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Fast track: a boom time for China's leading domestic sportswear brands
published in Issue 63, October 2018
The sports apparel and footwear markets in the USA and Western Europe are the world's largest but they are mature and opportunities for growth are limited. This is in stark contrast to the market in China where the potential for growth seems unlimited as disposable incomes continue to rise and the number of Chinese consumers participating in sports activities continues to grow. Nike and Adidas—the world's two largest sportswear brands and the leading sportswear brands in China—believe they have only just scratched the surface of what they can achieve in the country. Recently, a number of mid-market Chinese brands—specifically Anta Sports Products, Li-Ning, Xtep and 361 Degrees International—have drawn inspiration from Nike and Adidas in terms of their approach to branding and sponsorship, and while these brands are not especially well known outside China this could be about to change. Anta aims to overtake Adidas and Nike in terms of sales in China and has recently launched an offer to acquire the Finland-based company Amer Sports. Li-Ning has secured high profile partnerships with basketball players participating in the National Basketball Association (NBA) league in the USA. 361 Degrees was one of the main sponsors of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and has established wholly-owned subsidiaries in Brazil, Europe and the USA. Meanwhile, Xtep has succeeded in establishing the largest and most active running club in China, and in 2017 alone it sponsored 40 running events. This report discusses some of the opportunities for sports apparel and footwear companies in China, and explores the strategies being pursued by the country's four leading domestic sportswear brands.
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