Chapter 8 – Sports

[Note: below is Chapter 8 from Great Wall of Numbers]

In 2011 I was teaching at a college in Zhongshan, Guangdong – a mid-sized city in the Pearl River Delta manufacturing region of southern China.  During lunch I would regularly eat at the campus cafeteria.  The faculty dining area was in a separate room connected with the main student dining area.  Throughout the month of June, the students – typically men but also women – would pack their dining area to catch a glimpse of the NBA playoffs on TV’s hanging from the ceiling (and also because it was one of the few rooms with reliable air conditioning – unfortunately their dormitories only had fans).  For nearly an entire month the area was crowded almost shoulder-to-shoulder, even during final exams.  And on numerous occasions, my students, including one named Jason Xu from Dongguan, asked me repeatedly to bring back basketball ‘high tops’ whenever I traveled back to the US.  This task typically involved looking through Eastbay catalogs with them and listening to their dreams of one day wearing “authentic” NBA apparel.

Is this just an isolated group of NBA fans?  No, according to sport consultant Matt Beyer, “the NBA has close to 30 official corporate partnerships specific to China.”1 Thus while you may see Chinese apparel companies advertising in the background during an NBA game – if the student body at the college in Zhongshan is any indication – there is a similarly large potential for US brands to advertise in the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) as well.

In fact, commissioner David Stern estimated that the NBA’s revenue generated from China will reach $150 million in 2012 (based on television and digital broadcast rights).  And according to Stern, “NBA viewership in China rose 18 percent last year [2011]” and will grow 10% a year for the foreseeable future.2 Furthermore, CCTV 5, a state-owned TV station that focuses on sports recently signed a new agreement with the NBA to increase its live-coverage, programming and analysis based on content “produced exclusively for China.”3 The NBA’s relationship with CCTV 5 dates back to 1987 when the All-Star game was broadcast on the mainland.4

What kind of sponsorships takes place in this cultural-sport trade?

For instance, while Yao Ming has a $10 million contract with Reebok, in 2006, Shaquille O’Neal signed a five-year sponsorship deal worth $1.25 million with Li-Ning (and later expanded to $6.2 million and again to $10 million).56 Li-Ning is one of the largest sports shoe and apparel companies in China, with $1.4 billion in revenue for 2011.7 Similarly, O’Neal’s teammate, Dwayne Wade recently cancelled his sponsorship with Nike and signed for a percentage of equity stake with Li-Ning.8 Yet for comparison, Nike did more business in China alone in 2011 ($2.1 billion) than Li-Ning’s total global revenue.910 And for perspective, according to Boston Consulting Group, the apparel market in China is expected to generate $204 billion by 2020 (triple from 2010).11

How popular is basketball on the mainland?  According to Ying Wushanley, a professor at Millersville University:

It is estimated that more than 300 million people play basketball throughout China; NBA games are watched by more than 30 million viewers per week; retail stores are saturated with NBA merchandise; has become the most popular single sports website in China; and NBA is consistently the most searched sports term on China’s top search engine

The Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) is the top professional league in China.  It has been around since 1995 but has had its share of growing pains.  According to FORTUNE magazine, the league incurred a loss of nearly $17 million in the 2008-2009 season because a significant portion of the expenses go towards recruiting overseas talent.13 For example, in October 2012 Tracy McGrady, a seven-time All-Star for the Houston Rockets signed a $1 million annual contract with the Qingdao Eagles of the CBA.14 Two weeks later he was greeted at the airport by a huge fanbase, which itself attracted media coverage.15 Even non-CBA players are sometimes hot commodities.  For example, this past summer, Jeremy Lin (林书豪 of ‘Linsanity’) signed a two-year sponsorship agreement with KFC, both of whom have huge followings on the mainland (see Chapter 16).1617

And while the domestic league continues to grow and recruit global talent (of note, in the 2009-2010 season, 19 of the top 20 scorers were foreigners18 ), this is not the only sport being played on the mainland.1920

Kicking and skating

While Yao Ming is probably the best known Chinese athlete abroad, the domestic basketball industry – while large (according to both FORTUNE and Ying, more than 300 million play it) – is just one of several sport markets.  As I discuss below, in addition to soccer and tennis, both badminton and table tennis, while seemingly pedestrian in the West, are each have the potential to become multibillion dollar sports in China.

