Ambassadors in China
Updated: May 29, 2019
The Power of Ambassadors
China’s sports industry is hugely competitive as a large number of organisations and brands compete for the same fans. That said, the industry is still developing fast, with brands constantly looking for new ways to target both new and existing fans. An organisations’ brand image and its ability to appeal to a wide array of different fan groups is key to success in the current Chinese sports landscape.
Finding the right ambassador can be advantageous in both of these areas. Chinese celebrities work hard to establish an image and reputation in China which can be favourably reflected onto a brand. The loyalty of Chinese fans also provides a credible and powerful means to connect with new fans who were previously unreachable.
Growing a fan base is the most direct way to increase brand value. Connections with a wide range of audiences mean that announcements will create far more noise and gain increased media coverage. This increased influence with Chinese consumers will lead to sales boosts and make brands more attractive to potential sponsors and partners.
Finding the correct candidate is crucial for a number of reasons. Alignment of core values and image are the major criteria, however, finding an individual with a vested interest in the club or organisation will make the relationship more genuine, particularly in the eyes of the consumer. It can also lead to the ambassador doing more for the same price as they value what they’re doing more than they would with another organisation.
An example of an excellent match between brand and ambassador is that of Roland Garros and Chinese actor Jin Dong. Television star and avid fan, Jin brought with him a passion for tennis and a huge following of fans previously with no connection or interest in the French Open. The announcement of the partnership was a perfect avenue for the competition to maintain relevance in China whilst out of season. His attendance of offline events, both in China and Pairs, makes a huge difference as it deepens fans’ association of the tournament with him.
On the other side, Dior’s partnership with actress/model Angelababy has been markedly less successful and is an example of how quickly things escalate. Despite her vast, 86.1 million strong, online following her mixed reputation in Mainland China has brought the French brand’s values into question. A slightly controversial choice of partner in the West might see a dip in sales, in China, it can lead to questioning of a brand’s integrity.
The Select Few
Evidently, the right fit is not easily found. Public figures that have the right reputation, fan base, image and a genuine passion for a club or sport are reasonably few. As such, top tier ambassadors come at a premium which means that many clubs will be priced out of the market. They are then left to either run the risk of an imperfect partnership damaging their all-important reputation or get left behind and continue the search for alternative ways to appeal to fans.
Space For Global Stars
The rush to associate with China’s foremost celebrities will have little effect on global heavyweights, however. China’s appetite for iconic talent spreads far further than their home-grown favourites. Global superstars will continue to be both massively popular and hugely valuable amongst Chinese consumers. This is will be leveraged mostly by Chinese brands as they try to establish themselves as glamorous, internationally renown players, whereas western brands will continue to search for the all important genuine connection with China.
Mailman is a China sports digital marketing consultancy and technology company. We help global rights holders, athletes, and leagues build a successful business in China.