tennis trend china

Guide to Market and Sell a Tennis Brand in China

The luxury and fashion industries are driven by sports and activities in China. Among the favorite sports of Chinese people, there is one that is having a direct impact on marketing campaigns and sales: tennis. Local consumers are expecting more and more luxury and fashion brands to get inspiration from the tennis universe to propose new styles, campaigns, and activations. Yes, the tennis trend is everywhere in China.

Key Takeaways:

  • There are 30,000 tennis courts in China, it’s the same as in France.
  • The tennis trend was driven by the outdoor sports market and the “Old Money” style in China.
  • The majority of distributors and retailers are asking for luxury and fashion brands with a “tennis-inspired” style.
  • The main channels are Xiahongshu, Zhihu, and Tmall to leverage the tennis trend in China.
  • The most effective strategy is to work with local influencers, including KOLs and KOCs.

Let’s dive in.

The Tennis Market in China

Tennis is the second most favorite sport in China. There are about 30,000 tennis courts in China, which is the same as in France. As a matter of comparison, Spain and Switzerland have respectively 10,000 and 3,000 courts, which is 65% to 90% less than in China. Hence, the tennis market is offering tons of opportunities for sports and luxury brands.

If you want to read about the sports market first, you can check this detailed guide.

Otherwise, let’s move to the tennis trend.

Tenniscore and Courtcore Fashion Trends

In China, the fashion trend related to the tennis sport is called “courtcore” or tenniscore“. On the social media Xiaohongshu (Little Red Book), the hashtag “tenniscore” gathered more than 270 million views. Every day, tons of professional posts (PGC) and user posts (UGC) are released on the platform to share the latest tennis practice, talk about technical improvements, or give fashion advice on how to dress in a “tennis-inspired” style.

I personally played tennis for over 14 years in my hometown Nancy. This is when I joined the Women’s Tennis Ranking and played as a leisure activity since then. I understand what Chinese consumers are finding appealing with tennis these days: the sense of achievement and progress. When you read the posts related to tennis, they all talk about health, strength, vitality, energy, and personal growth. 

For Chinese consumers, it’s a matter of self-improvement.

With the large amount of views and posts generated online, local consumers want to purchase tennis style. This success is driven both by sports development and the “Old Money” style. Indeed, the tennis style is the favorite style of HNWI and luxury consumers in China.

This is why distributors and retailers are looking for these types of brands.

Distributors and Stores Requests for Tennis Brands

During my meetings with retailers in the past 4 weeks, the same request was coming back: “Do you work with tennis brands?“. This local request is the proof that tennis style is selling more than any other style today. Hence, they favor fashion brands with a tennis-inspired style over regular fashion brands. Just because they know it will sell faster and better.

The luxury and fashion market is currently facing this new tennis opportunity. According to Vogue Business, “Young Chinese are enjoying tennis more than ever and that’s about the lifestyle and fashion as much as the sport. Luxury brands have spied an opportunity“.

This opportunity is giving birth to 2 possible strategies:

  1. Promoting an existing or a new collection inspired by tennis
  2. Releasing a marketing campaign using the codes of tennis

To support your marketing in China, here are the 4 best leverages to use.

4 Best Strategies to Leverage the Tennis Trend in China

If you have a sportswear brand, this is the trend you need to focus your marketing and sales on. If you are a luxury or fashion brand, it could be worth incorporating some tennis codes and tennis values to engage better with your Chinese audience. I decided to share with you the top 4 strategies to leverage the tennis trend in China.

Let’s show you how.

1. Work with KOLs and Tennis Influencers

KOL marketing is the best strategy to attract Chinese consumers from the tennis universe. This technique is efficient among both sports and fashion consumers. This is because they will trust more someone they admire or feel close to than regular advertising. When we talk to Chinese consumers, 63% of consumers are receptive to brands endorsed by KOLs. Even if the partnership is paid, they will trust more KOL influencers than ads.

tennis influencers china

Selecting the right influencer is not an easy task. When you start your influencer campaign you need to pay attention to the community of the influencer, the engagement rate, and the influencer values. An influencer with a large number of fans isn’t the best choice. The number of views and conversions matters more than the number of followers. Reverse Group can support your influencer campaign with in-house influencers with strong community engagement and conversion.

The influencers displayed above are part of our ECHO in-house pool.

2. Implement Marketing on Xiaohongshu with Tennis Hashtags

The social media Little Red Book (Xiaohongshu in Chinese), is the best media to promote tennis styles and brands. This social media and e-commerce platform gathers 200 million monthly active users. Among them, there is a strong tennis community sharing daily posts and notes about tennis activities. The following images show the content that is posted on a daily basis on Little Red Book.