The Chinese Super League (CSL) is the highest level of professional soccer in China has been around since 2004.  While its ticket gate revenue is relatively low, at an estimated $33 million a year, its 17,651 in average attendance is the highest in Asia.21 Soccer, as I note below, is a popular sport played by large portions of the population through pick-up games and several organized leagues (especially in high school and college).

As part of a new 10-year deal with CCTV (the state broadcasting company), in 2012 IMG (one of the largest sports and media firms in the world) was brought in to help market, brand, develop and manage the CSL into a topflight global league.22 Similarly, in March 2013, it was announced that David Beckham will be paid several million euros to become the new CSL Ambassador in an effort to bolster the CSL image overseas.23 Yet despite having a poor national soccer team (plagued by scandals) that has failed to qualify for the World Cup all but once (2002), an estimated 700 million Chinese watched the 2006 World Cup and 24 million Chinese fans watched the 2010 match between Greece and South Korea.2425 The 2004 Asian Cup final between China and Japan drew 250 million viewers in China, making it the “most watched single sports event in the history of Chinese television.”26 Thus US brand awareness firms on Madison Avenue (such as IMG) have a potentially large audience with which they can position their clients’ products.

Sport agents could look at the CSL market as a new venue for their clients.  Guangzhou’s Evergrande team hired Marcello Lippi of Italy for $12.5 million, the third highest ever for a coach.  And Shanghai’s Senghua team signed Nicolas Anelka for $13.3 million, coincidentally the third highest for a player.  All told, “forty three percent of the [league’s] revenue goes to foreign players.”27 Similarly if you are a Western trainer or coach, you may find large monetary incentives to train and coach Chinese athletes.  China’s meteoric rise in the Olympic swimming events is in large part due to Australian coaches who were lured over in part by financial incentives.  For example, Ken Wood noted that China pays four times the amount he would get in Australia.282930

Other non-traditional sports have begun to make inroads as well.  Skateboarding, for instance, has begun to spread throughout the larger cities of China and as of 2009, there are between 40-50,000 active skateboarders.31 At 12,000 square meters, SMP Skatepark in Shanghai is purportedly the largest skate park in the world and home to around 2,000 members.3233

Playing without nets

My first apartment in China was next to the outdoor basketball courts at the college I was teaching at.  During the daytime there were relatively few students on the courts.  But after 5pm, all 20 hoops were roughly jam packed with mostly young Chinese men (and sometimes women).  Just next to the courts was a soccer field, also filled with several soccer teams comprised of a similar demographic distribution.

Yet despite the popularity of soccer and football, at dusk many students, faculty and families would take to the campus streets and play badminton just like a scene out of The Sandlot, sans James Earl Jones.  Hours after sunset, up and down these streets the groups continued to play – until the mosquitoes became too much to bear.  And they did it all without nets.

With similar enthusiasm, the numerous ping pong tables at the student union and faculty centers were continuously occupied by both young and old alike.  None of the equipment was new, or the best – it simply was good enough as Voltaire might say.  And nearly identical recreation patterns are found across the entire country.  As a consequence Chinese athletes have dominated the medal table at nearly ever badminton and table tennis event over the past decade at the summer Olympics and World Games.

For example, Lin Dan is a household name and the first person to ever win the Super Grand Slam in badminton (winning all 9 major badminton events).  His image now graces the cover of numerous marketing campaigns – from Red Bull to Gillette – netting him at least $1.9 million in sponsorships annually (and ranking him the 33rd “most marketable athlete”).34

Table tennis (ping pong) is the national sport of China and the Chinese Table Tennis Association manages the largest professional table tennis league, China Table Tennis Super League (CTTSL).3536 Zhang Jike, currently the reigning Olympic and World champion, is sponsored by Coca-Cola (his image actually appears on the cans).  Domestically Jike is sponsored by Yanjing Beer Group (netting a $70,000 bonus for his Olympic win) and State Grid.37

In tennis, Li Na became the first Chinese national to win a grand slam tournament.  She won the 2011 French Open and subsequently signed 10 sponsorship deals including those with Hagen-Daz, Rolex and Nike as well as a three-year contract with Mercedes Benz and is on track to be the highest earning female athlete globally.38 And in swimming, Sun Yang broke an Olympic record in London last year and has signed 10 million RMB ($1.6 million) worth of sponsorship agreements including those with Yili Dairy, 361 Degrees (a sports manufacture) and Coca Cola.39 The 361 Degree deal was purportedly for 1 million RMB ($157,000).

