The Negotiation

In this episode of The Negotiation, we speak with Craig Smith, CEO of Burton Snowboards China. With the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing right around the corner, we continue our look at snow sports in China, this time through the lens of the sport of snowboarding and a discussion with the person heading up the most famous brand name in the sport, Burton. We talk about the snow sports culture in China and compare it to that of Japan, and compare the clientele makeup of the Chinese consumer with those in the West. We talk about how Burton markets and localizes snow sports in China, and how Burton focuses on marketing it as a lifestyle in China. We talk about how retail has evolved in China and how Burton has adapted, and a broader look at how brands should set goals and strategize for market entry into China. We wrap up our conversation discussing what the impact of the Winter Olympics in China will have on Burton’s China operations. Enjoy!

Show Notes

Topics Discussed and Key Points:
●      Snowsports culture in China versus Japan
●      Consumers in China’s snowsports industry versus the West’s
●      How Burton markets and localizes snowsports in China
●      Marketing snowsports as a lifestyle in China
●      The evolution of retail in China and how Burton has adapted
●      How to set goals and strategize for a market entry into China
●      The impact of the 2022 Winter Olympics on Burton China
Episode Summary:
Today on The Negotiation, we speak with Craig Smith, CEO of Burton Snowboards China. Founded in 2013 in Beijing, Burton China has grown to over 40 dealerships nationwide and seven premium partner resorts.
Craig started with Burton at their Tokyo office two decades prior. Regarding snowsports, Craig says that “the cultural differences in China and Japan are numerous.” One major example is Japan’s strict attention to detail as compared to China’s spontaneity and love for adventure.
Likewise, consumers in the Chinese snowsports industry differ considerably from those of the Americas and Europe. For one thing, snowsports only began to explode in popularity in 2016. Also, Chinese consumers generally make most of their buying decisions based on the Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) they follow, whereas consumers in the West—particularly with regard to the sports industry—refer to magazines for the information they need.
Asked about how Burton goes about their marketing snowboarding in China, Craig says that education and painting a vivid picture of the lifestyle around snowsports rather than the products and facilities themselves is key to winning consumers’ hearts. In Burton’s own words, “We’re bringing the spirit of snowboarding to the consumer 365 days a year.”
Craig goes on to offer his advice to foreign companies looking to enter the Chinese market, which includes doing deep research on the cultural nuances of the market and your ideal customer, finding a local partner to help you navigate government regulations, and being prepared to move at China speed.
Finally, Craig speaks on Burton’s plans for the 2022 Winter Olympics and how they aim to be a player in the Chinese government’s goal to create “300 million snowsports enthusiasts” in the country.
Key Quotes:
“Chinese consumers are in a very different stage of development in the snowsports industry compared to consumers in the Americas and in Europe, just because snowsports are so new—snowsports really only took off in 2016.”
“The most important focus for Burton China is sharing the fun of the lifestyle around snowboarding.”
“My suggestion for companies looking to enter the Chinese market is: Learn about the market first and foremost. Learn about the consumer. Learn their wants—what motivates them to engage with a brand. That takes time, and that takes a lot of patience.”
“In China, government relations are extremely important. It’s difficult for foreign companies to come in and build government relations, and that’s where a local partner certainly can help.”

What is The Negotiation?

Despite being the world’s most potent economic area, Asia can be one of the most challenging regions to navigate and manage well for foreign brands. However, plenty of positive stories exist and more are emerging every day as brands start to see success in engaging and deploying appropriate market growth strategies – with the help of specialists.

The Negotiation is an interview show that showcases those hard-to-find success stories and chats with the incredible leaders behind them, teasing out the nuances and digging into the details that can make market growth in APAC a winning proposition.