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With Tokyo set to host the 2020 Summer Olympics, marketers in Japan increasingly have sports on their mind. However, recent research shows Japan’s internet users are not all that enthusiastic about buying athletic-themed products or paying for sports-related media, creating an uphill challenge for sports businesses.
A September 2016 survey by market research firm Macromill that examined the sports-related consumption habits of internet users ages 15 to 69 in Japan, offers some insight into the potential to turn sports fans into paying customers. It found only around 10% or less of total respondents had spent money on sports-related media like broadcast subscriptions, paid online content or books and magazines this year.
The low enthusiasm levels seen for paying for sports media and products was paralleled by a growing disinterest in sports in general. Nearly three in 10 respondents to Macromill’s study (28.9%) said they neither enjoyed watching nor playing sports, the second most popular answer and one that was up from 26.0% in 2014.
Macromill’s is not the first study to reveal lukewarm enthusiasm for sports-related purchases among consumers in Japan. A June 2015 survey from Visa tracking the digital share of different categories of purchases by internet users ages 18 to 55 in five countries in Asia-Pacific found that sports- or adventure-related products made up a lower share of digital purchases made by respondents in Japan than among respondents elsewhere in the region.
While it’s possible that consumers in Japan are simply choosing to buy sports media and products offline instead of online, the limited demand for digital sports purchases should give the country’s sports marketers pause.
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