Cashing in on sports

Joining the race: Mass participation sporting events are gaining traction. For example, the PJ Half Marathon 2019 saw 10,000 runners taking part.

AS an emerging country in the sporting arena, it is no surprise that the top sporting events in Malaysia are globally-recognised sports like football, hockey and badminton.

With economic advancement, a larger portion of the population is earning better incomes and is taking up recreational sports due to increasing interest in health and fitness.

But some of the sporting avenues that have amassed greater interest among the public over the past few years have been the mass participation sporting events. Since the mid-2010s, such events, marathons in particular, have taken Malaysia by storm, says MYS Ultron Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Marc Chua. And given the current healthy lifestyle trend, this interest is only set to grow.

“You would be surprised to learn that small town sports or community events can have participants numbering a few thousand strong, ” shares Chua.

This means the local market in second-tier towns is indeed large enough for local athleisure players to grow, he adds.Getting attention: Chua says sports marketing is gaining ground here as more sportswear companies try to capture a wider audience.Getting attention: Chua says sports marketing is gaining ground here as more sportswear companies try to capture a wider audience.

For example, the Kedah state government has targeted 324,555 participants in more than 1,000 sports events held throughout the state. In Tawau, Sabah, about 2,000 participants celebrated the district level National Sports Month earlier this year.

Having all these participants eager to be a part of numerous sporting events also means an increasing number of people who would be looking to spend on sports and health-related products. As it is, more and more consumers are buying fancy fitness wearables like Fitbit to track the number of steps they’ve taken and whether they are getting enough sleep each day.

While there is a lot of potential for local sportswear makers, one of the biggest threats faced by them is the competition from foreign brands. Notably, the foreign brands have spent many years establishing a strong presence here and they carry a wide range of products.

However, chua remarks that some local brands have been garnering a strong following and are ready to take on these international brands.

“These are not just the ones who have brought in the replica jerseys that some of us might have bought that came to us across the Thailand-Malaysia border, but the real local brands that are taking on the well-known foreign retailers like Decathlon, a French-based retailer, and Sports Direct, another big UK retailer.

“This should be seen as a market validation that Malaysia is another fantastic opportunity for which the foreign guys would travel all the way here to set up shop, ” he says.

At the moment, one of the largest local sportswear retailers Al-Ikhsan is said to have close to 36% market share in the multi-brand sports retail industry with products ranging from sports equipment, apparel and footwear. The chain has slightly over 100 outlets in Malaysia.

Local news reports estimate that branded sportswear retail will reach RM2bil by 2020. In neighbouring countries like Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand, the market is expected to grow over the RM13bil mark during the same period.

What is also fuelling growth for the industry is the heightened focus on advertising and promotions.

“Sports marketing is also fast gaining ground in Malaysia as more sportswear companies embark on sporting events to push and capture a wider audience of fans for their brands, ” says Chua.

More good news seem to be in store for the sporting industry as the government has made it clear that sporting events can be an important platform to unify the nation. Under Budget 2020, some RM299mil have been allocated for sports programmes as well as to fix and recover existing infrastructure.

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