When Ben Cao speaks about running, his tone of voice is clearly excited. No wonder – he practices long distance running on a regular basis with his friends and colleagues.
"In the last five years, the popularity of running has exploded in China. You see people running everywhere, and the social media has turned running from a solitary exercise into healthy social gatherings", Cao points out.
The number of running races from five kilometers to half-and-full marathons keeps multiplying. The races attract huge crowds with and become fully booked via online registrations in just a couple of hours. Trail running, with longer distances and the challenges of varying terrains, is at the pinnacle of running, attracting the true elite runners.
With its persistent market nurturing efforts supported by the global brand, Salomon has established its market leader position in trail running in China.
"With our authenticity and reputation established in trail running, our China team now plans to move aggressively into this much bigger road running market. Our market study shows that road running exceeds one billion euros in market size, more than ten times the trail running market."
"Getting a slice of this gigantic market can truly propel Amer Sports' growth in China."
The task is not going to be easy for Amer Sports. The Chinese road running market is already occupied by big international brands and some local players.
"On the other hand, a legitimate market presence of Salomon in road running would also create a pipeline of experienced runners, as they are inspired to run from the concrete jungles of China's big cities, to the natural playground of nearby mountains, lakes, forests and the wild trails", Cao highlights.
The outdoor market in China has grown rapidly. Now, the growth rate has slowed down to low double-digit numbers. However, given the market size of over two billion euros, there are still plenty of opportunities for Amer Sports.
In the high-end performance segment of outdoor apparel, Arc'teryx is the market leader in China. It is growing and enjoying significant price premium.
"We are not resting at the top, as the competition is becoming more and more intense and we must continuously improve our execution to meet the needs of the ever-demanding consumers in China", Cao says.
Also other Amer Sports brands are doing well in China. Suunto is selling well, thanks to the strong technical performance of the products as well as the great reputation of the brand in the outdoor community. Precor is aiming to be the #1 high-end fitness brand in China, and also Wilson is well known in China and building solid commercial fundamentals. Mavic is seeing Chinese cycling sports growing in size and sophistication.
"Overall, we are clearly on the right track."
On crucial success factor is the engagement with the Chinese consumers.
"We have already built our stores and partner stores in top-tier cities. We have also done community sports events and on-court demos to build consumer experience. At the same time, we are doing a lot in today's digital world to amplify our story."
Unique digital ecosystem
The digital scene in China is fascinating. There are a lot of innovations in digital marketing, social media, and e-commerce.
In addition, China's digital ecosystem is distinctively different from the rest of the world. It has given rise to huge enterprises such as Alibaba, Tencent, JD and phenomenons such as Double 11 Cybershopping day (November 11) that generates more sales than Christmas in the United States.
"At Amer Sports China, we are pushing hard on expanding our e-commerce. We are also boosting digital marketing and social media, and connecting them to both on-line and physical stores. To succeed, the whole digital experience must be easy and friendly for the consumers."
The future of sports in China also depends on decisions made by the government. The most critical issue is the air quality.
"After more than a decade of worsening air quality in China, the government is now finally getting serious about curbing air pollution", Cao says.
"Air is free and equal. Regardless of money or power, we are all breathing the same air. If the pollution situation is reversed in China, we will see an explosion of sports activities, and more active, healthier life for Chinese people."
Looking forward to 2022
Another important decision will be made in Kuala Lumpur in July. The International Olympic Committee decides whether Beijing will host the 2022 Winter Olympics.
"We really hope we will be elected. Although many Chinese sports enthusiasts are fascinated by Winter Sports, the number of participants is still quite small and the sports are restricted to the most northern areas in China."
"We are certainly looking forward to it. In any case, Amer Sports is on the right track, tapping into the growth opportunities of the Chinese market."
Source AmerSports ©