Chinese Sports Market: Most Popular Sports in China

Sports play a significant role in China’s culture and history, with many traditional activities still enjoyed today. As the country continues to develop and expand its global influence, it is essential for businesses to understand the sports preferences of local audiences.

Basketball currently reigns supreme as the most popular sport in China, with notable success both domestically and internationally. However, other sports such as table tennis, badminton, football (soccer), and e-sports are also gaining momentum.

In this blog post, we explore the most popular sports in China and discuss opportunities for businesses looking to tap into this rapidly growing market. Keep reading to learn more!

The Chinese Sports Culture

Sports are very important in Chinese culture, and many people participate in various activities for leisure, competition, and health benefits. The government invests heavily in facilities, training programs, and events to promote physical fitness and national pride at all levels.

General Sports Culture In China

The Sports industry in China

Chinese people highly value physical activities and consider them an essential part of their traditions, including the general sports culture.

Basketball has become one of China’s most popular sports, with millions of fans across demographics, while martial arts maintain a significant presence due to their historical importance.

Other sports, such as ping pong, badminton, football (soccer), and table tennis, are also widely enjoyed by both amateur and professional athletes. This diverse landscape presents businesses with opportunities to reach consumers through sponsorships or collaborations with popular local

Government Policies Related To Sports

China has a long-standing emphasis on athleticism, which dates back to Mao Zedong’s era. The Chinese government continues to heavily involve itself in overseeing and funding sport-related affairs through a centrally planned hierarchical economic system.

This is done to strategically aim at international success and recognition while promoting national fitness programs.

The Impact Of Major International Sporting Events, E.g., The Olympics, FIFA World Cup, Etc.

Major international sporting events, such as the Olympics and FIFA World Cup, have had a significant impact on China’s economy and sports culture.

These events result in investments in infrastructure and facilities, leading to short-term economic growth. Additionally, they provide a platform for Chinese athletes to showcase their talents, inspiring future generations and fostering national pride.

Hosting events like the Formula One Grand Prix and ATP World Tour Masters 1000 also increases China’s visibility in various sporting disciplines previously unfamiliar or less popular among its population.


Basketball is immensely popular in mainland China, with over 300 million people playing the sport, as per the NBA.

The sport has a particular appeal to young Chinese aged between 15 and 45 and represents an excellent opportunity for businesses targeting this demographic.

Basketball is more gender-specific, with basketball attracting mostly male players. It has gained traction in China as many NBA stars have visited the country for exhibition games or business ventures.

Key Basketball Events In China

Basketball is really popular in China, and the country hosts several important basketball events. The FIBA Basketball World Cup held in China in 2019 was one of the most significant sporting events in Chinese history.

It was hosted across eight cities and attracted millions of fans from around the world. Additionally, China annually hosts various international tournaments featuring top teams and players from around the globe, such as the Asia Championships and the CBA All-Star Game.

Prominent Players, Teams, And Leagues

The Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) league is a well-known basketball league, and the NBA games are also widely watched.

For example, basketball has gained immense popularity in recent years, thanks to the success of Chinese NBA player Yao Ming, resulting in an increase in interest among younger generations.

badminton has seen its share of stars like Lin Dan, nicknamed the “Super Dan,” who has won numerous world titles and Olympic gold medals representing China.

Table Tennis

Table tennis, also known as ping pong, is a beloved sport in China with numerous world-class players and several key events that attract fans from around the globe.

Popularity & Demographics Of Those Interested

Many Chinese enjoy playing table tennis, which is the most popular recreational sport in the country with an estimated 300 million players.

This fast-paced game is enjoyed by people of all ages and demographics, from young children playing at school to seniors enjoying a friendly match at a park.

In competition, table tennis has over 2761 players divided among the country’s 24 provincial teams, with roughly equal numbers of male and female athletes participating.

Table tennis has traditionally been favored among older generations while for example badminton attracts both younger players as well as retirees.

Key Table Tennis Events In China

Table tennis is considered among the Chinese as their national sport and an integral part of their cultural identity.

As such, there are several key table tennis events in the country that attract large audiences, including the China Open, which has been held annually since 1997 and attracts top players from around the world.

In addition to these international events, there are also domestic competitions that draw significant attention and support from fans across the country. These include the China Table Tennis Super League and the National Games of China, both of which showcase some of the best talent in Chinese table tennis.

Prominent Players, Teams, And Leagues

Table tennis is a popular sport in China and the Super League is the top professional table tennis league in the country.

Table tennis has produced famous athletes like Ma Long and Zhang Jike, who have won Olympic gold medals multiple times


Badminton is another popular sport in China, with a large following and numerous world-class players.

Popularity & Demographics Of Those Interested

Badminton is a popular sports in China, with being one of the most widely played, boasting over 100 million Chinese players.

The popularity of this sport cut across age groups and social classes, with both recreational and competitive players found across all levels of society.

Key Badminton Events In China

China is a dominant country in badminton, hosting key events like the China Open and the BWF World Championships.

Chinese athletes have consistently performed well in both singles and doubles categories, winning a record 11 Sudirman Cup titles. It is important to pay more attention to China’s success in badminton.

Prominent Players, Teams, And Leagues

Lin Dan is a famous badminton player from China who has won multiple Olympic and World Championship titles.

The Badminton World Federation hosts major events such as the BWF World Championships and Thomas Cup.

China also has its own national league for badminton called the National Badminton Super League (NBSL), which features six professional teams competing in a season-long tournament.

Emerging Sports

Football (soccer) and e-sports are among the sports gaining popularity in China, with a growing number of enthusiasts and professional leagues emerging.

Other Sports Gaining Popularity, Such As Football (soccer)

The sports market in China is evolving as the country’s economy continues to grow and expand globally.

