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The World Cup’s official presence in China, across both social media and their own website, is almost nonexistent. There is neither a ‘FIFA’ or ‘Official World Cup’ account on any of the key social networks in China. Without a presence on platforms like Weibo and WeChat, Chinese fans may turn to the official website, but even there they would not find a Chinese language option.
Offering language services from English to Arabic, but excluding a functioning Chinese option, the World Cup has done virtually nothing to tap into the expansive fan base in China who follow international clubs and players. This could be in part due to the Chinese international team’s lack of success on the international playing field, having only achieved a measure of success in more local competitions such as the East Asian Cup.
Even though the Chinese national football team only qualified once for the FIFA World Cup in 2002, there is still immense interest in event and international football scene. Considering the large potential market of viewers, it’s surprising that FIFA World Cup doesn’t have an official Chinese presence.
The different national teams also have not expressed much of an interest in having a digital presence in China. Out of thirty-two 2014 World Cup qualified national teams, only two- England and Germany- have an official Weibo account. With 2.5 million fans between the two teams, it is clear that Chinese social media users are interested in the sport in general, not just the individual leagues, wanting to support their favorite athletes as they take on the World Cup.
Even though both Germany and England joined Weibo only fairly recently (Germany, May 2012, England, April 2013), judging by their enormous following, it is obvious that interest in the international teams has accelerated quickly. Their large following, acquired during the interim of the 2010 and 2014 World Cups, indicates the potential scale of growth available to other teams who have not yet tapped into the popularity of Weibo. Undoubtedly, content provided by official pages during the World Cup would propel any official pages popularity and engagement.
Simply put, these statistics illustrate that even before a large competition, there is interest in national teams on Chinese social media, so it’s a no-brainer for any teams or official accounts associated with the event to join Weibo before the 2014 FIFA World Cup begins. By launching before the tournament, you provide a chance for a following to build before on-the-field action begins, as well as having a presence in China while engagement and interest is at its peak.
Despite the lack of an official World Cup presence, the event is widely discussed on Chinese social media. The term, “FIFA World Cup,” has accumulated over 230,000 mentions in the last 30 days, signifying how enthusiastic fans are about the event.
And their enthusiasm extends beyond just the event itself: teams who don’t have an official account are still discussed. Despite the fact that they don’t have official account, defending champion Spain had over 33,000 mentions and this years World Cup host, Brazil, had over 58,000 mentions, indicating that the interest is present already.
The lack of attentiveness is such that some Chinese netizens have taken it upon themselves to provide information to the enthralled fans instead of waiting for an official presence.
The creation of many fan accounts, both relating to the 2014 World Cup and the teams involved, are quickly gaining a following as the tournament draws closer and fans yearn for information. With the 5 largest World Cup fan pages boasting a following of over 2 million, not much more can be done to set the stage for a grand entrance by the World Cup and its associated national teams.
Even 9 of FIFA’s partners and World Cup sponsors (out of a possible 14) have official Weibo accounts, emphasizing just how important it is when developing your presence in China.
With some national teams already on board, the majority of FIFA’s partners and sponsors established on Weibo, and the discussion and engagement ready and waiting, the only thing left is the creation of an official FIFA World Cup account.
It’s time for the World Cup and Chinese social media to move forward, together, all in one rhythm.