An overview of the outdoor sports industry in China
Although China’s outdoor sports market has grown rapidly in recent years, there is still a gap behind the false prosperity. When the fever subsides, where will the outdoor industry go?
In China’s outdoor sports industry, consumer purchases consist of two main components: outdoor sports services and outdoor products. Outdoor sports services can generally be divided into three categories. Providers in the first category are clubs specializing in outdoor sports, which provide professional outdoor sports organization services. These outdoor sports have a high entry threshold and generally require a qualification certificate to be practiced. The second category includes outdoor travel products provided by travel platforms, which include outdoor sports in the travel itinerary as a product feature and mainly focus on outdoor leisure sports. The last category concerns activities organized directly by communities of amateurs, where people can instantly enjoy outdoor sports. Outdoor products are another major consumer category in the outdoor sports industry, including outdoor sports apparel and equipment, which consumers buy based on their terms.
The size of China’s outdoor sports goods market has proliferated in recent years. It reached 315 billion CNY (45.64 billion USD) in 2020 and is expected to reach 599 billion CNY in 2025, with a compound annual growth rate of 13.7%, according to data from Euromonitor. According to data published by JD.com, vintage cycling apparel is up 700% year over year and adult frisbee is up 340% year over year. The outdoor-related consumer scene is multiplying, more and more consumers are focusing on the back-to-nature life experience, and outdoor sports that break the traditional sports scene are becoming popular.
Four main factors promote the development of the outdoor sports industry, namely outdoor sports meeting the social needs of young people, favorable policies, the unique nature of the post-epidemic era and the marketing campaigns of social media and variety shows.
Playing outdoor sports strengthens and expands people’s social circle and gives family and friends time to spend with each other. According to TopKlout, 91.2% of people often practice outdoor sports in a group, while only 8.8% play alone. Outdoor sports can meet people’s social needs and fitness needs at the same time, forming a popular new trend.
In terms of policy, national and local governments have issued several approaches to encourage the vigorous development of outdoor sports and promote national physical fitness. The provincial government has also established related policies according to the geographical environment and climate of each city locally.
In addition, due to the unique nature of the post-epidemic era, most people cannot travel outside the country and are afraid of the risk of seal control during domestic travel, outdoor sports have therefore become the best choice. Compared to formal tourism, outdoor sports are less expensive and allow consumers to experience nature and escape urban chaos for a while.
The online way for most people in China to connect with outdoor sports is through social media platforms. Outdoor brands are promoted through online KOLs, and some outdoor bloggers specialize in sharing outdoor sports experiences. On mainstream social media platforms, there are three main types of content sharing for outdoor activities: outdoor sports combined with dress-up tutorials, skill demonstrations, and vlogs. The rich and creative content is eye-catching, giving potential sports people a different experience. It also plays a role in planting outdoor products and promoting them to keep up with outdoor sports trends. Meanwhile, in recent years, variety shows such as “Camping Together” and “Super Fun Ski Conference” have introduced various outdoor sports to the public. Whether it’s blood sports in the arena or relaxing scenes in the open air in the style of peach blossom gardens, all subconsciously awaken people’s desire for nature and inspire them to take a break from their hectic life.
From the perspective of the outdoor sports audience, different age groups have their preferences for outdoor sports, with a specific correlation with the characteristics of the age group. According to data from TopKlout, post-80s and post-85s are the most inclined towards fishing and Frisbee sports, while post-90s prefer surfing and snorkeling. Post-95s love wild camping, and a post-2000 favorite is skateboarding. If we take the two age criteria of the statistical population as an example, the middle-aged people are calm and quiet, so fishing, which may seem boring to foreigners, is one of the sports of most popular outdoors among this age group. The most popular outdoor sport among post-00s is skateboarding, its entry threshold and cost are low, and there is no excessive requirement for location. At the same time, the rebellious color of skateboarding itself is also an important reason to attract post-2000s.
Based on the wide variety of outdoor sports, related outdoor products can be divided into five categories: suits, bags, professional equipment, accessories and personal care products. As China’s outdoor sports participation rate is not high, most outdoor products are still mainly cost-effective and low-end.
From the global outdoor model, it seems that foreign brands occupy the high-end position, and domestic brands concentrate in the middle and low end. Therefore, in the future, household outdoor products will undoubtedly develop into middle and high-end brands, increase investment in research and development, and turn into specialty products. In addition, since different outdoor sports have their characteristics, consumer demand is subdivided and involves a wide range of categories, outdoor brands must also be subdivided and accurately target consumer demand. Finally, more and more women have entered the field of outdoor sports in recent years. Ctrip data shows that female users participating in camping and hiking reached 51% in 2021. Female users are not only concerned about the functionality of outdoor products, but also have high requirements for appearance and fashionable comfort. Outdoor brands can actively expand the female market and understand the consumption needs of female groups to further balance the gender ratio of target consumers.
Although more and more people are playing outdoor sports in recent years, the development of the whole outdoor industry in China is still in its infancy. According to data released by China Outdoor Alliance, in 2019 there were about 130 million outdoor sports enthusiasts in China, while the number in the United States reached 154 million during the same period, with a rate stake of 50.7%.
Meanwhile, its entertainment attributes are gradually revealing the industry’s weak spots in various types of marketing. Much of the marketing has attracted trend-following consumers, whose primary purpose of participating in outdoor sports is to take photos and sunbathe on social media platforms rather than engage in the activity. for an extended period. This has led to some niche sports organizers having no way to stimulate consumption, leaving only a void in the market once the fever subsides. To seize the market among outdoor sports service providers with serious homogenization, many organizations are using tracking photography as a strong point of marketing, and the entertainment attributes are gradually covering outdoor sports sports attributes. Additionally, many outdoor sports require specialized abilities and are more expensive. Usually only people who have money and hobbies can maintain their hobby for a long time.
Moreover, the trend of outdoor sports caused by the epidemic may not be long-lasting. Due to the unique nature of the epidemic period, people’s travel costs have increased and travel opportunities have dropped, resulting in a bonanza of outdoor sports. When the players on a whim return to their daily lives, most will gradually give up outdoor sports, and the number of players who stay will decrease instantly. The false prosperity behind outdoor sports means practitioners have to put in a lot of effort to maintain customer loyalty and expand the range of consumers over the long term, which is crucial to maintaining industry growth.