If you want to make the best out of this social media, you need to create an official account and an e-commerce store. It takes 4 weeks to create an official account and 5 months to set up a cross-border e-commerce store on RED. When you have everything created, you can use the “Hot Topics” sent by Little Red Book to position your posts on the current hot topics related to tennis. Otherwise, you can use the hashtags like “courtcore” and “tenniscore” to generate more exposure.

You will also end in “Explore” feeds of users who liked tennis-related posts.

3. Focus on Zhihu to Discuss Tennis Style and Inspiration

Zhihu is the biggest questions and answers site in China. There are over 100 million monthly active users creating, editing, sharing, and commenting publications on the website. It is often compared with Quora in the West since it is dedicated to learning and sharing knowledge on specific topics, from cooking to medicine. This app has become a strategic leverage for luxury and fashion brands to release long-form posts and answer Chinese consumers’ questions.

zhihu marketing china

For this specific work, you need to collaborate with agencies that have a partnership with Zhihu (like us). Then, you can have access to different options such as the Q&A campaigns, Zhihu live, and long-form publications. The best way to target tennis consumers is to implement Q&A campaigns with users answering posts about tennis while mentioning your brand. In the meantime, you can set up an official account to post in-depth articles and launch live sessions to answer questions and talk about your brand.

Depending on your objectives, we customize your Zhihu plan and conduct the key actions.

4. Increase E-Commerce Sales with Tennis Campaign

The fashion and sportswear sales are mainly driven by e-commerce in China. For tennis items and tennis-inspired apparel, the key e-commerce platforms are Tmall, JingDong, RED, and WeChat. You can have your own branded store or sell through distributors on these e-commerce platforms. In both cases, you can implement advertising campaigns and digital activations using the tennis trend. This way, you can concentrate your budget and get a higher conversion rate.

tmall red e-commerce china

You don’t need to sell tennis products to implement a tennis campaign on Tmall or RED. You just need designed banners, keywords, and an ad budget plan. If you are just starting, it will take 5 months to register your store on RED or Tmall. If you have a Chinese business license (and a Chinese entity) we suggest going on Tmall instead of Tmall Global. Then, you can join online events or create your own customized events.

fila celebrities china

With this last option, you can create customized tennis activations with tennis-style ads, tennis keywords, and event visuals. Another possibility is to work with a Chinese tennis player to implement a celebrity endorsement on e-commerce platforms.

These strategies are used by luxury and fashion brands to meet direct success.

Best Tennis Case Studies in China

Some brands leveraged the tennis trend in China to improve their brand image or increase their local sales. The best in class are Wilson and Lacoste who managed to grow their exposure fast to become the leaders of sports fashion in China.

Look at this.

Wilson: The Tennis Marketing Activation with Anta

The tennis brand Wilson was acquired by the Chinese sportswear group Anta for $5.2 billion USD.

wilson marketing china

According to the media Business of Fashion, the chief executive of Anta Sports, Ding Shizhong stated: “We are excited to bring these premium international brands and products to Chinese consumers, who increasingly seek high-end products with outstanding qualities and heritage in various niche and specialized sports segments”.

wilson tennis influencers marketing china

The acquisition of Wilson by Anta after the acquisition of Fila is proof that tennis equipment is on the rise in China. When we talked about the strategic roadmap of Anta with Fila in this article, it was clear that Anta was supporting its marketing and retail moves with consumer insights. From Fila to Wilson, Anta is now multiplying tennis-inspired campaigns to attract more and more Chinese consumers.

Today, the company’s market share accounts for 30% of the tennis market.

Lacoste: The Successful Tennis Campaign in Hebei

The crocodile brand organized a tennis tournament in China to celebrate its 90th anniversary.

tennis trend china

In September 2023, Lacoste organized a tennis tournament in the city of Qinghuangdao, in Hebei province. This coastal city in the North of China has a population of 2.8 million inhabitants. At the scale of China, it is seen as a Tier 3 city and often “forgotten” by luxury and fashion brands. Hence, the international premium sportswear brand met a large success by combining the tennis trend with a local event in a Tier 3 city.

tennis brand china

During the tournament, Lacoste organized a live stream on Weibo. The live session gathered more than 9.41 million views during its broadcast. In the meantime, the brand organized a campaign on Xiaohongshu with the hashtags “Crocodile Lands in Aranya” and “Lacoste 90th Anniversary” that reached 130 million views and 57 million views.

According to the media JingDaily, Aranya in Qinghuangdao is the current hot destination for HNWI and Gen Z in China.

Reverse Group, your One Stop Partner in China

Mixing the tennis trend with your authentic DNA is not an easy task. This is why you need to rely on a trustworthy partner who can adapt your marketing to local trends while respecting your brand history and image. This is what we stand for at Reverse Group. With 5+ years of experience from large groups like LVMH and L’Oréal, we learned to maintain the global image of the brand while creating local activations to engage with Chinese consumers.

If you want to accelerate your brand success in China, contact us.

 

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