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Road races see brands targetting Taiwan's sporty middle class

With a virtual mania for road races sweeping Taiwan, sales of stylish, sporty goods have boomed, while many brands have taken the opportunity to sponsor some of the more high-profile events hitting the streets of Taipei and beyond.

Photo: The Colour Run: Taipei’s multi-hued marathon. (Xinhua News Agency)
The Colour Run: Taipei's multi-hued marathon.

With Taiwan currently in the midst of a virtual road-race mania, considerable opportunities are emerging for those brands in the sport clothing, accessories and energy drink sectors. The size, scope and frequency of these events are also proving an irresistible lure for companies looking to target the territory's affluent middle class through a range of sponsorship opportunities.

In 2013, Taiwan hosted over 200 road race events, with The Colour Run – a 5 km road race held last September – among the most high-profile events in the sector. The Colour Run, originally a US initiative, arrived in Taiwan in response to the enthusiasm of the island's inhabitants and immediately stood out among the many domestically-inspired events.

Billing itself as the "Happiest 5km on the Planet – The Colour Run", the event has already proved hugely popular across North America. The event – as its name suggests – distinguishes itself from other races through its innovative use of colour at various stages of the run. In Taiwan, four different colour zones were established by sponsors at various points along the running route.

As the runners pass through each designated zones, they are sprayed with a coloured powder. Once all four zones have been negotiated, this leads to a series of brightly-hued competitors crossing the finishing lines. The powder is, of course, completely non-toxic and is made, following strict guidelines, from coloured cornstarch.

Another highly individual contribution to the long-running craze came courtesy of last October's Light Run – an all-night marathon along an illuminated route. In order to facilitate their nocturnal progresses, all of the participants were issued with glow sticks and night-vision glasses. Additionally, a number of other themed events – such as Zombie runs and Superman runs – have also drawn considerable crowds.

The events have proved hugely popular with both participants and spectators, with many attracted by their healthy and fun aspects. Almost every such event is said to draw more than 10,000 participants, with many would-be runners turned away due to restrictions on race sizes. The upshot has been a clear boost for Taiwan's sporting goods sector.

Photo: On the run: Nike.
On the run: Nike.

Many of the young consumers drawn to these events are attracted as much by the stylish nature of sporting goods as by their functionality. As a result, it is not uncommon to see eye-catching window displays of many road race-related products, notably running shoes, sports wristbands and jogging apparel. In order to capitalise on this current craze, Nike has opened a flagship Taipei store specialising in running products.

Sylvia Yeh, Taiwan Office

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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