Olympics as a Catalyst for Japan’s Exploding Sports Market

There was a lot of skepticism going into the Rugby World Cup in Japan. Foreign investors were concerned that there would be a lack of enthusiasm from the first Asian country to host the Rugby World Cup. Not only did the Japanese come out in full support, but the level of excitement sustained by broadcast, fan zones, and a spectacular opening ceremony kicked off a grand event that raised the bar of expectation for marketing opportunities throughout the upcoming Olympics in Japan.

If you want to know what opportunities the current Olympics atmosphere presents for international companies entering the surging Japanese outdoor sports market, read on for the most important trends to watch in the Olympic year in Japan.

The Olympic wave breeds consumer excitement

While the 2020 Olympics won’t officially kick off until the opening ceremony in Tokyo on July 24th, Olympic hype has been building steadily for two years. Preparation across nine prefectures for the games, and especially in Tokyo, has created a consistent underlying buzz of excitement amongst the Japanese population. A considerable part of this enthusiasm is expressed in the products they buy and the clothes they wear.

Japan’s tendency to get behind its passions on a consumer level is well known. Companies that can leverage the timing of this buzz have an excellent opportunity to enter the market in 2020 and ride it out to solid brand establishment. The timing of the Olympic games also coincides with the high season for Japanese leisure and traditional festivals — consumers tend to loosen conservative restraints, giving entering brands a chance to capture Japanese loyalty.

Japanese Olympic culture is over 100 years old

There have been questions in the run-up to the 2020 games whether these Olympic games will have lasting value for business and the economy. One way to address this type of skepticism is to take a journey through Japan’s Olympic history.

Japan’s been an enthusiastic participant in the Olympic Games ever since 1912 when it entered the Fifth Olympic games held in Stockholm. The Tokyo Summer Olympics of 1964 and the Sapporo Winter Olympics in 1972 were the first summer and winter games ever held in Asia. The Nagano 1998 Winter Olympics marked the third time that Japan has hosted the games. 2020 will be the fourth— aggregating over 100 years of enthusiastic cultural Olympic engagement.

Japanese Gov places sports next to future tech

As part of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s national growth strategy, the sports industry was given huge weight by being listed next AI and robotics — industries of poignant future importance to Japan. The government expects the sports industry to increase from 10.9T yen in 2020 to 15T yen in 2025.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government is actively encouraging more foreign companies to enter the Japanese market. Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike says that external business launches are highly supported. The FinCity Tokyo group stresses Japan’s renewed approach to inviting international industry that is “evolutionary, global and open to diversity.”

The Japanese outdoor sports market is trending

More and more younger workers are throwing off the cloak of their work-a-day woes by venturing off on the weekend and holidays to enjoy the natural beauty of Japan. The increase in sales in camping and outdoor gear is a testament to this. Skiing and snowboarding, which took a massive hit after the bubble era of the late ’90s, is experiencing a renaissance with an infusion of foreign investment across Japan from Nagano to Niseko.

In urban areas, climbing gyms and skateboard retailers are finding great reception. Running, road cycling, and golfing continue to be extremely popular while the surfing culture is exploding. Adding to JMRN’s previous discussion on the emerging wellness market in Japan, younger Japan is taking its well being into its own hands, and expressing this freedom as willing consumers in the sports and outdoor markets. This is not to discount the senior market that has been traditionally focused on the health and longevity associated with outdoor activities.

Outdoor sports fashion is growing – but retains its high standards

Young Japan is also loosening the fashion rules. The trendy outdoor clothing market is particularly healthy. It’s become the norm to make fashion statements that speak to health, balance, and activity. Japanese consumers have traditionally held international sporting brands in high regard, and the market is open for competition.

International sport and outdoor brands that embrace the Japanese passion for high quality, stylish, practical fashion will want to rethink their concept for a population that is generally smaller in physical stature and more conservative by nature. A planned entrance into the Japanese sports market with the assistance of marketing experts well-rehearsed in Japanese consumerism will give entering businesses a competitive edge. Those who come to the table prepared will be able to take advantage of the Olympic catalyst to solidify brand recognition within a vibrant consumer population known for its sticky brand loyalty.

At CarterJMRN, we have over 30 years of experience working with some of the biggest sports brands in the world. Contact one of our executives for a free consultation on how you can launch your product in the Japanese market.





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Photos via Unsplash/surfing image by Suzanne Leigh

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