First China New E-commerce Conference: Tsinghua releases report on Chinese youth participation in winter sports for 2021

As the Beijing Winter Olympic Games approach, how will young people – as the main force in winter sports – help to meet the Chinese government's target of getting 300 million people to participate? On October 9, at the first China New E-commerce Conference, Tsinghua University Center for Development of Sports Industry (TUDSI) and released their "Report on Chinese Youth Participation in Winter Sports 2021" at the New E-commerce Facilitating Winter Sports Economic Development Forum at the China New E-commerce Conference.


The report surveyed 3,890 respondents to better understand the popularity of winter sports among China's youth. The results show that 30 percent of young people have played winter sports and more than 60 percent are optimistic about the future development of winter sports in China.


Among the respondents, as many as 90 percent are between the ages of 18 and 21, and 93.8 percent are school students.


Olympics Introduce Winter Sports to Youth


Being the best host of the Beijing Winter Olympic Games and the Winter Paralympic Games is a major goal for China and its ruling Party. Since 2016, the government has issued relevant documents to encourage young people to participate in winter sports, such as its Development Plan for Winter Sports (2016-2025) and Basic Requirements for Winter Sports at National Youth Campus Schools. The Beijing Winter Olympic Games have opened a door to winter adventure for China's youth.


According to a survey, the Beijing Winter Olympic Games have improved knowledge of winter sports. Among youths, 46.3 percent have started to pay attention to related information, 48.9 percent started to learn more about winter sports, and 36.8 percent thought about participating in winter sports.



WANG Xueli, director of TUDSI and associate professor in the Department of Leadership and Organizational Management in Tsinghua SEM made a speech.

"The greatest effect of the Beijing Winter Olympic Games is to inform more people about winter sports and encourage their participation," said WANG Xueli, director of TUDSI and associate professor of leadership and organizational management in the Department of Leadership and Organizational Management in Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management (Tsinghua SEM). WANG said winter sports, like traditional ball games, have become increasingly popular with Chinese youths.


Most young people engage in winter sports one to five times per year, accounting for 81.5 percent and 62.7 percent respectively. Indoor and outdoor ice rinks and ski resorts are the most popular destinations for winter sports.


The creation of a number of youth winter sports promotion programs, such as Ice and Snow Sports in Campus and Encouraging Winter Sports Training and Competitions, has inspired young people to get more involved in the Beijing Winter Olympic Games.


The report found that 46.1 percent of young people like winter sports competitions and performances, 61.3 percent were willing to watch the Winter Olympics on TV or the Internet, and more than 38.4 percent were willing to participate in the Beijing Winter Olympics as volunteers.

70% Discover Winter Sports on Social Media, Micro-Video

WANG said the methods and channels by which the young generation is discovering winter sports are richer, personal, and more immersive.

According to the report, short videos and social media platforms, such as WeChat and TikTok, are the main ways young people learn about winter sports, accounting for 69.6 percent and 69.5 percent, respectively.

It's worth noting that 36.6 percent of young people follow online influencers and idols who broadcast themselves playing winter sports on social media platforms. Their recommendations also reflect the characteristics of the access to information for the young groups.


"Guiding young people to discover the beauty and fun is as important as prompting the sportive spirit when spreading knowledge of winter sports," said ZHANG Jing, an ambassador for national fitness in Beijing and winter sports blogger. ZHANG demonstrates skiing, curling, and extreme winter sports in short videos. He said searches for "winter sports" continue to grow in the vertical industry, and fans are very fond of introductions to sports equipment, skiing venues, and things others don't recommend.

QIN Yi, lecturer at the School of Humanities at Zhejiang University of Technology and short video influencer, said short videos are important as a mainstream tool in communication. Qin advocated for using social media communication to target specific interests in promoting winter sports to young people. "Youth participation can often influence the whole family, and one's family can often help to form a trend in family exercise."

Interest in winter sports is also spilling over into entertainment, giving birth to more information channels. According to the report, young people are learning about winter sports through documentaries and promotional films, online courses, animation and movies at a rate of 38.4 percent each, whereas 36.2 percent are learning about them through variety shows.


25% Eager to See More Winter Sports


According to the report, 48 percent of the young people surveyed said they purchased winter sports equipment online, whereas 42 percent choose to buy equipment in brick-and-mortar retail stores. The main categories of equipment purchased online were ice and snow clothing and footwear. Young people who follow influencers or idols active in winter sports are more likely to buy ice and snow equipment online.

Convenience and high performance-to-price ratio are the main reasons why young people choose to buy on e-commerce platform. Since most winter sports require professional skills and knowledge, people who buy at physical stores prefer to try on products and get on-site professional guidance.

The report also pointed out differences in consumption behavior among youth groups in different regions, creating a need for different strategies.

WANG Xueli said there are fewer brick-and-mortar retail stores carrying gear for winter sports in Southern China, which may affect the ability to participate in winter sports to a certain extent. E-commerce platforms should learn from the advantages of traditional retail stores and play a role in cultivating users' consumption habits, she said. "For example, it’s possible to have some e-commerce platform online shopping guides to offer suggestions on the use of skis, boots, shoes, and other equipment, as well as professional after-sales service," WANG said.

In terms of winter sports consumption, 88.5 percent of young people surveyed said they spent an average of 1,000 yuan or less every year. The report also surveyed young people's predicted future participation in winter sports consumption and found 25.4 percent were willing to invest more in winter sports.


Winning Young Eyes with the Winter Games


"Winter sports are limited to northern areas. I wish there was more infrastructure to play in the south." "Winter sports are expensive and not everyone can have the chance to participate." "There should be more activities over holidays and more online promotions.“”

During the research, WANG learned that geographical limitations, expense, and lack of fellow players were the main barriers to getting young people involved in winter sports. "The main challenge in developing winter sports lies in bridging the gap between being aware of them and participating," she said.


To this end, the report offers four recommendations to encourage youth participation.


One is to minimize the constraints of time, space, skills, and price for winter sports. "At present, many snow resorts offer free tickets, coupons, and other promotions for young groups to improve their occupancy rate," WANG said.

The second is to take advantage of new media platforms in innovative ways. Whether it is informative lectures and consultations on video sharing platforms, or promotions from influencers, the Internet is a new opportunity to promote the development of winter sports.

The third is to provide different incentive strategies for winter sports in different regions.

The fourth is to leverage the Beijing Winter Olympic Games as an opportunity: industries should be prepared to seize on its continuous promotion to develop winter sports in China.


"These two years are the best chance to use the Beijing Winter Olympic Games to develop related industries. Businesses should target young people to seize the dividend period of the Winter Olympic Games, and then move to boost recognition as soon as possible," WANG said. After the Winter Olympics, the industries related to winter sports and winter sport venues will enjoy a positive future, WANG said. Both ends of the industry should innovate in their management, establish characteristic brands, strengthen word-of-mouth publicity, enhance service supply, and attract the broad masses of young participants.

The first China New E-commerce Conference, "New E-commerce Facilitating Winter Sports Economic Development Forum," is hosted by and TUDSI.

Source: Tsinghua University Center for Development of Sports Industry