Trendy sports becoming big business as flying discs see soaring sales

The activity is a high-energy, cooperative team sport that combines elements of various competitive contests like football and basketball.


Flying disc fans play a mixed match at a campsite in Hefei, Anhui province, on July 30, 2022. RUAN XUEFENG/FOR CHINA DAILY

May 2, 2023

The Chinese sports market is seen by experts as a rapidly evolving space, especially after the country optimized its COVID-19 control measures, with a myriad of emerging games gaining traction and established ones finding new adherents. This ever-shifting landscape presents exciting opportunities for investors and enthusiasts alike.

One of the sports gaining momentum is ultimate flying disc — more commonly known by the product’s brand name, Frisbee. The activity is a high-energy, cooperative team sport that combines elements of various competitive contests like football and basketball.

“The game is normally played by two teams. By cooperating with teammates, players who catch the flying disc in designated areas can score for their team,” said a 22-year-old fan Yolanda Li.

Li has been into the sport for a year. It started when she met a group of flying disc fans in her Beijing residential community. “Before we went the ultimate way, it had become a popular game in our community and enjoyed by many. And when enthusiasts mingled, the ultimate flying disc game was on,” she said, adding that it’s actually suitable for coed competition, as physical contact is not allowed.

Boasting advantages like few limitations for game venues and easy-to-understand rules, the sport has triggered a craze spreading fast across cities nationwide.

According to Yikun Sports Co Ltd, a leading flying disc manufacturer in Ningbo, Zhejiang province, sales of the sports “equipment” in 2022 soared 450.77 percent year-on-year, reflecting the soaring popularity of the activity in the country.

Eyeing opportunities brought by sizzling new sports, social platforms nationwide have taken active steps to tap the market. Xiaohongshu, a lifestyle opinion-sharing social platform in China, established ties with the country’s sports administration, and launched the National Ultimate Frisbee League last year.

According to the event plan released by the administration on its website, the new league will host a national competition this month, but the host city has yet to be named.

Apart from flying discs, skateboarding as a new pastime has emerged as a favorite hobby among Chinese sports enthusiasts, especially among Generation Z — those born in the mid- and late 1990s and into the 2000s.

In parks and squares across China, young daredevils can be spotted balancing atop long skateboards, moving their bodies as if surfing the waves. According to Jing Daily, an online business information aggregator, over the past two years, more than 6 million people nationwide have taken to skateboarding.

Xiaohongshu searches for “land surfing” revealed a significant rise in the first half of 2022, with the number rocketing 232 percent year-on-year. The number recorded an astonishing high in May — an increase of 460 percent year-on-year.

“From flying discs and flag football to hiking, cycling and now pickleball, there are obvious commonalities among such sporting activities, which include low entry thresholds, ease of participation and strong social attributes,” said Bai Yufei, a business professor at Beijing Sport University.

“Therefore, driven by intensive commercial marketing, celebrity promotion and online advertising for trendy content, it is easy for many people, especially the younger generation, to follow suit,” Bai said.

The professor’s words are well reflected by enthusiasts’ current attraction to such kinds of nontraditional sporting activities.

“By taking photos and videos while engaging in trendy sports, I can create a cool and distinctive image on social media. Sometimes even before I start skateboarding, netizens will rush into my livestreaming room to watch me put on my gear and ask questions on equipment and other issues,” said Ji Xiaoxue, a 26-year-old skateboarding enthusiast in Zibo, Shandong province.

Such trendy attributes, however, also mean that some participants may not maintain their zeal for certain sports over an appreciable period, as the social motivations can actually be easily replaced by other trendy sport undertakings, experts said.

To this end, Bai said, it is necessary to do a good job in terms of support and guidance, make full use of various tools, and provide professional support to relevant institutions to ensure healthy development of various sports, and ensure better services to retain long-lasting popularity and enthusiasm among practitioners.

In addition, the government should also strengthen supervision over training institutions and clubs in terms of operations and coaching qualifications to avoid damage to the sector’s integrity, observers said.

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