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Daily Drip

This Sportswear Titan You’ve Never Heard of Is Closing in on Adidas

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Chinese sportswear titan Anta Sports has posted record-high half-year revenue — surpassing powerhouse brand Adidas. The company’s income increased 55.5% to 22.8 billion RMB (3.52 billion USD) in the first half of 2021.

Anta also witnessed a significant increase in online sales, which rose 61% year-on-year, according to its earnings report released on August 24. Its online business now contributes 34% to its total revenue and eclipses Adidas and Nike on Tmall, China’s biggest e-commerce platform. 

Meanwhile, Adidas’s China operations only recorded 18.29 billion RMB in income during the same period.

Anta, a Fujian province-based brand, was established in 1991 and is now a frontrunner in China’s sports industry. It is two times bigger than former Chinese champion of sportswear Li-Ning.

Unlike its counterpart Li-Ning, Anta came into the market with a low price point and functional design, aiming to target the mass market.

Anta Instagram 2021

You might be surprised to learn that Anta Sports owns brands ranging from Fila to Salomon to Wilson. Image via Anta’s official Instagram

Anta’s turnaround came after the takeover of Italian sports fashion brand Fila, as it entered the high-end market with a rebranding of the latter company. Fila now contributes more than half of Anta’s revenue, exceeding that of its namesake brand.

In that sense, a significant part of Anta’s success is the result of its multi-brand strategy. The company now owns several brands, including high-end names like Descente and Kolon Sport, sports fashion brands Fila, Fila Fusion and Fila Kids, and its own mass-market brands, Anta and Anta Kids.

In 2019, Anta purchased Finnish sporting goods company Amer Sports Corporation, which owns popular brands such as Salomon, Arcteryx, Peak Performance, Suunto, Wilson, and classic American brand Louisville Slugger, among others.

In 2019, the company became the first Chinese supplier of sports uniforms to the International Olympic Committee. This summer, Anta sponsored the uniforms used at the Tokyo Olympics.

yangqian wears anta

Yang Qian, the female shooting champion of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, wears an Anta-made athletic uniform. Image via Anta’s official Weibo

Chinese consumers’ patriotic sentiments boomed during this year’s Olympics, with Anta’s and Li-Ning’s sales experiencing huge boosts over the summer. 

In recent years, consumers’ interest in ‘Made in China’ brands (a trend dubbed guochao in Chinese) has seen many domestic brands woo vast numbers of Chinese consumers and beat out foreign competitors. 

The guochao movement, which refers to the phenomenon or tendency of Chinese consumers to flock to home-grown brands rather than international brands, has seen broad support among young Chinese people. Many storied Chinese brands have taken advantage of this new trend to reinvent themselves for younger audiences. 

The increased interest in local brands among youngsters also helped struggling companies like Li-Ning and Erke to surge. Li-Ning even launched a premium fashion label called China Li-Ning to jump on the guochao trend.

China Li-Ning has already shown up several times at international fashion weeks, resulting in substantial social media traffic and an increase in market value. 

Related:

At NYFW 2019, Li-Ning “Leans Into” High Fashion Image

Meanwhile, rising patriotism has put Western brands on the back foot.

German sportswear brand Adidas suffered significant losses this year in the Chinese market. The company’s second-quarter sales dropped more than 16% in the Greater China region, CNBC reported.

As of writing, the global market valuation for Anta was 55.256 billion USD, while Adidas stands at 72.102 billion USD. 

Cover image via Anta Sports

Wang Junjie
    Wang Junjie is a Shanghai-based writer and storyteller who originally hails from South-Central China’s Hunan province. He covers fashion, culture and society.