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  • Writer's pictureDenis Green

China Sports Business Weekly 13th August

Hello Industry Friends, here’s the very latest news and insights from one of the most eventful media rights deal weeks ever in China.

📰 Headlines: UEFA goes all-in on four platforms, Bundesliga’s trio, UFC and Migu ramp up fitness content, Xiaohongshu gives learnings from the Olympics, Messi surges PSG numbers, Su Bingtian rides Olympics momentum.

🗣️ In this week’s From The Top, Li Shen, Head of Sports Content Operations, Xiaohongshu, spoke about the platform’s decision to enter sports, working with western sports organisations, what to expect next, and learnings from working on the ground at the Tokyo Olympics.


🗞️ Top Industry News UEFA Lands FOUR New Broadcast Partners It’s European football for all. Tencent, iQiyi, PP Sports and Youku have all put pen to paper on deals to broadcast all UEFA Champions League and Europa League games for the upcoming season. Read more on SportBusiness (English) and Lanxiong Sports (Chinese) 💡 Mailman Take: It wasn’t that long ago when digital broadcast platforms were spending hundreds of millions to become the exclusive rights holder in China. Oh how times have changed. One of the few rights holders left to announce deals is Ligue 1. The Messi announcement couldn’t have come at a better time for the French league.

Bundesliga Announces a Trio Germany’s top flight of football will have three new non-exclusive digital broadcast homes for the next two seasons in China Mobile’s Migu, popular football app Dongqiudi, and streaming platform Huya. All deals were brokered by media rights agency China Sports Media. