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  • Writer's pictureDenis Green

A year like no other: the biggest stories from China's sports industry in 2020

Hello Industry Friends.

From everyone at Mailman Group, we’d like to wish you all a Happy New Year and all the best for the year ahead.

Following an extraordinary 12 months, this week’s edition looks back at the defining deals, partnerships, events, and moments which had the biggest impact on China’s sports industry in 2020.

Broadcast Deals

The EPL and PP Sports Broke Up, Tencent Stepped In

The English Premier League (EPL) terminated its 3-year, $700M+ deal with Suning-owned PP Sports two years early following disagreements on a price restructuring after COVID-19 caused the postponement of games. Following the break up, and with only weeks to go until the start of the season, the EPL opted for Tencent Sports at a fraction of the cost of the previous contract with PP Sports. Lucky Tencent. Read more on BBC (English) and Lanxiong Sports (Chinese)

CCTV and China Mobile Partnered, Migu Won Showpiece Events

The upcoming Tokyo Olympics, FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, EURO 2020, and Beijing Winter Olympics will all be broadcast on China Mobile's digital broadcast platform, Migu, as part of the 2-year deal with CCTV. Alongside these showpiece tournaments, the deal also includes rights to TV shows, entertainment content, music shows and much more. Reports estimate the deal at RMB 6B (around US$900M). Read more on SportsPro (English) and Jiemian (Chinese)

CBA & Migu Announced Comprehensive Partnership Worth RMB 2B

Migu, a subsidiary of telecoms provider China Mobile, signed a five-year wide-ranging agreement with the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA). The deal includes exclusive IPTV rights, non-exclusive streaming rights, and an Official Partner title, while both sides will work together on the development of 5G technology to elevate the digital product of the league. The agreement is reportedly worth around US$283M. Read more on China Daily (English) and Sina (Chinese)

NFL Launched First Ever Subscription Pass on Tencent

Ahead of the new season, the National Football League (NFL) launched its first ever subscription package on Tencent Sports, featuring all games – live, condensed and via Redzone, NFL selected original programming, as well as Chinese & English commentary. A significant step in NFL's content and product journey in China. Read more on SportsPro Tencent Sports (Chinese)

Bilibili Banked US$113M on League of Legends Exclusive Rights Deal

The online entertainment platform secured the Chinese broadcast rights to all League of Legends (LoL) global events, including the World Championship, through to the end of the series’ 2023 mid-season invitational. The deal includes production of non-live content, including documentaries. Bilibili will, in addition, produce live and video on demand (VOD) content for Riot Games’ LoL esports platforms in China. Read more on SportsPro (English) and Sohu (Chinese)


The Chinese Olympic Committee & The Ultimate Fighting Championship The UFC accomplished here what every other international sports organisation wants - a government tie-up. What’s the secret? Investment, patience, dedication, determination, relationships, a local team, and so on. This could well be the partnership of the year. The UFC will serve as the Official High Performance Advisor to the Chinese Olympic Committee through a variety of high performance physical and rehabilitation services to Chinese athletes. Read more on SCMP (English) and CCTV (Chinese)

MLB and China Baseball Association Cooperated for First Pitch Clinic

The MLB First Pitch Clinic officially launched in Shanghai, co-hosted by Major League Baseball (MLB), Shanghai Putuo District Education Bureau and Shanghai Putuo District Sports Bureau. At the event, the China Baseball Association and MLB reached an agreement which will see the two parties work together to bring First Pitch Clinic to more regions across the country. Read more on Xinhua (Chinese)

LaLiga Signed Joint Venture with Super Sports Media & Mediapro Agency

The three parties will work closely with the aim to provide more resources and grow the commercial activity in China for the Spanish league. The agreement establishes the Spanish Football Commercial & Marketing Company (SFCM) for an initial 15 years. Read more on LaLiga (English) and Ecosports (Chinese)

Chelsea FC Became First Premier League Club to Partner with Weibo

The fastest-growing football club on Weibo last season cemented its relationship with the platform through committing to an official strategic partnership. Chelsea will focus further on new and exclusive original China-specific content, which Chelsea will share with their fans on Weibo on a daily basis. Read more on SportsPro (English) and Sina (Chinese)

PSG Announced Global Partnership with Hisense

The French Ligue 1 champions signed the multi-year sponsorship deal with Chinese consumer electronics and home appliances company Hisense, with the club actively strengthening its foothold in the Chinese market. PSG signed a partnership with China’s biggest insurance company PingAn in 2019, and now the Hisense tie-up emphasises their brand power even further in the country. Read more on SportBusiness (English) and China Daily (Chinese)

Cristiano Ronaldo Partnered with Kuaishou

This record-breaking launch gave the Tencent-backed app an even stronger positioning in a highly competitive short form video space. As part of the partnership, Kuaishou becomes Ronaldo’s ‘exclusive short form Chinese video partner’ in China. Read more on SportBusiness (English) China News (Chinese)


