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  • Writer's pictureDenis Green

China Sports Business Weekly | 10th June

🤔 Is a new player set to enter China’s sports media landscape?

Hello Industry Friends, here are the very latest news and insights from China.

📰 Headlines: China Telecom eyes F1 rights, Man City lands trading card deal, Eileen Gu works for Salt Lake Games bid, CSL partners with Douyin, iQiyi Sports agrees to EFL deal, NFL China launches Apple seed program, Nike accelerates China digital transformation, Tencent Sports lays-off staff, and 60 new online games receive approval.

🗣 In this week’s From The Top, we spoke with Scott Munn, CEO, City Football Group China, about the club’s new trading card deal, working with local partners, celebrating winning the league with Chinese fans, and plans for summer.


🗞️ Top Industry News China Telecom in for F1 Rights A new player looks set to emerge in China’s sports media landscape, with giant telco China Telecom in advanced talks to acquire digital rights for Formula 1 motor racing. It is one of three big state-owned telcos, alongside China Mobile and China Unicom. Read more on SportBusiness (English) and Lanxiong Sports (Chinese)

💡 Mailman Take: Western rights holders should keep an eye on the outcome of this potential deal. Years of decreasing values and platforms collapsing have left China’s media rights landscape much less profitable compared to the glory years. A new player could change that. As we’ve seen with Migu (owned by China Mobile), these big telcos have deep pockets and a growing interest in sports content. Indeed this could turn out to be a one-off for China Telecom, riding the wave of China’s Zhou Guanyu in F1. Or, it could be the start of a rights spree as the company looks to grow its userbase utlising premium sports content. Man City Announces Daka Culture Trading Card Deal A licensing deal with Shanghai-based collectibles supplier DAKA Culture will see an exclusive range of trading cards in China. The licensing agreement will initially run for three seasons from 2022-23 to 2024-25. Read more on SportBusiness (English) and Xinhua (Chinese) 💡 Mailman Take: This deal signifies another important step forward for the trading card industry, as local manufacturers look to contribute to and capitalise on the rapidly growing domestic demand for sports cards. Panini America and other card brands have been selling products in China for years, but in 2020 Panini started their own direct-to-consumer channels to appropriately service the growing customer base. Since then, many Chinese trading card specific retailers and marketplaces have also seen rapid success, confirming the strength of domestic demand. We expect this trend to continue in China, and foresee more local players rising up to compete for the licensing rights for other top-tier sports IPs.


NFL Apple Seed Training Camp

The NFL Apple Seed Program is a training camp for junior coaches and referees organised by NFL China and local American football associations. Through the combination of online and offline training, the program provides newcomers with practical and theoretical teaching of rules, coaching and refereeing methods, techniques and tactics, and helps to support flag football participants and practitioners to teach the sport in a more professional and standardized manner, taking the existing foundation to a new level. Read more on NFL WeChat (Chinese)


Nike Accelerates Digital Transformation, Ends Running Club App The sportswear giant announced on the transformation of its digital platforms will be launched in July to accelerate the construction of a more reliable, convenient digital ecosystem. Since the company introduced its official website to China in 2010, it has developed a complete digital ecosystem including its website, app, WeChat account and other self-run digital platforms. Meanwhile, Nike says it will end its run club app in China, to offer a more 'localised solution'. Read more on China Daily (English) and Beijing News (Chinese) Eileen Gu Working for Salt Lake Games Bid

The gold medal freestyle skier has signed on to work for Salt Lake City’s bid for the 2030 or 2034 Winter Olympics. Tom Kelly, a spokesman for the bid committee, confirmed Gu’s participation to The Associated Press on Tuesday as an “athlete representative.” Gu made the announcement earlier at the Time100 Summit, calling herself an “ambassador.” Read more on AP (English) and The Paper (Chinese)

CSL Partners with Douyin The short form Chinese social media platform Douyin has become the official short video partner of the Chinese Super League (CSL), and will host content from the CSL itself, as well as clubs and players, and run marketing campaigns in cooperation with the league. This is the first official cooperation between Douyin and the CSL. Read more on SportBusiness (English) and Weibo (Chinese) iQiyi Sports Agrees to EFL Deal The European League of Football (ELF) has announced media rights agreements with Chinese streaming platform iQiyi in China. The tie-up with iQiyi will see delayed coverage broadcast on the platform with English commentary. Both agreements include all 75 games from the current EFL season. Read more on SportBusiness (English)) Tencent Sports Hit by Internal Reorganisation Tencent will reportedly adjust the organisational structure of its sports business department and cancel six of its internal business groups. Tencent Sports will be the hardest hit area for layoffs. Tencent Sports currently has abolished six business groups and will cut about 100 employees, which represents about one-third overall. Read more on Pandaily (English) and Sports Money (Chinese) Dongqiudi Nets China League One Rights

