NO SPORT, ONLY WHISKY AND CIGARS!
If Winston Churchill and British civilisation did indeed leave a wonderful heritage to Hong Kong, its people have been nonetheless very wise to reject one of the former British Prime Minister’s foremost principles — a particular indulgence in whiskey and cigars — as a way of life. On the contrary, there has always been something of a love story between Hong Kong and sport, greatly helped by the unique juxtaposition of both seaside and mountains just a few minutes away from one of the prime financial centres in the world. Whether its hiking, surfing, rowing or sailing, among many others, the variety of sports on offer in Hong Kong ensures that its population’s life expectancy today remains the highest in the world at 84 years old.
While Romans were already advocating mens sana in sano corpore — ‘a healthy spirit in a healthy body’ — sport in the business world has undoubtedly shifted dimensions over the last two decades, moving from essentially a niche hobby to a fast-growing global industry. It has indeed succeeded in cross-fertilising with other sectors, opening new avenues for growth, following a typical ‘blue ocean’ strategy. We can see this clearly in three highly visible forms.
Sports practice is just one of the ways Asia wants to turn the Western healthcare business model upside down
The sports identity
The fashion industry has seen the emergence of the new ‘lifestyle’ segment, pioneered by Puma in the 2000s, before being copied by all the big sports industry players. Nowhere is it more evident today than in mainland China, where the naturally casual attitude of Chinese people has turned it into the number one market for many of the world’s top sports brands. This year, it is even beginning to influence the luxury goods industry where trendy sneakers are the latest battlefield in the quest to conquer Chinese millennials.
E-sports are changing the game
Meanwhile, from the 1990s the media & entertainment industry started to see the skyrocketing inflation of TV sports rights as cable TV seduced the growing army of ‘coach potatoes’ in the Western world. But, while panem et circenses (essentially, ‘keeping the masses content with ample food and entertainment’) has always been on the top of media gurus’ minds over the centuries, today, the emergence of e-sports seems to herald a new era. Already more than 11 billion e-sport video streamings took place in China in 2017, generating an estimated market of US$900 million, courtesy of viewers averaging 32 years old. While the Asian Games scheduled for 2022 in Hangzhou are already planning to introduce an official e-sports medal, property developers like New World Development are launching e-sports arenas in shopping malls, and some mainland municipalities have begun building e-sports stadiums.
Are you ‘wellthy?’
The healthcare industry is expanding into the so-called ‘wellthness’ segment, surfing on the trend of a healthier way of life, as illustrated by the roaring success of numerous yoga chains in Hong Kong. Similarly, well-being was one of the rare areas where connected devices did indeed take off, mixing sports-related data and health monitoring. One can anticipate how sports practice is just one of the ways Asia wants to turn the Western healthcare business model upside down, replacing the overpriced Western doctor-driven approach by frugal customer-centric Asian medicine.
Where Hong Kong stands
How then should Hong Kong rethink its positioning vis-à-vis this booming sports industry, expected to keep on expanding its area of influence across our lives?
Hong Kong’s banking industry should be best placed to help introduce more professionalism into the mainland’s management of sports-related entertainment and sponsorship
This issue of HongKongEcho will address this question while giving numerous examples of how sport is helping to reshape some of Hong Kong’s traditionally strong industries: ‘New retail’ endeavours will no doubt benefit from lessons drawn from the success of a sport retailer like Decathlon in its innovation and designing of new experiences in its shops. Hong Kong’s banking industry should be best placed to help introduce more professionalism into the mainland’s management of sports-related entertainment and sponsorship through the city’s shining example of Rugby Sevens.
E-sport also has its role to play in the digital revolution within the context of the ‘Greater Bay Area’, with the development of the e-sport ecosystem providing career opportunities in new areas including the testing of Virtual Reality. On this point, the proximity of Shenzhen should allow the emergence of the best connected devices to monitor a mix of sports practices.
All these should bring new opportunities to keep on celebrating Hong Kong’s long-established sporting tradition, in whichever forms it may take in the future, while still not forgetting to pay tribute to the late Winston Churchill and thus continuing to enjoy our whiskies and cigars in Lan Kwai Fong!