Changing consumer preferences and needs, coupled with Beijing support, has seen the rise of interest and participation in sports in China in recent years. Alongside the mainstream sports, niche pursuits such as winter sports, cycling and surf skating have soared in popularity. Even China’s rugby fans may see better results with the appointment of a new coach. But talking about ‘sports’ in China, it would be amiss not to mention one which touches 700 million consumers – esports.
Esports, or competitive level gaming, attracts fans who watch streamed competitions as obsessively as British fans watch their football. Many support their esports heroes with the same emphatic enthusiasm as Chinese idol fans. Despite the government’s kids-focused crackdowns on gaming in 2019 and 2021, China’s gaming culture remains very healthy, with an estimated 720 million Chinese enjoying the pastime.
Whereas people in other parts of the world may not group esports in with football or basketball, nearly 70 percent of online Chinese consider esports to be a type of sport. It helps that Chinese esports stars consistently win global tournaments, whereas there are fewer Chinese heroes in other mainstream sports.
Esports are set to gain additional status as they will be an official medal event at next year’s Asia Games in Hangzhou. French President Macron is even said to be pushing for esports to be part of the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Esports is big business in China, where it accounts for one third of global esports revenue. Tencent earned USD 32.2 billion in gaming revenue last year – about the combined amount of the next two biggest gaming earners, Sony and Apple. Although more than 50 education institutions now offer degrees in the esports field, Tencent estimates that China will have a shortage of at least two million esports talents within the next three to four years.
Chinese gamers aren’t the stereotypical young males in dark rooms that some believe the industry to be limited to. They represent the target audiences of many brands selling in China: 55 percent of gamers are 19-35 years old and a further 27 percent are over 36. 30 percent of Chinese esports fans are female, versus 17 percent in the US.
Brands across a spectrum of categories have capitalised on the popularity of esports to connect with Chinese consumers. MAC produced Honor of Kings branding and products to sell its cosmetics line. KFC went one step further providing customers with promo-codes for in-game rewards and recipes in Genshin Impact. Players of Game of Peace see Master Kong products during gameplay, and can choose Maserati skins and equipment.
Over two-thirds of gamers follow leading esports celebs and KOLs, which can serve as an influential channel to reach diverse gamer sub-tribes. Gamers also provide scope for development of products that meet their needs, habits and culture.
Connecting with target audiences through their passions can be one of the most effective strategies in the fiercely competitive China market. Contact China Skinny to learn how to best connect with gaming and other passions to sell your products and services in China. We hope you enjoy this week’s Skinny.
(Source: China Skinny)