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  • Writer's pictureDenis Green

China Sports Business weekly 12th August

Hello Industry Friends, here is the very latest news and insights from China. 📰 Headlines: FEI partners with Migu for World Championships, China launches Ultimate Frisbee National League, the country celebrates National Fitness Day, Billboard launches China edition, Chinese esports league hits match-fixing players with a lifetime ban, Anta targets high-end buyers, and SportsPro APAC releases agenda. 🗣 In this week’s From The Top, we spoke with Senior Manchester United Executives, about the club’s recent launches on and learnings from Xiaohongshu and Bilibili, having dedicated China staff on the ground in Manchester, offering pre-season to fans on Bilibili, partnering with trading card company FansMall, and reflecting on the Theatre of Dreams offline location in Beijing, as well as what more we can expect from it.


🗞️ Top Industry News FEI Partners with Migu for Equestrian World Championships China Mobile’s streaming platform Migu and the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) have launched a dedicated equestrian channel after the platform secured exclusive rights to the FEI World Championships in Denmark. Migu will broadcast full coverage of the championships on the channel. Read more on FEI (English) and Ecosports (Chinese) 💡 Mailman Take: Migu is continuing its media rights spending spree that has positioned the platform as China’s leading digital streaming sports content service in China. The difference with Migu, compared to those that overspent and went bankrupt, is the backing of the country’s leading teleco, China Mobile. Rights holders will feel confident in Migu’s ability to continue spending and growing its content offering, whilst remaining a reliable broadcast partner. China Launches Ultimate Frisbee National League Capitalising on the explosive growth of the sport in the last couple of years across the country, the new national competition will run through to finals in May 2023, with events taking place in more than 10 cities. The inaugural event which took place in Xi'an attracted 400 players across 12 teams, and featured 30 matches. Read more on SportBusiness (English) and Ecosports (Chinese) 💡 Mailman Take: Frisbee has taken off in China, with a reported 500k participants in 2021, and that number is expected to be much higher today. A low barrier to entry, equal popularity among males & females, community feel, and dedicated photographers to help the sport go viral have all helped elevate the game and created enough buzz for a national league to be formed.


China Celebrates National Fitness Day On the weekend preceding China’s National Fitness Day, a variety of sporting events and fitness programs, including dragon boat racing, kayaking, skateboarding, roller skating, ice hockey, rugby and frisbee were organised by local Chinese authorities across the country. Shanghai launched a series of activities at the bank of Suzhou River, drawing active participation from sports enthusiasts. Read more on Xinhua (English) and Sohu (Chinese) Leeds United Extends Hisense Deal English Premier League club Leeds United has agreed to a two-season extension of its sponsorship deal with Chinese consumer electronics manufacturer Hisense. The new deal, covering the 2022-23 and 2023-24 seasons, comes after Hisense agreed to an initial contract in 2020. Read more on SportBusiness (English) Billboard Launches China Edition Billboard’s president Mike Van announced the launch of the Billboard brand in China with the newborn publication looking to expand Billboard’s presence in Asia, following launches in Korea and Japan. According to Billboard’s website, the first cover story for the Chinese branch will be published later this week on the microblogging platform Weibo. The publication recruited several Chinese popstars to promote the upcoming launch, including Jackson Wang, Higher Brothers’ Masiwei and Wang Yuan from TFBoys. Read more on Radii (English) and Qianlong (Chinese)


🎮 Esports Chinese Esports League Hits Match-Fixing Players with Lifetime Ban More than a dozen esports professionals have received lifetime bans from China's League of Legends Development League (LDL) after a match-fixing and betting investigation. The second-tier LDL announced on Weibo that they took disciplinary action after investigating a match on July 10 between two clubs named Team Orange (TO) and Twelve, in which a big lead held by Twelve mid-game was overturned after a TO player triggered a pause for network issues. Read more on CGTN (English) and Sina (Chinese) Mailman Esports Blast: July Last month was a milestone in China’s esports industry. Not only did the annual Tencent Global Esports Summit conclude in Hangzhou with multiple new esports plans announced, but a new director of the General Administration of Sport of China was appointed. However, China’s esports industry saw its first downward trend through the first half of 2022 in a financial report announced by the Chinese authorities. Despite the challenging situation, there was still positive news last month. Read more on Esports Insider (English)


🤔 Need to Know Anta Sports Targets High-End Buyers with Olympic Trainer Debut Anta’s high-performance running shoe, originally designed for professional athletes, was an attempt from the brand to gain a share of the country’s growing market for high-end sportswear. The Olympic Champion shoe, developed for members of China’s national sports team to wear when training for 5 to 10km track events, sells on for $103 a pair. Read more on Yicai (English) ‘We’re accessing a totally different world’: How Endeavor is shifting focus in China Sum Huang is only a year into his tenure as Chief Executive of Endeavor China, the Shanghai-based subsidiary of UFC and IMG parent Endeavor Group. Nevertheless, the former XG Entertainment boss is already chartering a new course for the company. Read more on SportsPro (English)


