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  • Writer's pictureDenis Green

China Sports Business Weekly | 10th September

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

📰 Headlines: NHL’s stars to feature at Beijing 2022, Man Utd deliver stadium experience in Shanghai, China Media Group keeps hold of Olympics rights, MLB produces season 2 of educational animation show, Asian Youth Games fall foul to COVID, Wolves esports enter professional China league, and Weibo clamps down on celebrity fandom.

🗣In this week’s From The Top, Amanda Wight, Director of International Strategic Development at the United States Tennis Association, spoke to us about being the first Grand Slam to produce a daily live stream show specifically for China, how the concept came about, unique areas & key elements of the show, and how it’s helped in engaging an existing fan base while growing a new one.


🗞️ Top Industry News NHL Players to Compete at 2022 & 2026 Winter Olympics A positive announcement for all those involved with the Winter Olympics as the best in the ice hockey business will be on show next February. Beijing 2022 will be the first time NHL players have participated in the Winter Olympics since 2014. Read more on NHL in English & Chinese 💡 Mailman Take: This takes the Winter Olympics to the next level. Interest surrounding ice hockey, and the Games in general, will reach new heights. A big moment for the organising committee, broadcasters, fans, and the general public. Maybe not such good news for China’s national ice hockey team.

Man Utd’s Theatre of Dreams Pops Up in Shanghai Mall

In collaboration with Chinese partner Harves Entertainment, the Premier League giants have assembled a stadium experience in a downtown Shanghai mall. Taking inspiration from Old Trafford and their Beijing Theatre of Dreams experience centre, football challenges, Treble trophies photo opportunity, new & old jerseys, merchandise, and much more are on show at the three-week pop-up. Read more on Ecosports (Chinese) 💡 Mailman Take: In a time when overseas tours are out of the question, pop-up experiences represent a strong method of entertaining existing fans and enticing new ones. The impressive offline activation will capture plenty of foot traffic in the coming weeks, especially with CR7 shirts on display.

China Media Group Retains Olympics Rights to 2032 The Chinese state media company keeps hold of the Olympic broadcast rights until the Brisbane 2032 Games, ensuring continued coverage of the Games on state broadcaster CCTV. China Media Group’s existing rights deal with the IOC runs from 2018 to 2024 and is worth $550M. Read more on SportBusiness (English) and CCTV (Chinese)

MLB China Launches Baseball 102 Following Successful 101

Season 2 of MLB China’s educational animation series introduces advanced tactics, allowing fans to dig deeper into the technicalities of the sport. The series, which incorporates celebrity commentators across multiple industry sectors, has 24 episodes to be aired across 12 weeks. Read more on Sohu (Chinese) and watch episode 1 of season 2 here (Chinese)

Asian Youth Games Postponed to 2022 The Games were due to be held in Shantou in November, but the move is to "ensure the safety and health of athletes and all participants", a Shantou government department in charge of sports affairs stated. Read more on Reuters (English) and Xinhuanet (Chinese) 💡 Mailman Take: Another blow for China’s live sports events industry following the esports Worlds which were moved from China to Europe. Other than the upcoming National Games, we don’t expect any live mass events to take place until the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.

Kuaishou Expands Relationship with Brazilian Football Confederation The Chinese short-video platform, known internationally as Kwai, has become the new sponsor of the Brazilian women’s and men’s teams until the end of 2023, gaining the platform exclusivity in the production of content in the form of short, official videos. Read more on SportBusiness (English)


🎮 Esports

Wolves Esports Enters King Pro League The English Premier League club has entered Asian esports tournament the King Pro League after the club’s owner Fosun Sports acquired Chinese esports team Chongqing QGhappy. The team will continue to be the home team for Chongqing, but will compete under the new name of Chongqing Wolves. Read more on SportBusiness (English) and Beijing News (Chinese)

Esports Titles Named for Hangzhou Asian Games Despite negativity & new policies surrounding gaming in recent weeks, let’s not forget the debut of esports as an official medal sport at the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou next year. There will be eight medal events, plus two demonstration games, with popular titles including Dota 2 and League of Legends. Read more on Ocasia (English) and Beijing News (Chinese)


🤔 Opinion How the Purge of 'Negative Influences' in China Impacts Brands Boy band idols have been a key pillar for International brands in their Chinese marketing strategies. These young celebs have been among the most expensive, and most effective, brand ambassadors in the market. Yet those endorsements may start to get a lot cheaper, and their reach a lot smaller, following Beijing’s recent banning of ‘sissy boys’ from TV, and last month’s wholesale removal of their idol fan clubs from the Internet. Read more on China Skinny (English)


🗞️ Other News Weibo Suspends K-Pop Accounts A group of K-pop fans in China have become the latest victims of a crackdown on celebrity culture. 22 fan accounts have been suspended by Weibo for "irrational star-chasing behaviour". Weibo accused one fan account of "illegal fundraising”, stating it "firmly opposes such irrational star-chasing behaviour and will deal with it seriously". It also pledged to "purify" online discussions and "regulate community order" on its platform. Read more on BBC (English) and Jiemian (Chinese)


📢 From The Top 🗣 ️Amanda Wight. Director of International Strategic Development at the United States Tennis Association.

1. The US Open is the first Grand Slam to produce a daily live stream show specifically for China. How did this concept come about and what will the live stream include?

Our original strategy to engage with our China fan base focussed on both physical, digital, and social activations at the start of 2020. Good Morning US Open was born of necessity - we wanted to find innovative ways to bring the US Open to our Chinese audience when we couldn't physically be present.

2. What areas of the live stream are unique to China and how will they engage & entertain Chinese fans?

In real-time, the show reviews the action from previous days' play, together with upcoming matches. It interacts with fans via fun and educational online activations and we take to the streets of Shanghai to really really capture the heart of both our avid and casual Chinese tennis fans. Utilizing a mix of local KOL's and tennis talent was important to us, Chen and Li have been great ambassadors for the sport and for our brand.

3. How will you utilise your Chinese social platforms to expand the reach of the live show in China?

Just 4 years on from launching our Chinese social media channels - with a simple translation of our US Open Twitter account, we have amassed a total follower base of 1.3m across Weibo and Douyin and evolved to the year-round presence we have today. Together with support from our local partners iQIYI and Wilson, we have seen a boost in engagement and support of our overall objectives, which supports our strategy to grow through local partnerships. To date in 2021, we have added more followers than any other Grand Slam on Weibo.

4. Is the main purpose of the show to engage existing tennis/ US Open fans or are there elements of the show that will recruit general sports fans to follow tennis?

Good Morning US Open caters not only to our core US Open fans but reaches general sports, lifestyle, and entertainment audiences via our KOL fanbase. The research we have commissioned provides pivotal insights to our existing Chinese consumers and how best to engage with them. The engagement has far exceeded expectations, daily we have averaged over 2M viewers peaking at 3M as we head into Finals.

5. You're back to full capacity for the tournament. How important is that and how have you managed it?

We have been incredibly proud to welcome back fans to the US Open this year, as the first of the Grand Slams to do so at full scale. Working with the New York City Mayor's office to require proof of vaccination for all fans coming on-site has only added to the level of safety and security for all of our attendees. Our passionate fans in the stands and the New York celebrity following our event attracts, brings out the best in the players and provides that extra level of entertainment in broadcast and through the organic social content we are able to capture and share with our global audience.


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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 China, Southeast Asia, Europe, and the US, we specialise in digital strategy, transformation, social media, content production and eCommerce. Mailman is part of 160/90, an Endeavor company. Learn more about our story here.

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