LoL World Championships in Shanghai - the biggest live sports event of 2020 The first major live event in China post COVID-19 to have fans in the stadium. 3.2M applications for just 6.3K tickets to watch the Final live at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai. A smoothly-run event from start to finish with minimal hiccups. One of the few positives from a heavy-hit live events industry. Read more on Invenglobal (English) and Sohu (Chinese)

Tencent’s Huya & DouYu Merger Created Biggest Esports Monopoly Huya, one of the most popular Chinese live-streaming platforms, agreed to buy rival streaming platform DouYu in a stock-for-stock merger deal. Tech behemoth Tencent, Huya’s biggest shareholder which also owns over a third of DouYu, has been crafting out this deal for some time. The companies combined give a market share of more than 80% in China. Read more on CNBC (English) and Xinhua (Chinese)

VSPN Raised $100M in Tencent-Led Round-B Financing

The Chinese esports solutions provider VSPN (Versus Programming Network), which is involved in arranging around 70% of China's esports tournaments, raised in the region of USD$100M in its Series-B round funding led by tech giant Tencent Holdings. Other investments came from Tiantu Capital, SIG (Susquehanna International Group), and the popular digital platform Kuaishou. VSPN intends to use the investment to upgrade its esports products, continue building a diverse esports ecosystem, and expand reach. Read more on Esports Observer (English) and Ifeng (Chinese)

Esports Included in 2022 Asian Games

Esports has been approved for inclusion in the Asian Games in Hangzhou in 2022, the Olympic Council of Asia announced. Hangzhou 2022 will be the 19th edition of the Asian Games and will take place from September 10 to 25. This is the first time gaming has been recognised as a sport in a top continental multi-sport event like the Asian Games. Read more on CGTN (English) and Tencent (Chinese)

Fan Engagement

The NHL’s Fan Leaders Programme Rewarded Commitment The National Hockey League (NHL), the world’s premier hockey league based in North America, officially launched its exclusive Fan Leaders Program in China to further its commitment to the market while focusing on the sport at all levels. The NHL recruited Fan Leaders to act as content creators and ambassadors for the league as it continues to focus on providing more original and entertaining content to its fans in China. Read more on SportBusiness (English) and Beijing Daily (Chinese)

BVB’s Last Minute Pivot to Virtual Fan Party Set the Tone The Bundesliga side reacted quickly to the last-minute cancellation of the Revierderby Vs Schalke 04, turning the planned live viewing party into a first-of-a-kind ‘virtual fan party’ in China on Weibo. 2.9M total views, 110K at its peak, 12 partners incorporated, and positive fan reactions across the board. Read more on SportsPro (English) and Sina Sports (Chinese)

Juventus United China Fans with Game Show Reaching 11.2M Viewership

The Serie A giant, which has 37 Official Fan Clubs in China - the club’s most outside of Italy - delivered a two-hour livestream event incorporating its J-Squad, Fan Clubs, partners, and wider fan groups across the country. The Game Show proved successful and has become the club’s most popular live content ever in China. Read more on SportsPro (English) and Xinhua (Chinese)

China Power

Zhang Weili Retained UFC Title in Vegas

China’s golden girl Zhang Weili delighted her nation by defending the strawweight title at UFC 248 in Las Vegas against Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Going the 5-round distance, both athletes received huge credit in what will surely go down as a fight fit for the Hall of Fame. Her victory was the talk of the nation that month taking over all social conversations, media headlines, and trending topic lists. Read more on ESPN (English) and Xinhua News (Chinese)

Jackson He Became First Chinese-Born Player in the FBS

Arizona State University’s Jackson He (He Peizhang) became the only Chinese-born player competing at that level of American football, playing in the FBS league. 22-year-old Jackson only started playing American Football at the age of 17 when he arrived in America from Guangdong. Read more on SCMP (English) and NFL (Chinese)

Corporate Social Responsibility

NBA Cares Launched Charity Live Stream to Support Kids in Sichuan Liangshan

The first-ever charity live stream on NBA’s Tmall Store helped raise money to provide basketball equipment and supplies for kids from Sichuan Liangshan. Famous basketball commentator Su Qun and Slam Dunk Champion Yi Jinhong presented the show, while sales from the store between 10am to 10pm on September 9, totalling over RMB 500K, were contributed towards the NBA Cares projects and training camps in Liangshan. Read more on NBA WeChat (Chinese) and check out the video here

Borussia Mönchengladbach Donated 1000 Jerseys in CSR Project

The Bundesliga side donated 1000 jerseys as part of its China-specific Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) project, which includes working with schools & academies in the more rural areas of the country. As part of the overarching goal to support and promote youth football in China, BMG produced its first-ever CSR livestream, where a live donation of 1000 jerseys was made to grassroots football teams, youth football clinics, and other projects all over China in need of equipment and clothing. Read more on Tencent (Chinese) --

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Headquartered in Shanghai, China, Mailman is a global sports digital consultancy and agency. We help the world’s leading sports organisations serve their audiences and build their businesses. With over 200 experts across China, Southeast Asia, Europe, and the US, we specialise in digital strategy, transformation, social media, content production and ecommerce. Learn more about our story here.

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