In recent years, due to COVID-19 and big sporting events such as the 2021 Olympics and the upcoming Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, Chinese people have been paying much more attention to their health. Because of the increasing number of people partaking in exercises, the sports industry in China has boomed with an output value of nearly RMB 3 trillion.

A boost of social engagement has been found in the sports industry. Some consumers have stated that exercising has gotten to be too lonely and that since the exercising process can be boring, they would need peer motivation and coaching from a fitness trainer. 70% of sports enthusiasts surveyed in China leveraged social media platforms to make sure they do their daily exercises, join in the online sports community, participate in courses, etc. Some have even shared their exercise and sport routines under related Weibo topics, and have commented and interacted with other netizens regarding fitness inquiries and tips. The top three social media platforms preferred by sports enthusiasts are WeChat (91.8%), QQ (65.2%), and Weibo (51.6%). 

That is to say, the sports industry is not only about the sales of sporting goods. It is also crucial for brands to add social elements into their marketing strategies. Considering the popularity and strong user base of WeChat, the WeChat mini-program, an in-app application with various functions like e-commerce, CRM, advertising, branding, etc., has been considered a significant marketing tool for brands.

Curious about what sports brands can do with social features through mini-programs? Let’s take a look! 

How do Sports Brands Build Their Mini-programs Other Than for Sales? 

1. Nike: Mini-program and Live-streaming

Most brands use mini-programs as an e-commerce platform. But apart from that, few brands know that it’s also a powerful tool for live-streaming. 

Going back to the beginning of the outbreak in February 2020, offline gyms were closed and outdoor exercising became inconvenient. It was a difficult time for people who love to engage in fitness. During that time, Nike published an article in the WeChat official account where it shared tips on exercising at home. This article soon reached more than 100,000 views with comments like “I feel lazy at home”.

Nike found that people’s enthusiasm and demand for exercises were heightened a lot more during the pandemic. As such, by leveraging WeChat mini-programs, Nike developed a series of live-streamed fitness online courses called, “Fitness Training at Home (把运动练到家)”, to cater to consumer needs and to build a professional brand image.

Integrated with the brand’s professional coach resources, these live-streaming series featured a variety of fitness courses including strength training, whole-body activation training, fat-burning training, and so on. It also designed an array of curriculum, ranging from entry levels to advanced levels, to attract diverse fitness enthusiasts.

Compared with video courses, live-streams provide a real-time, interactive, and companionable experience. There are two main advantages to this.

First of all, by relying on the comprehensive mini-program, brands can develop content more easily. Consumers are also able to subscribe and watch the content directly by clicking the mini program linked from Nike’s official WeChat public account without downloading any additional apps. 

Secondly, brands can make use of Tencent’s data center to have an accurate delivery of online advertising to promote their live-streams. For example, Nike placed its targeted live-stream banner ads under Tencent’s refined database, attracting a lot of clicks and conversions.

Nowadays, during the post-pandemic era, even though Chinese people have more opportunities to do outdoor sports, people are still relying on the online mode of fitness instead. “Sports + live-streaming” has already become a significant component in people’s lives. Therefore, it is still an effective marketing strategy for every sport brands to increase consumer stickiness and build a positive brand image.

Poster with live-streaming agenda, call-to-action & slogan: “Nike: live streaming with professional coaches, train together every Wednesday.”
Screenshot via WeChat official account ©Nike

2. Lululemon: Mini-program and Community

The WeChat mini-program is also an effective tool for CRM and community building, helping brands to show vitality and increase customer stickiness.

Take Lululemon, for example — Lululemon has always believed that the interactions between brands and consumers is more than just a superficial exchange of information. It believes that deep and frequent contact and dialogue can cultivate loyal consumers.

Therefore, Lululemon has adopted community building as its key marketing strategy. When Lululemon first entered the China market in 2013, rather than opening stores for product-selling, it chose to place showrooms in shopping districts, allowing for yoga enthusiasts to participate in the yoga classes three or four days a week.