Thus along with a social media strategy that I outline later in Chapter 12, if you or your company plans to sell goods and services to consumers on the mainland, it is important to look at potential sponsorship deals with popular athletes in leagues across the country.  And once again, if you do not, your competitors (both US and Chinese) could very well be looking to sign the next Yao Ming or Lin Dan.40

Professional know-how

What other services could you provide that are not available or are in scarce supply in China?

In his book Red Flags, Matt Garner notes that because Westerners – and specifically Americans – are exposed to the best advertising campaigns, the most concerted marketing efforts and the most methodical media plans, Westerners are by-and-large the most sophisticated and savvy consumers on the planet.

How can you use this to your advantage?

Colin Colenso is an Australian businessman who illustrates how Garner’s “saviness” can be put into practice.  He is the CEO of Human Action Media and with no qualifications or work experience in marketing, media or event managing, within 18 months of pursuing his dream to start a business in Shanghai running billiards events, Colenso’s small company – aided by two English speaking Chinese friends – managed the first nationally televised snooker event in China with a western multinational brand as sponsor.4142

In an October 2012 interview I had with Colenso, he noted that “this national snooker event was actually presented to me by the government officials as they hadn’t the marketing or public relations skills or resources to sell sponsorship packages to professional westernized companies in China.  Such gaps in skills and knowledge in sports and many other aspects of China are numerous, as services and products adapt to a growing and freer market.  This market phenomenon occurs everywhere, but the gaps in China’s rapid evolution to a market economy have been wider and deeper than in developed countries where such obvious opportunities had been snatched up long ago.”

So where does this leave a sport marketing expert in the developed world?  Is there a way you can translate your experience to the Chinese market?  Or is it too late?

I asked Colenso these same questions and he advised that while, “the development of sports business in China has been rapid, particularly in the last decade, so the gaps may be narrower and shallower for beginners.  Thus opportunities may not be obvious or easy to discover.  But in a market of dozens of cities with millions of residents whom have a growing desire and capacity to procure sports entertainment and products, I have no doubt Chinese sports will be grabbing headlines around the world in years to come, not just in athletic performances, but in business developments related to sports.  In fact, sports, as well as other markets are maturing to the point that they are more capable of providing opportunities for experienced professionals and companies from the West.  Snooker provides but one example of this, as China has become a key ally in World Snooker’s strategy for international expansion.  I’m sure the same is true for golf and various other sports, as the various organizations and companies involved have evolved.”43

And remember, just because you might not know who Lin Dan or Li Na are does not mean that Chinese consumers are equally unaware.  For perspective consider that the English Premier League generates almost the same revenue as the NBA ($3.5 billion versus $4.3 billion)44 yet it would be foolish to ignore the marketing potential of sponsoring teams like Manchester United or players like Wayne Roonie (the League’s highest paid player) just because you did not like the sport.  In fact, due in part to its large fan base on the mainland, Manchester United recently signed a 3-year sponsorship deal with China Construction Bank and Wahaha, the largest soft drink producer in China.45 Could your firm or clients find similar opportunities?

The Great Outdoors

As I discuss later in Chapter 11, according to the China Daily, in 2011 more than 60,000 Chinese children traveled to the US and participated in various summer programs.4647 While educational attainment is the primary motivation, another reason is that some middle class families have begun looking for outdoor activities for their children.  Why?  According to a recent survey, “Chinese kids under six spend less than an hour outdoors every day, only a quarter of the global average.”48 Thus in an effort to educate their children about nature, some are opting for day-trips to nature preserves and even summer camps.  In fact, according to a McKinsey & Company survey, “Chinese consumers who identify “retail-tainment” as a favourite pastime has fallen from more than half a few years ago to about 40 per cent now, and will be less than a third by 2020.”49

This kind of change in consumer behavior could provide an opportunity for both domestic and foreign companies to provide outdoor services and entertainment to children and adults.  For example, two years ago Club Med opened its first ski resort near Beijing.  During the summer it doubles as a golf course and theme park and was built to accommodate 18,000 customers a day.50 And according to one estimate from Justin Downes, a ski resort advisor, “there are about five million ski tourists in the country” – a number he estimates could reach 20 million by 2020 once new ski resorts are built.51  There are even ski resorts in relatively remote Urumqi, in the northwest province of Xinjiang.52 All told there are over 400 ski resorts nationwide and companies like Mountain China Resorts are investing several billion RMB to develop and build additional resorts and hotels to cater to a customer base which is now about 70% Chinese.53 Thus both foreign and domestic turf experts, course and resort designers, and even ski trainers may find a new revenue source.

