sports and outdoor activities created for all genders, ages, and experiences. Columbia from the US unveiled a cave-like popup in Shanghai with an indoor waterfall and chirping sounds. Montbell of Japan launched a guide on springtime hiking to give detailed travel tips on seven mountain areas in the country.

Collaborations and Limited-Editions

Brands can use cross-industry and artist collaborations to insert a new localized lifestyle and extension in product offerings. Brands have to work on locally accepted storytelling concepts to present to the consumers. Japan’s Snow Peak collaborated with a Kimono designer Yamato Kimono to create outdoor kimonos. The collection’s campaign featured domestic greenery visuals. Champion collaborated with Chinese artist Chi Lei to launch a limited edition collection, featuring apparel, bags, and trainers. Chen Peng, the designer of all the performance outfits worn during the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics, joined forces with Maison Martin Margiela to create a capsule collection dedicated to outdoor winter activities.

Limited edition collections are ideal to focus on a specific occasion and consumers in a specific period. It can help the brands to display that they care and support the region’s culture and tradition. Salomon, after its parent company was acquired by Anta, established a strong base in China. With that, the brand launched a limited capsule collection, "Mountain Summons,” used for climbing and other outdoor events in August 2023. Arc’teryx dropped the ALPHA SV hardshell jacket for outdoor activities before the Chinese Lunar New Year.

Puma went one step ahead and launched a special capsule collection with Manchester City to celebrate the Year of the Wood Dragon and Etihad Stadium8’s 20th anniversary.