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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Collins

China’s Unique Following of German Football

Updated: May 30, 2019

German football has developed a cult following online in China, different to that of the Premier League and La Liga teams. This growing community is unique both to China and football.

German football online in China is incredibly strong. The Bundesliga and German national team are the #1 European football league and Football Association on Chinese social media, and Bayern Munich are the most popular European club on Chinese digital media. The Bundesliga are actively targeting the online audiences in China to grow the brand of German football, with their latest digital campaign, the Voice of Bundesliga, reaching over 16 million fans online. This online dominance is spearheading their development in China and growing an online community of passionate German football fans.

The German stadium experience is famous in China. Blair Zhang, Business Development Manager at Tencent Sports recalls her experience in Germany “I went to the Allianz Arena and watched an FC Bayern game when I was at the time not a football fan. The atmosphere was amazing and from then on I began to watch German football.” It’s this unique experience that have been the catalyst for Chinese fans.

Of the 7 matches that took place this summer in China, 6 of them included a German team. Wolfsburg, Schalke 04 and Borussia Dortmund successively played two fixtures each throughout May, June and July. Borussia Dortmund played two matches in the second ICC China tournament, with over 60 million reads of their tour online. The club’s intimate connection with the fans throughout the China tours has now inspired a new generation of Chinese fans to follow German football.

Kinoko, 26 from Shanghai has been to Germany three times and watches 12 matches. She started following German football after the summer fairytale of 2006 happened. “Though they didn’t win a historic 4th trophy at the World Cup, it was a great demonstration of their self-revolution and progress on academy players over the previous 10 years. Under these circumstances, I can strongly say that I’ve always supported German football and am convinced that more glory is still to come.”

Looking further back, the 2014 World Cup was a key milestone for German football. There were around 35 million people in Germany watching the final against Argentina, yet there were more than 100 million Chinese people watching. The World Cup is the peak of competitive football, a period where casual sports fans and even non-sports fans in China follow the tournament. And success on the highest stage has turned German players into household names,

German football has been available on China’s main sports broadcaster, CCTV5, for over 20 years. Sam Li, Head of Content Acquisition & Strategic Partnerships at Sina Sports, believes that ‘CCTV is a strong partner for the Bundesliga, and that the consistent exposure is important since they have been on CCTV for longer than EPL.’ CCTV5 provides the widest reach for sports content in China, and having established a healthy partnership, this channel will continue to grow a following of German football fans.

German players in China are famous for their good looks. With over 55% of the online netizens discussing the 2014 World Cup on Sina Weibo being female, German football has huge potential to grow its fan base with the female audiences.

Justine, 26 from Shanghai has been to Germany five times and watched a total of 18 matches, including Bundesliga 2 and U21 matches. Her passion and knowledge for German football is comparable to the most loyal fans in Germany, despite having no natural claim to follow this league.

Aristotle famously said that ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’. German football’s holistic approach to the Chinese market has developed a unique cult following which will see the Bundesliga become the most popular European league in China.

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