🎫 Events From China and Japan to Australia and New Zealand, SportsPro has the APAC region covered 📆 14th - 15th September | Marina Bay Sands, Singapore. The agenda includes a variety of keynotes, debates, technology and data showcases, as well as thematic masterclasses from thought-leaders across the APAC region, this is not an event you will want to miss! Speakers from the biggest sports properties, including Commonwealth Games Federation, DAZN, UFC, Bundesliga International, Endeavor China, NBA, Disney Star and more, will discuss their business approach in localised regions as well as the fundamentals of expansion into APAC. Read more on SportsPro APAC


🎙️ From The Top 🗣 Senior Manchester United Executives 1. The Club has recently launched new accounts on Xiaohongshu and Bilibili. What can we expect to see from the club on these two platforms and how will content differ? Phil Lynch, CEO, Digital Products and Services We are constantly seeking new and innovative ways to interact with our passionate followers and bring them closer to the club. Launching on Bilibili and Xiaohongshu are part of these continuous efforts. Bilibili is a very lively and engaging channel with a strong user culture. The Club will create bespoke content to suit the platform’s unique profile as we aim to expand our reach and influence amongst a younger demographic. Bilibili is also building its sports portfolio, including having FA Cup rights until 2023/24. We hope to experiment and innovate new ideas with them during these live games too to enrich the fan experience. As a leading lifestyle platform, Xiaohongshu allows us to tell the Club’s story, both on and off the pitch, in a more personalised, stylish and fashionable way. Through insider access and references to Manchester United and English culture, we aim to showcase the Club to our fans from a brand new perspective, and at the same time attract a young and trendy following. 2. The Club recently brought a member of the China team to be based in Manchester. How has this helped your China content and fan engagement strategies, and what have been the biggest learnings from having on-the-ground, China-dedicated staff? Phil Lynch, CEO, Digital Products and Services We believe localisation makes a true difference when it comes to authentically engaging our fans in China. That’s why we have a full-time Chinese content creator based in Manchester. The creator becomes the perfect connection between the Club and its Chinese fans, as he understands both our Club’s value and Chinese culture. Being in Manchester also means an entirely different level of access for content creation. The access to players, events and venues is unparalleled, and more importantly we are now able to produce content in Chinese and in a more culturally relevant manner. This is a totally different experience versus subtitled content, and is what our Chinese fans genuinely crave for. 3. The Club streamed all pre-season games live on Bilibili. Did viewership meet your expectation and did you gain any key takeaways by offering these games to fans in China? Phil Lynch, CEO, Digital Products and Services We have a different distribution strategy for pre-season tours in China versus the rest of the world. Globally, we streamed the game on our Club App where viewership and subscribers hit record high, while for China we distributed the games exclusively on Bilibili to suit local market preferences. Riding on the momentum of our Bilibili channel launch, we recorded a strong 137% growth for pre-season viewership year-on-year in China. On top of this, we also introduced a live-commerce feature for some of the games, where fans could purchase Club merchandise including the newly launched jerseys while watching their heroes play in the very same shirt. As said, we hope to enrich our fan’s holistic experience, and great content lies at the core of these initiatives. 4. The Club recently announced a partnership with trading card company, FansMall. Can you talk me through this partnership and what exactly the club will do to engage fans using the cards? Juvan Wong, Head of Strategy and Operations, Asia The Club’s localisation strategy goes beyond content creation and media distribution. Designing and creating products with our Chinese fans in mind is part of our bigger initiative to meet our massive fan base’s demand. Fansmall, a leader in the card-trading space in China, is one of the recent local licensing partnerships we did. We also have two new licensing partners, Ace Player and Westar, that produce toy figurines. Fansmall’s trading card design will be the first time the China-chic style is applied for sports trading cards, a pioneer in the industry. The toy figurines tap into China’s popular blind box economy and attract collectors from both fans & non-fans. Feedback so far has been overwhelmingly positive, and we are excited to explore further opportunities in the licensing market. 5. Lastly, the Theatre of Dreams’ location in China has been open for a couple of years now. How would you summarise this offline location’s performance? What can we expect for the future? James Holroyd, Chief Commercial Development Officer The ‘Theatre of Dreams’ in Beijing is a groundbreaking concept in football, and we are incredibly proud of its achievements and our partner Harves. The centre works on many levels; for tourists visiting Beijing, for club partners looking to activate in such an important market, for local football development initiatives with the Beijing sports bureau, but most importantly it offers our huge fanbase in Beijing a physical home. We fully opened the centre just before the pandemic, and consequently the traffic and business has been limited by the trading restrictions which have been in place. Despite the challenging backdrop, we remain confident in the business. Interest in the centre remains high, driven by excellent reviews and it has even won awards for offering some of the best food in Beijing! Despite the covid challenges, we have continued to upgrade the fan experience at the centre, and we have recently launched a new game over the summer. The Game Bay technology is a key feature of the experience, offering a new form of entertainment for all visitors, regardless of whether they are football fans, and I’d encourage anyone in Beijing to experience the immersive technology first hand!


Mailman is China’s leading sports digital agency. We exist at the intersection of digital & sports. We help top sports organisations & brands to build sustainable businesses in China, one of the world's most challenging markets. Mailman is part of the Endeavor network. Learn more about our story here.

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