While consumption habits are now gradually moving from offline to online, Lululemon still treats offline community activities as a key component. Lululemon built a mini-program called, “Sweat Daily (热汗生活)” in its online channel, where the key content, the community section, is located in the center of the navigation bar. This allows for people to register in various community activities easily.

For instance, Lululemon launched a themed activity called “Joy of Heart · October (心悦十月)” for the 26th World Mental Health Day. There was a series of online and offline events throughout October. These events included yoga, meditation, running, and tennis, encouraging consumers to develop active habits. In addition to exercises, there were also sharing sessions with brand ambassadors, such as Celina Jade (卢靖姗), where she was invited to share tips on maintaining good health.

Users who wanted to participate in these events could register through the WeChat mini-program. This shows that mini-programs could serve as a valuable CRM platform to collect consumer data. One important thing to note is that since brands can have their mini-programs fully customized, brands can track 100% of its consumers’ digital activity on the mini-program. This helps brands lay a foundation for subsequent API integration and data use to fine-tune the communication approach for maximizing its WeChat marketing outcome.

Posters of “Joy of Heart · October” campaign by listing the online & offline routines

Consumers can register through the WeChat mini-program by scanning the QR code.

Picture via Weibo ©Lululemon

3. 361°: Mini-program and UGC content

Using mini-programs is also a great way to integrate user-generated content. It is a great platform for users to be more than just consumers, they could also be promoters and content creators.

Take 361°, to attract more young consumers and get them to pay more attention to fashion culture and showcase themselves, 361° developed a UGC-focused mini-program called “Look and Style (有颜有度)” in May. According to the campaigns and themes given by the brand, such as “Celebrity Style Imitation” (明星同款)”, “Wearing IPs (把IP穿在身上)”, “Awesome Guochao Trends (心动国风)”, etc., consumers would share their outfits on the platform and get the chance to win prizes. 

In September, 361° launched a campaign called, “Prove by Style and Action (用型 · 动证明)” and leveraged the celebrity effect to encourage consumers to share their outfits on the mini-program. There were lots of incentives, like gift boxes with the spokesperson’s signature, similar items that the spokesperson is wearing, permission to attend brand events with free flight tickets and hotels, and even to become the brand model.

While a lot of other sports brands implement their UGC campaigns on their existing mini-programs, 361° decided to create its own mini-program specifically for UGC content.

It was a good way to closely connect with consumers and get insights from their first-hand reviews. Also with the clear guidance provided by brands, consumers were more willing to take the initiative to produce high-quality content. In that way, consumers have become brand promoters and creators for free. Apart from that, the content created by consumers are easily searchable in one platform, this is beneficial for both the brand and consumers.

Consumers can also tag the items they are wearing in the picture they post on the platform with detailed reviews. People who see the posts can then go to the e-commerce pages linked in the tags, helping to drive sales indirectly.

UGC content for the “Prove By Style & Action” campaign
Screenshot via Mini-program ©361度有颜有度

Summary: Marketing Usage of Mini-programs Other Than for Sales

Given that sports nowadays are linked with social attributes, it is important for sports brands to provide a sharing platform that meets consumers’ social needs. We believe that the WeChat mini-program is a terrific multi-functional application with great features like live-streams, community building, and UGC functions, making it an awesome tool that sports brands can use to create social engagement, establish an online-offline network, and create an in-depth connection with consumers.

Another one of the key benefits of the mini-program is that it‘s backed by the powerful WeChat ecosystem. On one hand, a mini-program provides consumers a seamless digital journey within the ecosystem, reducing the drop-off rate which can help to gain more consumer data. On the other hand, all data gathered across all properties within the ecosystem including mini-programs, official accounts, WeCom, etc., can be used to customize the overall advertising approaches by WeChat. Its benefits are not restricted to only one property.

As we can see, mini-programs are definitely a powerful tool in driving sports brands to win the China market when enhancing social attributes.

If you have any China-related questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us. For more China market insights, our new Q3 mega report has a comprehensive analysis including key China trends, consumer insights, emerging consumer groups, e-commerce, overviews of key platforms and more.

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