The Chinese football content platform has acquired live streaming rights to matches from China League One, the country’s second-tier domestic football league. Dongqiudi will broadcast the matches for free through its smartphone app and website. Dongqiudi also has deals with the Chinese Super League, the Bundesliga, and Australian NBL basketball. Read more on SportBusiness (English) and Ecosports (Chinese)

Yili and Argentina

The popular dairy brand has officially become the sponsor of the Argentine national football team in China. Read more on Ecosports (Chinese)


🎮 Esports 60 New Chinese Online Games Receive Formal Approval China’s National Press and Publication Administration released details regarding the regulatory approval of new domestic online games in June, including a total of 60 titles involving companies such as miHoYo, Migu, and Hero Games. This is the second batch of online games that have been reviewed in China so far this year. Read more on Pandaily (English) and The Paper (Chinese)


🗞️ Other News

Surge in China Tech Stocks Gives Fresh Optimism Alibaba and Bilibili led another rally in China tech stocks as the Hang Seng Tech Index jumped 4.8%. This was mainly down to the Chinese government’s approval of 60 new game licenses, following a yearlong crackdown that wiped out $2tr in market value from the sector. Read more on Bloomberg (English) and The Paper (Chinese)


🤔 Opinion How have China’s attitudes toward youth sports changed? Some major shifts have taken place in the last few years and attitudes toward sports, especially for children and teens, have changed dramatically. How and why has this happened? DAO takes a closer look and find out what it means for marketers. Read more on DAO (English) Anta’s big marketing spend and sexy ads are paying off

Sports apparel giant Anta’s big marketing spend and sexy ads are paying off Anta has prioritized marketing over R&D, and it seems to be working for its attempts to become a “national brand.” Read more on Sup China (English)


🎙️ From The Top

🗣 Scott Munn, CEO, City Football Group China

​​1. Can you talk me through your recent partnership with DAKA trading cards, how do you work together, and is there anything unique about this partnership in China compared to other deals the club has with trading card partners elsewhere?

We are very excited to see DAKA become the club’s first Chinese partner in this category. Having the right partner is critical and DAKA is an emerging local brand with a proven track record. They understand football and Chinese fans, and are experts in creating exciting trading card products. In the next 3 seasons, fans in China will see a series of exciting club-themed cards signed by our top players from Manchester. As a club, we are committed to continuing to grow our reach to all Manchester City fans in China through locally relevant content and product.

2. How many partners does Man City now have in China, any advice or suggestions on working with local partners on the ground in China?

Man City have 10 partners in China: Puma, Cisco, Nissan, Therabody, Midea, JNC(Jian Nan Chun), Tecno, Unilumin, GT-racing and DAKA. We are very happy to have all partners in the family and enjoy the process of working with them. The key element in this is we are locally-based experts that understand the market, partners and can deliver. Backed by CFG global team, we work together closely with partners and continue to innovate and create new ideas.

3. How did the club celebrate winning the league with its fans in China, any special events or virtual elements added? It was a challenge for us as most of the team members are Shanghai-based. When hosting offline events becomes no option, we moved fast to online solutions and it proved to be a high energy, fully focused successful EOS (End of Season) campaign that lasted a few weeks. And excitingly, many of our partners enjoyed exposure and activation during this period.

The campaign kicked off with the celebration of the tenth anniversary of “93:20”, arguably one of the greatest comebacks in sporting history. There were a series of quality content, including a “93:20 documentary” shared across club socials and other key China platforms such as iQiyi, Migu and Bilibili.

On matchday, we worked together with Migu to create a City-themed studio for live broadcasting and launched club champions products right after the final whistle.

The next day, we conducted a live stream event across 6 platforms on our champions parade in Manchester and were really glad to see tens of thousands of Chinese fans celebrating with the club in the early hours.

During the EOS celebration, fans could also enjoy engaging activations through our social channels and Alipay mini-program. Overall, the club are proud to have another successful season and happy with the fan's reaction from China.

4. With the club unable to tour China this summer, what are your plans to ensure Chinese fans are getting as close to the team as possible throughout the summer? China has always been important to Man City and we hope the team will visit China again soon after the tour in 2019. For this year we will tour the US, we are planning to bring an exciting fan experience to China by having a China staff member travel with the first team. With the unique access, there will be a wide range of engaging and relevant content specially produced for China fans. The team will play two preseason matches in the US and we are also looking to introduce both to China media platforms. Hopefully, we can make an announcement soon and will share the good news with our fans.

5. Has the club’s business in China been impacted given the recent lockdowns, have you had to pivot or do anything differently?

We feel that it is not just about challenges but also about new ideas and solutions. Our business is generally well-run during this period, the fanbase continues growing and we work closely with our current partners and even welcome new partners to our family during this period. We are very happy to see Man City shows its strong consistency on and off the pitch over the past seasons and that gives us even more confidence in this market.


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