160over90’s APAC leadership team has penned their predictions on which marketing shifts are set to impact the region in 2023 – Ranging from the boom of sports series, and the rise of the digital participation era, to mainstreaming genuinfluencers.

Trend 1. Gavin Hadley, Vice President, 160/90 Hong KongESG Vanity Projects Under Spotlight

Trend 2. Lucas Barclay, General Manager, 160/90 AustraliaSports TV Series Become a Primary Driver of Sports Fandom

Trend 3. Yi Ji, Senior Director, 160/90 ChinaWhisky & Baijiu Brands Compete for China’s Females and Millennials

Trend 4. Edoardo Lipari, Director, 160/90 SingaporeThe Rise of the Digital Participation Era

Trend 5: Domina Ball, Strategy Director, 160/90 Hong KongMainstreaming Genuinfluencers in APAC

Trend 6: Joe Pattison, Head of Strategy, 160/90 SingaporeIncreasing Connectivity, Increasing Opportunity


1: ESG Vanity Projects Under Spotlight 

While environmentally-conscious consumer values are burgeoning (a recent regional Bain survey found that 9 out of 10 are willing to pay for reduced environmental impact), brands in APAC are becoming more communicative on sustainability. But, skepticism and mistrust over greenwashing have hurt consumer sentiment. 

84% of respondents to Kantar Asia sustainability surveys said they have seen misleading information about sustainable action by companies, and 54% said they have stopped buying products and services from brands that negatively impact the environment. We are firmly into the ‘decisive decade’ and the brand risk of not following a path to sustainability is material.

In 2023, sentiment in APAC will continue to swell, and consumers will reward transparent marketing that demonstrates action on ESG goals while opting against brands that underdeliver and greenwash. The brands who ‘win’ the most will be brands that consider consumers as stakeholders as well as customers. 


2: Sports TV Series Become a Primary Driver of Sports Fandom

Nearly 39% of global fans watch non-live content related to a live sports event. Furthermore, global fans aged 16-29 are 11% more likely than global fans outside of that bracket to watch non-live content that is related to a live sports event. 

These statistics belie the true power of sports TV series to drive sports fandom. By turning entertainment into marketing, a material positive impact can be made on the audiences for sports, teams, and sports talent worldwide. Many will be familiar with F1 successes from Drive To Survive, where the average TV audience in the US has almost doubled between 2018 and 2021, social media engagement has soared 99% YOY to 810 million, and it has become the fastest-growing sports property across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Tiktok, Snapchat, Twitch, and Chinese social platforms. Importantly, over 75% of Formula One’s audience growth came from those aged between 16 and 35, a key demographic for broadcasting and advertising partners. 

F1 is not alone though, and you should expect to see more programming that takes in-depth looks at sports in 2023. Already in production and post-production are projects from Amazon (Cricket) and Netflix (Tennis) that are sure to bring new fans into each sport and drive popularity and intrigue across sought-after demographics. Not only does this activity serve to grow audiences, but it also provides opportunities to generate higher revenues for existing business models, as well as uncover new ways to monetise sport.

Watch out for major US sports leagues and clubs making a name for themselves and driving fan growth in APAC by developing locally relevant sports series programming in 2023.


3: Whisky & Baijiu Brands Compete for China’s Females and Millennials

China is the world’s largest spirits market, and with Baijiu accounting for more than 99% of the spirit consumption in 2021, this local drink has always dominated the spirits market. 

The whisky market in China has been rapidly growing since 2017, with the market volume reported to have reached RMB 3.63 billion (US$520 million) in 2020. According to the 2021 China Whisky Annual White Paper, released by Baiping, nearly 47% of the Whiskey drinkers in China are Gen-Z consumers. To capture greater market share in China, the two global liquor giants, Pernod Ricard, and Diageo, have successively invested hundreds of millions of dollars in their first whisky distilleries in China.

Traditionally, Whisky drinkers are male and between 35-50 years old. But with the rising share of e-commerce platforms, we’ve seen a tremendous increase in Gen Z and female consumers. They do not share the older generation’s drinking culture and advocate the concept of moderation and are also keen to buy spirits online for an occasional drink at home.

In 2023, we expect whisky and baijiu brands to invest more in China, specifically targeting the female and millennial demographics. 


4: Rise of the Digital Participation Era

The rise of Facebook and Instagram enabled us to tap into something fundamental to our make-up as humans – we want to share and be part of a community. FB and IG were built around largely pointless status updates and endless pictures of food, sharing micro snapshots of our lives (or the lives we wished we lived). 

With TikTok’s emergence, sharing was no longer enough – TikTok was the platform that enabled us to create. The shift was profound amongst Gen Z, who have a formidable desire to express themselves through new forms of content. What was once a photo of one’s Sunday breakfast became a ‘get ready with me 15-second video.

