While adidas and Nike are neck and neck for activewear market share leadership in China, adidas has eclipsed competitors on social media with a fashion- and celebrity-driven strategy.
Gartner L2’s new Activewear: China Insight Report finds that adidas earned 80% of all Weibo engagement on activewear brand accounts in the one-year period studied. This was mainly generated by posts featuring its brand ambassador Jackson Yee, a member of the superstar boy band TFBoys.
In 2018, adidas created the top eight Weibo posts with the most engagement among analyzed activewear brands, and all of them featured Yee. The fashion-oriented adidas Neo Weibo account received the biggest social boost from content featuring Yee, with a behind-the-scenes photo shoot video of him modeling the adidas Neo Cloudfoam sneakers earning the highest engagement with 10.4 million interactions.
The TFBoys effect is strong across industries, but especially for activewear. In addition to the eight top adidas posts featuring Yee, the ninth most popular Weibo post by an activewear brand was a Nike post featuring a special-edition Air Max collaboration with TFBoys singer Wang Junkai.
The success of adidas in China also comes from its willingness to tap into fashion amidst a global fashion streetwear craze that is especially strong in the Chinese market. Nike, meanwhile, focuses on performance marketing with a more minimal use of celebrities in China. As a result, over 30% of adidas Tmall sales go toward apparel, while apparel takes up less than 20% of Tmall sales for Nike.