It pops up everywhere on social media: the sports brand Anta. It is being pushed by the Chinese state media. As the official partner and sponsor of the Winter Olympic Games, the company has provided the Chinese athletes with sportswear and sports equipment. Even the head of state Xi Jinping wore an Anta winter jacket when he visited the Olympic venues in the run-up to the event.
"Chinese brands are definitely on the rise," says a young woman in a district further out of downtown Shanghai. "We can see that in the media reports. Even the looks of the domestic brands are getting better and better. They are not what they used to be." This teenager is also convinced: "I buy Anta sports shoes. Their quality is not much different from Adidas and Nike. And their prices are lower." Converted, they cost 30 to 40 euros less.
production conditions are secondary
James Gau is a management consultant in the athletic shoe industry in China. He has worked with Adidas for more than 20 years. He sees a trend that Chinese consumers are increasingly turning to local brands. "In recent years, starting with the Li Ning brand, Chinese sports brands have become increasingly popular," says Gau. "Since last year's Xinjiang cotton scandal, Chinese brands have been pushing for market share previously held by foreign brands like Adidas and Nike. They are now working hard to capture the Chinese market."
A year and a half ago, foreign fashion and sports brands declared that they would no longer use cotton from Xinjiang because of China's human rights violations, as production could be linked to forced labor. Chinese state media then called for a boycott to stop buying foreign brands.
The Chinese brand Anta continues to rely on cotton from Xinjiang. The International Olympic Committee wants nothing to do with human rights violations. A check by a third party showed that there were no problems with forced labor with the sportswear supplied by Anta, according to a written statement.
Is the hype real?
The question is also: How much is behind the Anta hype in social media? How popular is Anta really? Away from the large Anta shop and figurehead in the city center of the international financial metropolis of Shanghai, it is not at all easy to find a shop. ARD research shows: Four other shops that were shown online on the Chinese map in other parts of the city have all moved. It is also noticeable that many in Shanghai wear foreign brands after all.
Just like the 32-year-old Ying. He wears a North Face jacket and New Balance shoes. His girlfriend is wearing an Adidas jacket and Nike shoes. "Chinese brands are not in our sights yet," says Ying. "They usually only show up in smaller Chinese cities." He himself comes from the advertising industry and sees the problem in marketing: "Brands like Nike and Adidas do more and better online marketing, which influences young people more."
Design as a decisive factor
A 29-year-old designer is also critical. "I think Chinese brands still need time," he says. "Maybe one day when China feels confident enough and everything else is at the same level, we won't see the difference in 10 to 20 years." It's like Huawei smartphones compared to iPhones, according to the young man: "The design just leaves something missing. It's about aesthetics. However, Li Ning seems to have found his own style. Anta is also strong, but not in design, I'm afraid."
Anta herself has repeatedly refused an interview with ARD. Management consultant Gau still sees Anta's main focus on the domestic market. However, the Winter Olympics could open doors to international business for Anta, he says. "The company's product range is closely linked to winter sports." The brands that Anta has bought – like ARCTERYX and Salomon – are all the world's leading snow sports brands. "With the Winter Olympics, Anta will certainly be in the limelight even more." Anta will be able to take a big step closer to the global market – Gau is sure of that.