Yet one area both foreigners and domestic firms and investors should be cautious of is golf courses.  While the ban on golfing was lifted in 1984, construction of new courses has been officially banned since 2004 (e.g., “it is an elitist game” and “uses scarce fertile land”); there has been a cat-and-mouse game of subsequent construction followed by investigations.  To get around this ban, new golf courses typically use other names like “health clubs” or “country clubs.”54 Those that are discovered (typically via satellite imagery) are sometimes dug up.  For example, several years ago the Anji King Valley country club (southwest of Shanghai) received a 10-day visit from bulldozers who subsequently redesigned the landscaping (tore up the turf and sprinkler system).55 Yet there are others that thrive and generate purportedly large sales; the Qinghe Bay club that opened in 2008 charges 880,000 RMB ($141,000) for lifetime membership.56

In fact, one estimate is that the Chinese golfing industry generated nearly $10 billion in revenue in 2008 (from course costs and equipment) and is expected to grow from 700 courses in 2012 to 2,700 in 2015.57 Even Mission Hills, the world’s biggest golf resort operator has opened several courses in the face of legal uncertainties.  Their largest course is the size of Manhattan and is located in Hainan province which is exempt from the ban.  Yet as I mentioned at the beginning: caveat venditor.  This boom may only be temporary.58

Six Minute Abs

As China both ages and develops (see Chapter 6 and 19) the demand for professional recreational facilities may also increase.  For example, water aerobics is generally considered a healthy, physically beneficial activity for elderly consumers in the West.  Yet aquatic facilities do not exist in China at the level as they do in some foreign countries.  And it is not due to a lack of popularity as anyone who has visited a public pool can attest; these facilities can become very crowded.59 Similarly, just as all other developing countries go through growing pains, one literal example that is increasingly relevant is physical stress.60 Or rather, many segments of the mainland do not feel they have enough time to both work hard at work and exercise afterwards.  In fact, according to the World Health Organization, the obesity rate for those 15 years or older in China reached 38.5% in 2010 (up from 25% in 2002) and another study by the General Administration of Sport (国家体育总局) found that “overweight rate among students between the age of 7-22 climbed to a new high.”6162 And as I mentioned in Chapter 6, in terms of overall numbers China is now the capital of diabetes, with 92.3 million or 9.7% of the population suffering from this affliction compared with 11% in the US.63

Part of the predicament leading to this rise in obesity is that quite simply, many students are encouraged and required to study more that in the past.  The increased competitiveness in obtaining academic placement (see Chapter 9) has led to many primary, secondary and even tertiary students to typically attend school from 7:30am to 5pm and then spend an additional 3-4 hours doing homework.  As a consequence they have little time to play or participate in physical activities.64 In fact, according to a recent Global Times report, “[i]n comparison with data collected in 2005, scores in men’s 1,000 meters fell by 3.37 and 3.09 seconds for urban and rural students, while breathing capacity of college students as a general dropped by nearly 10 percent from the 1985 level.”65 According to Qiao Xiaoshan a physical education researcher, “[f]rom 2002 to 2010 in China, more than 40 participants in long-distance running events aged 16 and over died suddenly.”66 In 2012 two more college students died from heart exhaustion after participating in a marathon in Guangdong and another student died in Shanghai while playing basketball.67 This has led to cancellations of running-based tests and competitions across many cities and provinces.  In fact according to Qiao, “more than 30 universities in Xi’an no longer held long-distance races because of the decline in students physical fitness, leading to concerns the students may suffer injury or even death if they took part in intense physical activity.”6869

In other cases, the consumer may not feel comfortable at existing facilities.  For example, in my own anecdotal experience at participating in gyms in China, one common concern I have heard by female patrons is that they would prefer to work out in their own women-only gym so they can receive train in a more supportive, focused environment.  Thus foreign, women-oriented firms such as Curves may find opportunities to cater to niche clientele.70 Similarly, specialty gyms like CrossFit may be able to capitalize on its status as a non-traditional, unconventional training program that could market itself towards the insatiable demand for wushu (e.g., Shaolin kung fu) which similarly involves training in creative ways and carrying, throwing, contorting and kicking unusual apparatus.71 However, all told, by one estimate, the penetration rate for fitness facilities is a mere 0.3% on the mainland compared with 16% in the US and 13% in the UK.72