The pandemic and growing hype around the Metaverse have meant things are changing again. Sharing and creating are being supplemented by participating in digital worlds. What’s different this time is that brands are leaning in. Brands have always followed consumers on FB, IG, and TikTok, but now this dynamic is changing. Where once brands engaged consumers in the retail environment or in one-way dialogue online, we are seeing community-led factions of consumers in APAC collaborating with brands, with consumers evolving from onlookers to decision-makers. 

With its ‘Go Madbury’ campaign, Cadbury matured a campaign in India asking its consumers to invent their variant of the famous chocolate bar using local ingredients. In Singapore, a TikTok video by influencer Zaki Hussain suggesting adding a few additional ingredients to elevate the Classic Zinger Burger became an actual limited edition Zhng Zinger Burger sold at local KFC restaurants. And of course, the same is happening in the ultimate expression of the digital participation era: the Metaverse. 

In particular, the rise of Gamefi among Gen Z in Asia has caught the attention of service providers, including banks creating ‘virtual branches’. Among those who have been first to set up virtual storefronts are HSBC and Thailand’s Siam Commercial Bank, which purchased land in The Sandbox to sell banking products to a new breed of digitally-native consumers.

In 2023, the participation era will likely see continuous growth across APAC. More than 44% of users aged 18 to 34 in the region are motivated by their favourite brand online the most when they feel ‘involved’ – more than any other region globally. A shift in the definition of social media “engagement” itself will likely follow, as local audiences increasingly expect to become active contributors in the activity of brands and their creations. Ultimately, this inclusive and immersive phase of digital will give rise to a co-creation economy where brands daring to empower consumers can significantly grow their core audience and proportionally drive commercial revenue.


5: Mainstreaming Genuinfluencers in APAC

A favourite moment in the world of brand partnerships this year came when Gucci x North Face collaborated with amateur train enthusiast Francis Bourgeois. (For those unfamiliar, Bourgeois rose to fame on TikTok by attaching a GoPro to his forehead and filming his unbridled joy as trains whizzed by).

Bourgeois’ engagement reflects a wider trend of brands leaning into Genuinfluencers – a class of social media personalities more interested in sharing their interests and presenting their authentic selves than they are in sponsored content. 

The rise of the ‘Genuinfluencer’ happens at a time when platforms have evolved algorithms to prioritise relevant content over and above content from traditional influencers with mass followings. With algorithms on their side, authenticity has become the most vital currency these new influencers have.

In 2023, brands in APAC will lean into Genuinfluencers in a big way. Not only because traditional influencers are losing their share of voice, but also because Genuinfluencers transfer their authenticity to partner brands in a way few marketing channels can. Their reach might not be as wide, but they’ll certainly say more about brand values and have the bonus of coming with trusting, dedicated audiences.


6: Increasing Connectivity, Increasing Opportunity

Until recently, APAC was a region less connected, with mobile connectivity generally lower in the region than in the West. According to Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA) Intelligence, only 44% of APAC currently use mobile internet services. While this varies depending on the APAC region (South Asia has a significantly lower proportion of connected users than East Asia), the overall figures lag behind Western Europe, North America, LATAM, and the Middle East.

There are two key variables impacting this lack of connectivity. Firstly, some APAC markets have struggled with launching the infrastructure changes required, with 10 markets across APAC, mostly in South Asia, yet to launch significant 5G programmes – impacted also by the pandemic. The other is affordability, as the cost of smartphones and ongoing data usage are often too expensive for a vast proportion of the APAC population.

This impacts brands and their abilities to reach new markets, as a lack of mobile connectivity limits the complexity of media that can be consumed outside of the home, giving less opportunity for brands to interact fully with audiences in some parts of the region.

2023 and beyond will see significant improvements in this space. From 2021, we’ve already seen significant improvements – APAC had the biggest increase in mobile internet adoption, accounting for 64% of new mobile subscribers globally (GSMA Intelligence). We are seeing the impact of this in changing media habits – this year, APAC became the first global region to spend more time on Online TV/Streaming than Linear TV (Global Web Index, 2022).

Through significant infrastructure investment, reducing costs, and anticipated GDP increases across APAC markets, we expect to see a much higher proportion of the region connected with 4G/5G services. By 2025, there could be as many as 3.7 billion consumers connected to 4G or 5G services (Dataxis, 2022). This rapid connected growth, combined with anticipated GDP increases, will give brands new opportunities in the APAC region.


About 160over90

160over90 is a full-service cultural marketing agency. An integrated part of the Endeavor network, which includes entertainment agency WME and sports, fashion and events leader IMG, 160over90’s cultural insight, access and influence helps brands stay connected to what their consumers care about most. With offices in seven countries around the world, 160over90’s expertise spans experiential, creative, public relations, digital, social, impact, influence, higher education and more. www.160over90.com