Soccer is an emerging sport that’s particularly enjoyed by younger demographics with its growing fan following increasing exponentially due to successful domestic leagues like the Chinese Super League (CSL).

E-sports an emerging sport

E-sports is an emerging sport, that has been gaining popularity in recent years. With the rise of online gaming platforms and the increasing accessibility of high-speed internet, e-sports has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry with millions of fans worldwide.

As a result, e-sports is now considered an emerging sport, with professional players and teams competing in global tournaments for cash prizes and sponsorships. 

For instance, major tournaments for games like League of Legends and Dota 2 are held in China, attracting top gamers from around the world with huge prize pools.


Reasons For Sports Popularity

Sports in China are culturally significant and historically relevant, with the government promoting them through development programs and facilities. Chinese athletes, teams, and leagues have achieved international success and recognition, which has contributed to the popularity of sports in China.

Cultural Significance And Historical Relevance

Sports in China have a rich cultural history, with martial arts being an integral part of traditional Chinese culture.

Sports promote physical health, mental balance, and harmony with nature, while also cultivating morality and ethics.

Tai Chi is an example of a sport that reflects the influence of traditional culture, with slow and rhythmic movements that improve balance and reduce stress.

Some popular sports, like table tennis, have their origins in ancient games played by emperors.

Political influence also plays a role in shaping the significance of sports in China, with leaders recognizing its potential to promote national unity and reshape negative global images through international competitions like the Olympics and FIFA World Cup.

Government Support And Development Programs

It’s important to understand the central role that government support and development programs play in shaping the sports culture of China.

Since the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949, sports have been an integral part of China’s political agenda. The government is also heavily involved in promoting and funding sports programs throughout the country.

One example is their recent efforts to promote winter sports ahead of hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Also, the Chinese government plans to build a $813 billion sports industry by 2025.

International Success And Global Recognition

The sports culture is gaining ground in China, with major events like the 2022 Olympic Winter Games and FIBA World Cup being hosted in the country.

Basketball and badminton have become two of China’s most popular sports, with notable NBA players Yao Ming and Jeremy Lin hailed as national heroes, and Lin Dan is considered one of badminton’s all-time greats with two Olympic gold medals under his belt.

This international success and global recognition of Chinese sports can provide valuable insights into consumer trends and preferences within the market.

Opportunities And Challenges For Businesses

There are huge opportunities for businesses to tap into the Chinese market, with a growing demand for high-quality sports products and partnerships with teams and athletes.

However, companies must navigate complex legal and regulatory environments, as well as cultural differences.

Current Market Size And Potential Growth Of Sports Products In China

The value of sports in China cannot be understated, as evidenced by the rapid growth of the sports industry at an annual rate of 10.9%. In 2019, the total market size of the industry reached RMB 2.95 trillion.

This growth is fueled by the increasing popularity of sports and fitness activities among the Chinese population.

For example, Adidas has seen significant benefits from its sponsorship partnership with the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA).

Opportunities In Sponsorship, Collaborations, And Partnerships With Sports Events, Teams, Or Athletes

Business opportunities in China include sponsorship, collaborations, and partnerships with sports events, teams, or athletes, which present numerous opportunities for businesses.

Sponsors can receive visibility through team logos on jerseys and billboards during tournaments, as well as mentions by commentators at live events.

The Olympic Games, such as the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, offer significant sponsorship opportunities for companies to align themselves with a global sporting competition while addressing specific aspects of their business objectives.

However, winners in China may face backlash elsewhere due to increased scrutiny of China’s human rights record worldwide.

Role Of Digital Media And E-commerce In Sports Product Marketing

china ecommerce - lining flagship store on douyin

China’s sportswear market has seen the importance and potential of digital media and e-commerce in promoting sports products.

Digital marketing has played a significant role in reaching out to Chinese consumers through online media platforms such as WeChat, Weibo, and Douyin.

E-commerce platforms have also transformed the way Chinese consumers purchase sports goods, making it more convenient to access a wide range of quality sportswear at competitive prices from all over the world.

The growth of digital technology is revolutionizing how we market sports products in China’s sportswear market.

With a population of 1.412 billion and relatively strong spending power, China holds great potential to become the largest sportswear market worldwide.

Legal And Regulatory Considerations

Compliance with Chinese laws and regulations is crucial when entering the market in China to avoid penalties or being banned from doing business altogether.

For instance, child labor laws and data privacy rules are some of the compliance standards that businesses need to adhere to.

Competition Landscape

The market is highly competitive, with minor local firms competing on pricing and bigger players dominating the market.

For example, Li-Ning and Anta are two of the top Chinese brands that compete with international giants like Nike and Adidas.

While there are challenges to entering or expanding in this crowded marketplace, opportunities exist as well. With China’s growing middle-class incomes and changing lifestyle trends favoring health and fitness activities, there is room for new entrants with unique value propositions to succeed.

We are your local partner in China!

In conclusion, understanding the most popular sports in China is crucial for businesses looking to tap into this market’s potential. By recognizing the cultural significance of these sports and their impact on society, companies can better develop strategies that resonate with Chinese consumers’ preferences.

With basketball, table tennis, and badminton leading the way, there are ample opportunities for growth and collaboration in the Chinese sports industry.


We are a China-based marketing agency offering cost-effective solutions to foreign brands interested in tapping into the Chinese market. Our team of Chinese and foreign experts has the experience and know-how needed to succeed in this lucrative, yet complicated market.

Gentlemen Marketing Agency offers many digital marketing and e-commerce solutions, such as web design, e-commerce and social media marketing strategies, localization, market research, KOL marketing, and more.

Don’t hesitate to leave us a comment or contact us, so that we can schedule a free consultation with one of our experts, that will learn about your brand and present you the best solutions for your China market strategy.

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