For perspective, in 2011, there were 29,365 fitness-related businesses providing 43.6 million gym memberships in the US.73  Yet just because there is potential in one country does not mean there is instant success in another.  For instance, Bally’s Total Fitness has actually reduced its fitness centers in China from 44 in 2008 to less than 30 today.  And 24-Hour Fitness sold its centers to a local Chinese group (Ansa) in August 2012.  Why?  Because according to Walter MacDonald, a wellness management consultant, “[a]ll the ideas that work in the West mostly don’t work here.  Fitness is not like fast food chains that can easily change the menu according to local taste.”74  Similarly Theo Hendriks, the CEO of Sports and Leisure Group explains that “[t]he international clubs that have a difficult time in China are franchises, and they just have one concept for their gyms in different countries and cultures.”75

And again for those willing to stick with the mainland, the revenue potential could be rewarding.  According to Walter Macdonald, in terms of market size only $11 billion is spent on fitness in Asia compared to $21 to 25 billion in the US.76 For example, Hosa Fitness Clubs is one of the largest on the mainland with more than 500,000 members and plans to increase its centers “from the current 82 to 300 by the end of 2013.”77 Thus perhaps if foreign firms can figure out how to localize and cater fitness to specific consumer behavior (e.g., group based activities like tai chi, yoga, cycling) instead of the traditional Western model commonly tried they may be able emulate Hosa’s success.7879

In my conversation with Kirt Greenburg (see Chapter 1), he also noted that foreign firms should conduct research to specifically discover consumer behavior patterns regarding scheduling preferences at the gym.  For example, based on his cursory research he has found that many local gyms do not cater to consumers who prefer to work out in the morning, that gyms are typically only open beginning at 8:00 am.  According to him, “because the gym itself and formal fitness culture have not been established in most urban regions, customers and entrepreneurs are still adjusting and learning how to utilize and cater to peak hours.  The idea that you can take your work clothes to the gym, workout, shower and then head straight to work is still not fully embraced by urban workforces.”  Thus it may take some long-term planning and even education to cater to this new segment of time-conscious customers.

Takeaway: China’s sports base and sport development continue to create world-class athletes.  Professional leagues are beginning to mature and have attracted significant fan bases.  As a consequence, sponsorship and advertising revenues continue to climb both for sport franchises and athletes.  If you plan to sell your products and services in China you should also consider looking for potential athletes and sports – even those seemingly unpopular in the US such as badminton or table tennis – because if you do not take the opportunity to sign them, your competitors (both Chinese and American) very well might.


