Break dancing – A new ticket for sports brands to China’s Gen Z?

China is quickly catching up on sports that were once stereotyped thanks to the country’s young generation. “Youthful” sports, such as skateboarding and break dancing, that used to be viewed as “fiddling-around businesses” are now undergoing a transformation from marginalised activities to the mainstream.

While the changing attitudes towards contemporary sports in China have contributed to this societal change, the biggest driver is the Chinese government. The country has been doubling down on building up its national teams for first, skateboarding, and now, competitive break dancing, as the two are among the six new sports that have officially been added to Olympic Games.

This change in view has created a radical shift, opening up not only official endorsement but an increased clamour for these sports for both the Chinese population and brands.

Surfing, skateboarding, and sport climbing had already made debuts at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics this year. Meanwhile, break dancing, a style of hip-hop dance that involves footwork and athletic moves like back or head spins, is believed to be the sparkling new attraction at the 2024 Olympics in Paris. These global acknowledgments of such sports only strengthen the value of such activities, engaging more of the population to consider them as a hobby or indeed a profession.

The recognition has not only cheered up the country’s break-dancing lovers but also excited sports brands, with a new avenue to engage with China’s young consumers with sports as such that showcase individuality being a medium.

Tapping into the trend most recently is the Chinese sports apparel brand Xtep. The brand has announced its sponsorship for China’s break-dancing team earlier this month, the first national sports team that the brand has ever sponsored. Xtep is also the first brand that the team has ever partnered with. Such strategic collaboration allows the brand to be a vanguard in capitalising on the market potential of this sport. In turn, the media and marketing exposure provided by the brand is able to help elevate the sport and keep it within consumers’ eyes.

In fact, Xtep has long been eyeing the niche sports market, with the partnership with the national break-dancing team being a significant step in the long-term plan. Since 2017, leveraging the brand’s entertainment DNA, Xtep had sponsored several TV shows that featured street dance and has teamed up with popular street dancers. These efforts had enhanced Xtep’s connection to these freestyle dances, which also allows a smooth transition for the brand in the latest move.

It is clear that Xtep has been stepping up in modernising and creating a more youthful image of the brand in a bid to win over China’s young consumers. As the first Chinese sports brand that sets its foot in the up-and-coming sport, it remains to be seen how the strategy would play out in China’s ever increasingly competitive sportswear market. If Xtep is able to succeed with its strategy and build upon the latest excitement, it will be able to become the market leader as the market grows exponentially.

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