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  • Writer's pictureDenis Green

China Sports Business Weekly | 10th February

Hello Industry Friends, here is the very latest news and insights from China. 📰 Headlines: Chelsea partner with trading card company FansMall, Rolex renews 10-year deal with Shanghai Masters, Destination Sports expands to China, Saudi Pro League lands multiple broadcast partners, NBA celebrates Lantern Festival, and a blog on high hopes for the return of sport to China in 2023. 🗣️In this week’s From The Top, we spoke with Tom Glick, President of Business, Chelsea Football Club, about the partnership with FansMall, integrating it into the popular Chelsea Studio Show, how it differs from other collectible partnerships, and celebrating Chinese New Year.


🗞️ Top Industry News FansMall Launch Chelsea Trading Cards The Premier League club signed a multi-year agreement with the popular Chinese sports trading card platform, which names FansMall as the club’s official trading card and sports collectibles partner in Greater China. FansMall will create a collection of Chelsea-themed trading cards for the region, whilst Chelsea fans in China will also be given the chance to win exclusive merchandise such as signed memorabilia and match worn shirts. Read more on SportBusiness (English) and Ecosports (Chinese) 💡 Mailman Take: One of the few industries to grow during the pandemic in China was sports collectibles. Panini has accumulated a loyal fan base, whilst local players such as FansMall and Daka have signed deals with many global sports organisations. The FansMall partnership for Chelsea is a smart addition, as the most followed European football club online in the country brings on another avenue to engage their fan base.


Rolex Renews 10-year Deal with Shanghai Masters The watchmaker synonymous with tennis amongst other sports has renewed its title sponsorship of the Shanghai Masters ATP 1000 tennis tournament in a 10-year deal running from 2023 to 2032. The Masters will return to Shanghai this year after a pandemic-hit three years, taking place in a newly-expanded format on October 2-15. Read more on SportBusiness (English) and China News (Chinese) 💡 Mailman Take: A sign of commitment and belief from Rolex that Shanghai, and China, are ready to return to the live sporting event stage. An expanded tournament in terms of length, players, and prize money position the tournament as one of the must-watch events of the year in China. We also expect most, if not all, of China’s growing crop of young male hopefuls to perform in front of packed-out stands.


Destination Sport Expands into China The UK-based sports travel company has created a new subsidiary in China - Destination Sport China - offering “a destination management service for professional sports organisations throughout mainland China, plus support for organisations seeking to expand their presence within the region”. Read more on SportBusiness (English) 💡 Mailman Take: We’re already seeing revenge travel, revenge spending, and expect an uptick in sports tourism now that China is open again. With live sports expected to be back to full capacity and cadence by summer at the latest, there are plenty of fans and consumers with pent-up energy ready to spend. Multiple Platforms Land Free-to-Air Rights for Saudi Pro League Zhibo8, iQiyi, Douyin, and Tencent have all claimed non-exclusive new media rights to the Saudi Pro League. As the most popular European football player online in China, Cristiano Ranaldo’s pull is still huge despite leaving the continent to play in Saudi Arabia. Read more on Zhibo8 (Chinese) 💡Mailman Take: Following Douyin’s live stream of the Messi vs. Ronaldo match last month, the majority of digital platforms in China have decided to purchase new media rights to the ongoing Saudi Pro League. A more favourable time zone than Europe and the chance to watch Cristiano Ronaldo regularly are enough to convince these platforms to invest in the content. NBA Cares and Malipo Celebrate Lantern Festival Together To bring joy and celebration to the locals of Malipo, the NBA once again visited Daping Town in Yunnan Province to hold the annual New Year Malipo Rural Basketball Carnival. Read more on China Daily (Chinese)

Asian Tour: Hong Kong, Macau, and Shenzhen in Frame for International Series Events Greater Bay Area push comes as China Golf Association has opened talks about renewing the partnership. Hong Kong will host 2 tournaments this year, with the newly named World City Championship first in March. Read more on SCMP (English)