  1. China reaches for the big leagues from The National []
  2. NBA China Revenue to Increase at Least 10% Annually, Stern Says from Bloomberg []
  3. NBA, CCTV to boost basketball coverage in China from Variety []
  4. NBA, CCTV to expand partnership from China Daily []
  5. Yao Gives Reebok An Assist in China from The Wall Street Journal []
  6. O’Neal the real deal as Li-Ning goes global from People’s Daily []
  7. 2012 was a relatively difficult year financially and strategically for Li Ning and it may not exist in a year or two.  See A Year of Rebuilding for China’s Li Ning from The Wall Street Journal, Li Ning Torches Inventory from The Wall Street Journal, Li Ning tumbles on fundraising plan from Financial Times and Is the end nigh for Li-Ning? from The Li-Ning Tower []
  8. Chinese Shoe Deal Could Make Dwayne Wade The Richest Athlete of All Time from Celebrity Networth []
  9. Wade to sign with shoe brand Li-Ning from ESPN []
  10. I would be remiss if I did not mention a story Matt Garner originally told me.  Qiaodan is what they call Michael Jordan in China, but it was also a knock-off Air Jordan brand that Chinese consumers thought was actually American.  The reality is that the brand was registered as “Qiaodan,” not Jordan.  But most Chinese consumers cannot tell the difference.  It is like having a place in the US called “Hafo Business School” which has nothing to do with the real Harvard Business School yet most Chinese consumers do not know what they call Harvard in English.  See In China, Air cheow-DAN Cries Foul from The Wall Street Journal. []
  11. J.Crew to Open First Asian Store in Hong Kong from Bloomberg []
  12. See p. 204, Sports Around the World [4 Volumes]: History, Culture, and Practice by John Nauright and Charles Parrish and STATS Delivers the NBA to China’s Leading Web Portals from STATS []
  13. Pro basketball hits a wall in China from FORTUNE []
  14. It’s Official: NBA Star Tracy McGrady to Play in China from The Wall Street Journal []
  15. How Big is Tracy McGrady in China? from The Wall Street Journal []
  16. The two ‘followings’ are different.  Whereas KFC operates more stores on the mainland than anywhere else outside of the US, many basketball fans have enjoyed the rise of Jeremy Lin (born in Los Angeles to Taiwanese immigrants).  See Jeremy’s KFC Photo Shoot and More Photos From Volvo Shoot from Confessions of a Jeremy Lin Addict. []
  17. Another high-profile NBA import is Gilbert Arenas who currently plays for the Shanghai Sharks which is owned by Yao Ming.  See Zero Sum Game from Slam Online []
  18. NBA Washouts Have China Calling Foul from Bloomberg []
  19. Beyond Yao: The Future of Chinese Basketball from Knowledge@Wharton []
  20. Yao Ming’s Cure for What Ails Chinese Basketball from The Wall Street Journal []
  21. One Billion Fans, One Terrible Team from The New Republic []
  22. IMG Sees ‘Tremendous’ Sponsor Interest in Chinese Soccer from Bloomberg []
  23. See Beckham’s CSL ambassadorial role now confirmed from The Li-Ning Tower and Chinese Super League hoping Beckham can restore its battered image from South China Morning Post []
  24. See China bans former soccer chiefs for life, slaps heavy fines on clubs from Xinhua and Soccer in China from Facts and Details []
  25. Where are China’s Soccer Stars? from The New York Times []
  26. Asian Cup final smashes viewing records from the Asian Football Confederation []
  27. Chinese soccer clubs pay high salaries to foreign players from Want China Times []
  28. How world stole the brains behind Australian sport from The Daily Telegraph []
  29. How a swim school in Redcliffe is driving China’s Olympic gold rush from News Limited []
  30. Back in the swim from Financial Times []
  31. Skateboarding out of the shadows from China Daily []
  32. SMP Skate Park []
  33. Action Sports and Sport Participation in China from China Sports Review []
  34. The world’s 33rd most marketable athlete – Lin Dan from SportsPro []
  35. See China, Still the World Champ, Is Falling Out of Love With Table Tennis from The Atlantic and Ping Pong Diplomacy from []
  36. The late Zhuang Zhedong was one of the best known table tennis players on the mainland.  He was instrumental in ‘Ping Pong Diplomacy’ which presaged the normalization of relations between China and the US in the early 1970s. []
  37. See Zhang Jike: An Eligible Bachelor from Table Tennista and State Grid Welcome Visitors to the Brazil Junior and Cadet Open from ITTF []
  38. She was most recently the runner-up in the 2013 Australian Open.  See Li Na wins three-year Mercedes endorsement from SportsPro and Li Na on course to be world’s highest earning female athlete from The Li-Ning Tower []
  39. He was recently disciplined and his “commercial activities” (sponsorships) were put on hold.  See Sun Yang, advertising’s next big thing from and Sun Yang suspended from commercial activities from China Daily []
  40. Zou Shiming, gold-medal winner in Olympic boxing, is just one of many potential world-class athletes coming out of China.  See Zou Shiming’s professional example set to lead boxing revolution in China from Global Times []
  41. Human Action Media []
  42. Amway sponsors snooker from SportBusiness []
  43. World Snooker []
  44. Bumper revenues for Premier League clubs tempered by soaring wages from CNN []
  45. The wealthiest man in China is Zong Qinghou, founder of Wahaha which is the largest beverage producer in China.  See Man Utd signs up Chinese sponsors from Financial Times, Manchester United Signs Sponsorship Deal with Wahaha in China from Business Wire and China’s Richest Man Says Capital Markets ‘Suck’ from The Wall Street Journal []
