To understand the impact of Government directives on consumer behaviour in China we’d suggest watching the rise of winter sports over the next four years. Already well underway, the surge in related content through state-controlled traditional media channels provides a clear insight into Beijing’s strong influence over digital touch points.
In 2022, Beijing’s hosting of the Winter Olympics will see it become the first city to ever host both a Summer and Winter Games – remarkably within less than a decade and a half of one another. Beijing’s dual-hosting symbolises the dramatic rise on the sway China now holds across the world.
Looking back to the effort and expense Beijing made for its Olympic host campaign 10 years ago, it is clear how serious China takes the Games to showcase the new face of a powerful China. Beijing spent $42 billion hosting the 2008 games – almost three times the $15 billion Athens spent just four years earlier. But beyond the infrastructure investments and ceremonies, the success of China’s athletes was just as impressive. Almost half of China’s medals were gold – 48 – a third more than second-placed USA.
China is a different nation than it was in 2008 – much more assertive, wealthy and influential, but equally focused on not losing face in front of the world. That is why Beijing will be doing everything it can to ensure it puts on a good show when it hosts the Winter Olympics.
Beijing will be bitterly disappointed with the woeful showing in Pyeongchang last month, where China’s short track speed skater Wu Dajing was the only athlete to bring home a gold. China was squeezed out of the top-15 by Belarus with just 9 showings on the podium. The legends of Norway earned around 3,700 times more gold medals per capita than China.
No doubt there’ll be plenty of Chinese lurking through the snow in Norway studying how the country is producing so many champions, but that is just the start of it. Not long after Beijing was awarded the hosting rights in 2015, China announced it would build 650 skating rinks and 800 ski resorts (complete with fake snow) by 2022. It hopes to attract 300 million people into winter sports by then. There are reports of highly paid foreign coaches combing cities, towns and villages for the most promising kids – Cool Runnings-type stuff.
Yet the success of hosting its second Olympic games won’t just be built on medals – the buzz and support of the hosting city and country is equally important. For that reason, Beijing may also be concerned about the 200,000 Chinese visitors that Korea was aiming to visit the Pyeongchang Olympics, only 20,000 came. The Korean tour group ban and negative propaganda over their THAAD defence installation won’t have helped, but China will be wanting a little more enthusiasm for winter sports by 2022. Rent-a-crowd has got a lot more expensive than it was in 2008 in China.
So for the next four years, expect Beijing to be pulling a lot of levers so they can showcase China’s brilliance in the 2022 Olympics. Expect there to be a major uptick in airtime and interest for anything related to exercising in the cold stuff. There’ll be a lot more presence for ice skating gear, snow boarding exhibitions, skiing KOLs, and winter tourism promotion. Alibaba has already jumped on the wagon, but expect most of China’s other big companies to follow suit. If nothing else, it will be a fascinating four years to observe! Go to Page 2 to see this week’s China news and highlights.