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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Collins


Updated: Jun 6, 2019

This summer, 10 top European teams came out to China for their pre-season tour. But who made the biggest waves on Chinese Social Media?

ICC hosted their inaugural China tournament with Real Madrid, AC Milan and Inter Milan playing across three cities, as Bayern Munich organised their own China tour with fixtures against Valencia and Inter Milan. Meanwhile, Lazio, Juventus, Real Sociedad, Atlético Madrid and Rayo Vallecano all featured their own matches in the China’s largest cities.

China content for engaged fans

Over the total tour period (18th July – 8th August), the top three most engaged teams were Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and AC Milan, benefitting from posting bespoke content from their time in China. In fact, eight of the top ten posts made from all football clubs on Chinese social media were made by teams touring the country.

Rossoneri on top

Endearingly named Rossoneri (Red and blacks), AC Milan’s re-launched Weibo account grew by 11,000 social followers during the tour period, the most of any football club on Weibo. Having also launched their official WeChat shortly before their tour, the Italian club seized their opportunity to become the 9th most followed club on Chinese social media.

Viral Content

Besides the 3 big draw matches, Bayern Munich’s tour was jammed packed with sponsor events, fan activations and the valuable media opportunities. These off-the-pitch highlights such as friendly ping pong matches and impromptu Taichi exercises proved to be excellent social content, surefire to resonate with Chinese fans. And one of the most liked posts on the Bundesliga channel was of a marriage proposal at halftime of the Beijing match.

Furthermore, several clubs found success in engaging fans through creative contests. Juventus, ran a campaign asking fans what they would do if they had 2 hours with Trézéguet and why. The winning fan, who explained her story of first hating the French legend for beating Italy in the Euro 2000 finals, then loving him after pulling Juventus back up to Serie A, ended up touring Shanghai’s hottest spots of The Bund and Tianzifang for quite a unique experience. The Bundesliga ran a “Ticket Rush” competition for the Bayern vs. Inter Milan match, by promoting a secret location and code to be announced at certain time. The fastest fans to show up with the secret code won tickets to the match.

New platforms launched

Several teams on tour took their opportunity to develop their China presence, launching their presence on new platforms. Real Madrid took on China’s dominant grey market to secure a partnership with Alibaba and launch their official Tmall store, as Juventus launched their Weibo account. AC Milan re-launched their Weibo account and were joined by Atletico Madrid to both launch their official WeChat accounts. These clubs smartly coordinated new Chinese platform launches with their on-the-ground presence.

No presence, no party

Clearly, those clubs that invested the time and energy to support their tours with Chinese social media campaigns benefited with increased engagement on unique China content. Of the teams that came to China this summer, only Real Sociedad and Rayo Vallecano are not on Chinese social media, thus missing out on the ability to fully reach the market. A China tour is a huge opportunity for clubs to connect with their passionate fan base and we will have to wait and see if there will be any movement correlated with these efforts in Mailman’s next annual Red Card Report.

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