Chinese fans welcomed the start of the new Premier League season, actively engaging with their favorite teams and players on Weibo. We took a look at the five most popular Weibo posts and the reasons why they were so popular amongst Chinese netizens.
The top five most popular posts were published from three different accounts: Manchester United, Liverpool and, surprisingly, Aston Villa. These three accounts are good models to represent the growing presence of European clubs with official accounts on Weibo. Manchester United and Liverpool have over 16 million combined followers online in China and are the top two ranked Premier League clubs from the Red Card 2015. However, Aston Villa, with only 300,000+ followers, showed their ability to compete with the top teams. So, why were their posts so popular?
Reason: Star player
The day before the opening fixture, Manchester United’s Weibo announced the official confirmation of Di Maria’s transfer to PSG. Some followers welcomed the transfer, some were sad, but the majority of responses were critical towards the player. This star player element drove engagement with fans that were discussing their opinion on the transfer.
Reason: Hot topic
Manchester United ended up winning their opening game, with many fans forgetting the transfer and discussing the players performance. The club launched an online vote for the man of the match to continue the conversation, where interestingly, Kyle Walker, who scored the own goal for Tottenham Hotspur received the most votes.
Reason: Incentive to engage
Liverpool signed seven new players over the summer, leaving many Chinese fans interested to see how these players lined up and performed in the opening game. Their Weibo account took advantage of this by encouraging followers to predict which of these would score first in the Premier League, awarding one fan that predicted correctly the new Liverpool away kit.
Reason: National pride
Meanwhile, Liverpool’s international channels launched a global campaign to collect likes from fans all over the world. A world map illustrated when and where the fans were involved, which increased a sense of involvement with the club and played on Chinese fans inherent patriotism.
Similar to Liverpool, Aston Villa launched a contest to win the new home kit by leaving a positive message for the club ahead of their first fixture. With a lower amount of followers, Aston Villa reached out to a football KOL to share the contest and increase exposure. KOLs are extremely important online in China as netizens have a high degree of trust on them to influence their opinion.
It will be interesting to see how these teams progress both on the pitch and the digital landscape as the season continues.