[CHRONICLE] Chinese rediscovery of outdoor sports after Covid (Part 1/3)

Faced with Covid, the Chinese population has become aware of the importance of practicing sports in the open air. 55% of HNWI now consider health to be their primary concern.


Sport has always played an important role in Chinese life. Traditional Chinese medicine recommends sport for optimal circulation of Qi energy in the body. In Beijing’s Jingshan Park, it’s therefore natural to come across elderly people practicing Tai-Chi, Qi Gong, or the dance called Guangchangwu 广场舞.


Where outdoor practice proved less natural was for the younger generation. The zero-Covid policy combined with case-by-case confinement reinforced the need for a sense of freedom and movement. A rediscovery of outdoor sports, for Generation Z and luxury customers, who now make it their priority.

Anaïs Bournonville, founder of Reverse Group, an international agency specializing in marketing and strategy for China, takes us on a journey to the heart of the new uses observed in the Middle Kingdom.


A history of freedom


China has never denied its attachment to sport. The world discovered its importance at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. According to the TNS Sport institute, 91% of Chinese people said they were interested in sport, compared with 53% of French people.



The Middle Kingdom is becoming the epicenter of sporting events, from the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing to the Asian Games to be held in Hangzhou from September 23 to October 8.


To understand this sense of freedom and patriotism, we need to go back in history. Sport played a major role in the struggle against American “imperialism” from the 1920s to the 1980s. The Chinese sports model defended the values of perseverance, hard work and group spirit in opposition to the American sports model, which was considered bourgeois.


Amo Ui/Unsplash


In 1980, the Minister of Sport, Wang Meng, declared that China must make sport its priority in order to become a “rich” power. It was a lever for improving the country’s image on the international stage and strengthening patriotic pride in the face of other nations.



The craze was immediate. When the Middle Kingdom hosted the Winter Olympics in 2022, 300 million Chinese took up winter sports. In less than 5 years, the number of ski resorts rose from 568 to 803 indoor and outdoor resorts, and the number of skating rinks in the country increased by 317%.


Luxury customers focus on health


Luxury has always adapted to new trends in its target market. All the more so when these trends turn out to be fundamental concerns for their major clientele, namely HNWIs (High Net Worth Individuals) capable of becoming VICs (Very Important Customers).


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Front page photo: © GettyImage/Unsplash+

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Anais Bournonville
Anaïs Bournonville is the founder of Reverse Group, the global agency specializing in marketing and strategy for China. She explores Chinese culture and consumer trends through the prism of design, fashion, and luxury. She puts her on-the-ground insights and social listening in China at the service of Luxus+.

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