Sports sponsorship deals hit new peaks during Winter Olympics

Ding Yining
Early drivers of brand marketing endorsements are targeting athletes in sports once regarded as relatively niche.
Ding Yining
Sports sponsorship deals hit new peaks during Winter Olympics
Xinhua

Chinese snowboarder Su Yiming last December became the brand ambassador of Unilever's hair-care brand Clear before he became a nationwide name at the Winter Olympics.

Sports marketing and sponsorship is steadily picking up in recent years but has reached a new peak during the Winter Olympics.

Athletes have found that the headlines about their exceptional results on the ice rink have been matched by those that report their commercial endorsement deals.

The early movers are already taking advantage of athletes competing in areas that were once regarded as relatively niche.

Chinese snowboarder Su Yiming last December became the brand ambassador of Unilever's hair-care brand Clear before he became a nationwide name at the Winter Olympics.

P&G's Winter Olympics marketing campaign recruited short-track speed skater and four-time Olympic champion Wang Meng as an embodiment of sportsmanship to spread winter sports-related knowledge.

There's a significant jump not only in the value of athletes' endorsement contracts, but also the number of brands that leverage sports stars for sponsorship and promotion deals.

The number of domestic athletes' endorsement deals reached 161 last year, almost doubling the 85 registered in 2020, according to local data consultancy iMiner.

Anta, which debuted its Winter Olympic lines in July 2020, is authorized to have the Chinese national flag printed on them.

Sport is uplifting and appeals to the general audience, so it not only involves sports-related brands, but also consumer goods, offline events and a wide range of marketing activities.

Brands that are most favored and preferred by consumers and have the most amount of engagement and spreading power include not only clothing and equipment makers, telecommunication service providers and food and beverage companies, but also digital service sites like Alibaba and JD.

Instead of promoting specific products, brands tie up with Olympic athletes to enhance their image and make an impression through the athletes' dedication, perseverance and courage, according to Lanxiong Sports, a local sports news portal.

Sports sponsorship deals hit new peaks during Winter Olympics
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Skiing, ice skating and roller skating are also sought-after activities when brands introduce interactive offline activities or setting up pop-up stores.

Ferrero's Kinder offered interactive sports games with ice and snow elements in a recent pop-up event to encourage parents to spend leisure hours with children.

Amber Liu, head of GroupM's newly established unit Circle that handles influencer and celebrity marketing, pointed out that athlete endorsement requires longer periods of assessment and the metrics vary for different kinds of sports.

The company currently assesses over 300 domestic athletes in terms of their commercial influence, professional reputation and growth potential.

Various metrics have been deployed to assess celebrity-brand affinity since 2020 as online interaction and relevant campaigns became the go-to option for brands to woo consumers.

The State Council has drawn up a blueprint for sports-related industries to reach an overall size of 5 trillion yuan (US$789.6 billion) by 2025.

There will also be a booming number of third party service providers to connect with various stakeholders and maximize the commercial potential of athletes.

Zhou Xing, PwC China's sport industry leader, said widespread public interest would boost investment in not only the research and manufacturing of skiing facilities, but also related efforts to enhance the brand awareness of winter sports mascots, signature winter sports events and relevant performance art.

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