  46. Chinese parents turn to US summer camps from China Daily []
  47. Some of these summer school programs may come under scrutiny due to relatively lax transfer credit requests.  See Chinese Summer Schools Sell Quick American Credits from The Chronicle of Higher Education []
  48. China discovers its inner tree-hugger from Financial Times []
  49. Ibid []
  50. Club Med looks to profit from China’s skiing craze from Agence France-Presse []
  51. Ibid []
  52. See Ski fields in Urumqi opens for business from Xinhua, Ice and Snow Festival kicks off in Xinjiang from Global Times and Urumqi attractions from China Daily []
  53. The ski’s the limit from China Daily []
  54. Golf course boom points to China corruption from Financial Times []
  55. The Forbidden Game from Slate []
  56. Golf course boom points to China corruption from Financial Times []
  57. See Golf defies rules to gain ground from China Daily and Mission Hills puts share float idea on table from South China Morning Post []
  58. Golf construction is booming in China, though it’s banned from Los Angeles Times []
  59. See Swimming: Chinese pools often too crowded to swim from Agence France-Presse and China’s Dead Sea Is World’s Most Packed Swimming Pool from The Daily Mail []
  60. This is a phenomenon that Matt Garner calls “stress stratification.”  In fact, due to time constraints Garner and others have predicted that many families will begin consuming pre-made food packages such as TV dinners like Hungryman.  This is further discussed in Chapter 3 (e.g., “frozen foods”). []
  61. Another estimate is much lower, 13.3% of urban Chinese male college students were classified as obese compared with 19.6% Americans in the same demographic group.  See China’s young in crisis of declining fitness from Associated Press []
  62. See Obesity in China: Waistlines are Expanding Twice as Fast as GDP from USC US-China Institute, Deaths in sports means more exercises needed from China Daily and What’s Making China Fat? from The Atlantic Cities []
  63. Another report from the International Diabetes Foundation puts the Chinese percentage slightly lower at 8.8% and in the US at 9.3%  See Prevalence of Diabetes among Men and Women in China from Yang et al. and China’s diabetes epidemic exacerbated by one-child policy from News Track India []
  64. Deaths in sports means more exercises needed from China Daily []
  65. Children’s tug of war between classroom, sports ground from Global Times []
  66. Races canceled as students struggle to stay in shape from China Daily []
  67. See Second death from Guangzhou marathon reported from Xinhu and Sudden death of college student raises attention from China Daily []
  68. See Races canceled as students struggle to stay in shape from China Daily and China’s young in crisis of declining fitness from Associated Press []
  69. Compounding this problem is air pollution (as noted later in Chapter 18).  According to John Balmes, a professor of medicine at UC San Francisco, due to the poor air conditions and relatively high levels of pollution in cities like Beijing, “it’s actually unhealthy for kids to be exercising outdoors. When you’re playing sports outside – or just being a kid and being very active – you get a high exposure to pollution because you’re breathing more per minute. Also, when you’re exercising, you breathe through your mouth instead of your nose, which has a filter.”  See Eye-Stinging Beijing Air Risks Lifelong Harm to Babies from Bloomberg []
  70. Compared to the rest of the industry, Curves has actually fallen on financial difficulties.  Thus competing firms that operate in this niche may be able to take this opportunity to expand overseas.  See In Search of More Muscle from The Wall Street Journal []
  71. The first official CrossFit gym on the mainland was recently opened in Shanghai.  See Iron Dragon: Crossfit []
  72. Down at the gyms from China Daily []
  73. Ibid []
  74. Ibid []
  75. Ibid []
  76. See Gym, Health & Fitness Clubs in the US: Market Research Report from IBISWorld, The Shape of the Fitness Industry from South Source and Industry Research from IHRSA []
  77. Down at the gyms from China Daily []
  78. For perspective consider that a year ago in 2011 Bally’s had large expansion plans for the mainland however those do not seem to be panning out.  Similarly, the fitness market has been another area that seems to have suffered from hype as back in 2002 it was reported that China’s sport and leisure market had 400 million consumers who spent $1.7 billion on sporting goods in 2000.  Thus, again while the potential remains, it may take many more years for any kind of critical mass or market penetration rates that are equivalent to the West, if ever.  See China’s Next Revolution Is in Fitness from The New York Times, Little Weight to China’s Gym Fad from Los Angeles Times and The New Sweatshops from TIME []
  79. An area of personal interest is the sport supplement and dietary supplement industry (which I did my graduate research on in the US).  While specific market research numbers are hard to come by, products from GNC are readily sold in CityShop (see Chapter 3) locations and some yogurt shops sell MuscleMilk.  And because of the prevalence of TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) and herbal supplements at every local pharmacy, perhaps foreign firms specializing in supplements could find a new market to generate revenue from if properly localized, branded and marketed. []

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