(Yicai Global) April 6 -- Smaller cities such as Suzhou, Nanjing, Hangzhou, Fuzhou, Dongguan, Foshan, Xiamen and Ningbo came top in many sub-categories of a survey of China's top-30 sports cities, indicating that residents of small- and medium-sized cities have more time to enjoy sports in a better environment than those living in large-sized cities.
'Sports city' refers to a city with excellent infrastructure for sporting activities, strong consumer spending on sports, local residents who care about sports and get involved in sporting activities and the overall 'sporting maturity' of the city.
We have drawn up a map of the top-30 cities as ranked by dianping.com, a restaurant rating and group buying website, and their rankings as a sports city as based on the above criteria.
Beijing and Shanghai provide us with a 'middle-class sporting guide' on sports gear expenditure as well as on less popular sports such as mountain biking and golf.
Overall, the survey shows that sports can be very simple in the cities. Most sports enthusiasts run to work or ride a bicycle. They are sensible consumers, although they will occasionally splash out on big-brand clothes. They also try alternative shopping channels such as bespoke tailor services offered on instant messaging service WeChat.
The results show that Chengdu, Chongqing, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Wuhan, Tianjin, Suzhou, Fuzhou, Dongguan, and Xiamen are the top-10 best emerging new first-tier sports cities in China.
A sports city should offer a fully-developed sporting infrastructure for local residents. Our assessment was based on the four factors of park density, number of gyms per capita, air quality index and the number of major sports venues.
Park density is a top criterion on the list. Shenzhen came top of this category. It boasts beautiful mountains and beaches and has 23 parks for every 100 square kilometers. Foshan and Dongguan, both located close to Shenzhen, have 11 parks for every 100 square kilometers, and also performed well in this category.
Sports Goods Consumption
The number of brick-and-mortar stores of sports brands has become an indicator for evaluating a city's ability to consume sports goods. Though Beijing and Shanghai have the largest number of branded sports stores, stores opened at a faster rate in emerging new first-tier cities than the original first-tier cities of Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou.
The difference in sports consumption between cities of different sizes is diminishing quickly. Running-related goods doubled at all Decathlon outlets, a French sporting goods retailer, in the second-tier city of Wuxi during the Wuxi Taihu Lake marathon held in March.
Japanese athletic brand Asics opened its first flagship store in China in July, citing that "China sales have seen nearly 200 percent annual growth over the past three years." This is despite losing more than JPY1 billion (USD9.6 million) in the first three years after it entered China in 2007.
Nearly 40 percent of people aged 20 or above have spent money on sports and 94 percent of them have bought sportswear, according to the 2014 Investigation Report on National Fitness released by the General Administration of Sport.
Chongqing, Wuhan, Shijiazhuang and Changsha were among the top cities in terms of customer traffic growth and store expansion last year, giving sports brands reasons to be upbeat about the considerable consumption power and potential in China's emerging new first-tier cities.
Attention to Sports
Soccer and basketball are the two most popular mainstream sports. Cities with professional teams have better match-viewing indicators. Soccer matches receive the most attention in the cities of Guangzhou, Shanghai, Beijing, Nanjing and Hangzhou which each have one or two teams playing in the Chinese Super League. Similarly with basketball: Shenzhen, Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chongqing all have their own Chinese Basketball Association teams.
First-tier cities boast more diversified match resources, thanks to sophisticated sports facilities. The degree of diversity of information at official government websites also affects the rankings to some extent.
Running, walking and biking are the three top sports. Kunming clocked the longest single biking distance of 23.9 kilometers. The walking goal realization rate was 103 percent in Kunming. Its average running distance per person ranked second with 106.47 kilometers.
Sports can define a whole new city map, taking you to discover the Hankou river bank in Wuhan, Kunming's Lake Dian, Xi'an's wall route, Xiamen's Huandao Road, Wuxi's Tai Lake and Chengdu's Huanhua brook.
With the exception of Shanghai which ranks 7th, no other first-tier cities made the top ten.
Beijing and Shanghai residents mainly exercise to "ease anxiety" or "relieve work pressure." However, in small- and medium-sized cities people mainly exercise "for fun" or for no specific reason at all. A Xi'an resident said that the reason why local people walk such long distances each day is because, "People here eat a lot, so they want to digest the food."
The social aspect of sports in big cities may be stronger. People in first-tier cities participate more in KEEP, a fitness app with social functions. Perhaps because of their busy jobs or the poor outdoor environment, people in these cities are more willing to do indoor exercises in their spare time.
Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou residents spent the most time in training both in high-intensity interval training courses and one-time training courses.
People living in the emerging new first- and second-tier cities have better sports participation than those in first-tier cities.
Chengdu, Foshan, and Kunming offer the most options for its residents in terms niche sports items such as climbing gyms, archery gyms, equestrian sites and squash gyms.
Half of Shenzhen's sports venues are accessible with a ten-minute walk, making it the most convenient city for sports.
The State Council has required '15 minute' exercise circles in urban communities. However, several cities such as Changzhou and Suzhou have achieved ten-minute exercise and nearby exercise venues could be easily found online.
First-tier sporting brands such as Nike and Adidas are more popular on the whole though differences can be found from city to city.