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With adrenaline levels on the rise surrounding the 2018 FIFA World Cup, latest research from Mintel reveals that as many as 60% of urban Chinese consumers who are interested in sports have watched sports programmes online in the past 12 months*. Comparatively, a similar proportion (61%) of respondents have watched sports programmes on the television.

Additionally, compared to traditional formats of media (eg radio, journal and book), it seems Chinese consumers prefer to use social media to catch up on updates of sports events as indicated in Mintel research; close to a third (31%) of urban Chinese sports lovers overall read about sporting events via social media, rising to 39% of sports lovers aged 20-24. What’s more, one in five (20%) are followers of athletes on social media, rising to 29% of those aged 20-24. Alternatively, just 13% say that they read a professional sports journalist’s report for updates.

Yihe Huang, Research Analyst at Mintel, said:

“Online sports programmes are penetrating the Chinese consumer market across all demographics. It is becoming quite common for consumers to watch sports events on the internet and it is expected to bring growth to spectator sports. Along with the rapid growth of the video streaming market—a result of consumers’ lifestyles moving more online—Mintel predicts that sports streaming will also see optimistic growth. That being said, short sports videos that fit in the modern consumer’s fragmented leisure time may be a strong competitor for attention.

“Today, Chinese sports enthusiasts are embracing a diverse range of media channels to catch up with updates regarding sports. In fact, compared to traditional media, social media is a preferred tool for Chinese consumers to keep up to date with the latest sports news. In addition, younger consumers tend to engage more on social media; our research shows that respondents who read sports news or follow sports athletes on social media skew towards the younger age bracket.”

It also seems that talking with others is the most popular concurrent sports watching activity among sports lovers; as many as three in five (58%) urban Chinese sports audience talk to friends or family while watching sports programmes.

“The need to socialise while watching sports programmes suggests an opportunity for the sports community to engage with sports audiences. Although WeChat dominates China’s social network platforms, it is mostly connecting people who are familiar with each other. Sports-specialised platforms could take advantage of consumers’ similar interest in sports.” Continued Huang.

Overall, China’s sports participation market is a fast-growing one, estimated to have reached RMB 109.8 billion in 2017, with a year-on-year growth rate of 14.2% and a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 14.4% between 2012 and 2017. Furthermore, the market value of China’s sports participation market is forecast to grow at a CAGR of 13.6% between 2017 and 2022, reaching RMB 207.5 billion in 2022.

Meanwhile, Mintel research reveals that over nine in 10 (93%) urban Chinese consumers have participated in sports in the past six months**, while 95% are interested in at least one sports activity. Among the surveyed sports, badminton is the most popular with almost two-thirds (63%) having played the sport in the past six months**. This is followed by basketball (40%), ping-pong (28%) and track and field (28%).

Finally, showcasing healthy aspirations among today’s Chinese consumers, 51% of urban Chinese consumers say that they participate in sports because they want to be healthier—nearly double the proportion who participate in sports out of interest or favour (26%).

“While the sports participation market in China is still considered a small segment against the overall sports industry, the sector saw robust growth in the last several years. This growth is likely to continue, driven by consumers’ high interests in sports and their pursuit of healthier lifestyles. Contributing to continued growth in the sector, the government has committed to increasing its support, specifically with regard to fields and equipment. Also adding to market growth are the recent large-scale, global sports events, like this year’s FIFA World Cup and Pyeongchang Olympic Winter Games.” Concluded Huang.

*2,852 internet users aged 20-49 who are interest in sports, January 2018
**3,000 internet users aged 20-49, January 2018