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  • Writer's pictureDenis Green

China Sports Business Weekly | 10th July

Welcome to the latest edition of the China Sports Business Weekly.

This week: China announces limited international events for 2020, Mailman Group opens US office, Badminton legend Lin Dan retires, Nike unveils new concept store, Zhang Weili wins more awards, inspirational gaokao messages of support from sports IP, and the Top 10 Sports Leagues on Weibo.  

In this week’s From The Top, we spoke with Ramón Loarte, Chief Marketing & Commercial Officer at Sevilla Football Club, about differentiating from other clubs, working with sponsors in Asia, China strategy, and staying relevant.

Top Industry News

1) China Unlikely to Host International Sports Events this Year The Chinese government stated the country will not be hosting most of its planned international sports events this year, putting in doubt major events such as F1, the WTA Finals, and golf. A small number of events will however be allowed to go ahead, including Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics test events. Read more on SportBusiness (English) and Lanxiong Sports (Chinese) 2) Mailman Group Opens US Office The opening of a virtual office in Los Angeles will give North American clients better service to engage Asian and European markets. The group’s US service will be led by Gideon Clark, returning to his homeland after six years in China with Mailman. Read more on Mailman Group (English) and Ecosports (Chinese)

3) Badminton Legend Lin Dan Retires China's two-time Olympic badminton champion and one of the most famous Chinese sports stars of the past decades, has retired. The 36-year-old won gold at Beijing 2008 and London 2012, as well as five World Championship and six All England titles. In 2011, he became the first badminton player to seal the sport's 'Super Grand Slam' by winning all nine of its major titles. Read more on BBC (English) and Beijing News (Chinese) 4) Nike Unveils New Concept Store in China The latest retail concept: Nike Rise, in Guangzhou, spans about 22,000 square feet, over three floors and serves as a data-powered hub for all things sports. Using insights that members have shared with Nike, as well as responding to real-time sports moments in the city, data will power the complete consumer experience in Nike Rise. Read more on Nike (English) and Beijing Business Today (Chinese)

5) Zhang Weili Named ESPN’s Best Female Fighter at Mid-year Awards The first-ever Chinese champion was awarded the Best Female Fighter in ESPN’s mid-year awards for her battle against Joanna Jedrzejczyk on March 7. The fight was also awarded the Best Fight of 2020, and ESPN also said it was “regarded as one of the best fights in UFC history”. Read more on ESPN (English) and Sina Sports (Chinese) In Other News Manchester United Greet Terminally-ill Football Coach Jing Yongxing, a football coach from China, received heartfelt messages of support from the club while in hospital. When Jing was diagnosed in 2013, he decided to devote the rest of his life to teaching children football, with the inspiring story sparking widespread attention, particularly in footballing circles. Read more on Xinhua (English) and Sina Sports (Chinese) Tourism Recovering in China Domestic tourism is recovering as the epidemic comes under control in China, but outbound numbers seem unlikely to rebound until next year. Such safety measures as strict hygiene and social distancing are expected to be standard practices in the tourism industry until a vaccine is available. Read more on China Daily (English) The Gaokao The most important college exam in China took place this week. We look at how global sports IP wished good luck to the students. FIFA Chelsea David Beckham NHL DRL MLB BVB Man Utd BMG THFC

Esports News Tencent Esports Signs Shenzhen World University Sports Center The partnership with Jia Zhao Ye Entertainment Technology Group (JZY) for use of its sports venue will act as Tencent’s first large esports venue in southern China. Tencent first partnered with the Center in 2019 to host the Honor of Kings World Champion Cup Grand Final. Read more on Esports Observer (English) and Sina (Chinese) From The Top Ramón Loarte, Chief Marketing & Commercial Officer at Sevilla Football Club. 1. Where does China fit into your international strategy? China is one of the top-five priorities under our strategic plan. Despite its complexity and cultural differences from Europe, China is growing in the sports business sector and more notably in football. During the past five years, we have met and travelled several times to few of the biggest cities of China, trying to understand better the current status of grassroots football development, meeting those entities that are working hard to put the football Chinese industry at a world-class level, and focusing on strategy and training methods. By learning and understanding from the current local professionals involved, we offer them (in any capacity) our support and assistance. Alongside La Liga, which is working closely with their local office in Shanghai, we had the chance to study and analyse several football projects with diverse objectives. Over the course of four years, we were extremely proud of having a successful global sponsorship deal with one of the biggest Telco & Mobile Companies (ZTE) who are headquartered in China. That collaboration was very productive, also because of the talented and kind ZTE team involved. 2. How do you try and distance yourself and stand out from the likes of Barcelona & Real Madrid? Well, our DNA, Values and Vision are very different from theirs. We represent one specific type of football, our fans are extremely passionate, and we believe that every goal can be achieved with the loyal support of your fans. Sevilla is a different proposition for a football club - with a dedicated ambition on a more frugal budget, while also being the oldest club in La Liga with a strong history from our beloved city of Seville, in the south of Spain. We never surrender. With a little bit of rebellion, we are nonconformists, fighting against those power-horses such as these two clubs plus some others from Europe. We’ve been fighting in a competitive environment for the last 14 years, and will continue to do so in the future. Furthermore, anyone that comes to Seville and watches a live game, he/she will fall in love. Immediately. The atmosphere is overwhelming. 3. What have been your biggest learnings from two active years on Chinese social media? Basically, just one: if you want to generate fans in Chinese social media, you need to work hard, with a local team,  and be honest. Being honest with your values and attributes will keep you authentic and keenly-watched. International football followers, especially young followers, seem to follow clubs based on their star players. This is not the way we formulated our strategy and learning from history, the approach did not bring much success. However, those fans that have followed and will follow us, will discover a fresh modern football club that might inspire them to be better professionally but also from a personal point of view. We represent the 'David Vs Goliath' battles. And sometimes, when approached the right way, David wins'. Sometimes, if playing hard, “the small eats the big one”. This global society needs to know that everyone may achieve what they are looking for, in life - a better job, or anything else. This is us, so we hope that our fan base understands our attributes and values, and then gives us credit for being this way, gifting us with their loyalty. 4. How do you work with your current partners to grow their brands across Asia? Well, with those global sponsors that are activating globally, we always advise them to adapt their message, channel and the entire strategy to local markets, such as China. Working with a glocal strategy delivers more advantages than just activating the sponsorship similarly in every country. 5. How has COVID-19 accelerated your digital strategy? Actually nothing really changed related to our digital strategy in China. It is true that we don't really know when we will be able to travel again, but the digital strategy is kept as intensely as before COVID-19. We started our new digital ecosystem and internationalisation back in 2014 and we are still developing new ambitious projects, such as our Business Intelligence Center - gathering every contact from our fans worldwide and our Brand Center, which is almost finished. Together these will help our agencies to work better and faster, with a full inventory of tools and digital resources. Top 10 This week we look at the most-followed Sports Leagues on Weibo. 

  1. NBA - 43.8M

  2. Olympics - 27.4M

  3. FIFA World Cup - 7M

  4. FIFA Official - 5.9M

  5. FIBA - 5.4M

  6. CSL - 5.2M

  7. UEFA Champions League - 4.5M

  8. English Premier League - 4.4M

  9. La Liga - 3.5M

  10. BWF - 3.4M


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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 the globe we specialise in digital strategy, transformation, social media, content production and eCommerce. Learn more about our story here.

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