🤔 Opinion High hopes for the return of sport to China in 2023 If the recent Chinese New Year holiday proved anything, it’s that people across China are ready to travel again, spend again, and even venture back into large crowds again. Demand for live sport in China has never been higher, with events surging back in the second half of 2023. Read more on SportBusiness (English) China’s ‘Healthy Appetite’ For Well-being & Sportswear Means More Luxury Opportunities Despite the pandemic, many sportswear brands including Nike, Lululemon, Anta, and Li-Ning still achieved growth during 2022, showing strong signs of recovery in the region. Demand for Nike products on Tmall increased 45 percent during Double 11 whilst Lululemon’s sales are continuing to climb. Read more on Jing Daily (English) Are Brands Ready To Reconnect With Chinese Travelers In 2023? A resurgence of high-spending travelers couldn’t come soon enough for global luxury players in China, where personal luxury sales slumped 10 percent year-on-year in 2022, ending a five-year run of rapid growth, according to a Bain & Co report released today. However, the report forecasts conditions will improve toward the end of the first quarter of 2023. Read more on Jing Daily (English)


🎮 Esports Sources: Overwatch League 2023 Season Won’t be Broadcast in China Several sources close to NetEase told The Esports Advocate that the Overwatch League will not be broadcast in China in 2023 due to the termination of the partnership between NetEase and Activision Blizzard, as the company no longer has game approval for Overwatch. Read more on The Esports Advocate (English)


🎙️ From The Top 🗣 Tom Glick, President of Business, Chelsea Football Club 1. Trading cards and collectibles are trending in China. How do you anticipate this partnership will help the club further engage with current fans whilst reaching new ones? Chelsea’s fanbase in China is significant; about 48 million* people have an interest in our Club so it’s an important community for us. We are always exploring ways to engage with those fans and provide an experience where fans feel connected with us, whether that’s through content, offline experiences, or products. To do that, we want to work with market leaders in the category. FansMall have the capability and local market knowledge to deliver the best product and experience in market. Beyond the core fans, there’s also an opportunity to engage with collectors who value owning a unique piece of merchandise. *Source: GlobalWebIndex. Q4 2021, Q3 2021, Q2 2021, Q1 2021) 2. The popular Chelsea studio show continues to break records. How will you tie in the studio show with the new FansMall partnership? The Chelsea Studio Show Live is our flagship football content in China, delivering best in class local football programming with Chinese hosts, guests and content. We produced a special edition of the Studio Show before the Premier Lague match against Fulham on Friday 3rd February to celebrate Chinese New Year and we leveraged on this important cultural moment to introduce our fans to FansMall and the new partnership. With player messages, FansMall giveaways and a launch video, we were able to use the Studio Show as the platform to reach millions of Chelsea fans in China. 3. What makes this partnership unique, and does it differ to other collectibles partnerships you have globally? This is a true regional partnership – there’s a licence element to create the product but also a suite of marketing assets that complements the cards and collectibles, from match worn shirts to signed merchandise and dedicated campaigns on our Chinese social media channels. Fundamentally, this is a partnership fully dedicated to China, so the product and activation will be tailored and bespoke to Chinese culture, tastes and habits. 4. Chelsea has always been active in celebrating Chinese New Year. What did you do this time around and how were the results? It’s a huge time of year for Chelsea Football Club as we celebrate the biggest cultural moment of the year in China and it was no different in 2023 as we welcomed in the year of the rabbit. As well as our dedicated Studio Show Live across Weibo & Kuaishou, we also created a limited edition year of the rabbit pre-match shirt, worn by the Men’s and Women’s players during the warm-up at games and sold through the Chelsea megastore online. We delivered an in-stadium experience around Stamford Bridge and Kingsmeadow, featuring a Chinese-inspired food menu, concourse activations, a lion dance, and digital activations. We’re still collecting the full results but the Studio Show has been our most successful ever, with 25.9 million views across all platforms. The collaboration with Kuaishou has yielded 355,000 new followers to the platform in the last few weeks and it’s pleasing to see our online fanbase continue to grow as a result of our continued commitment to localised cultural moments.


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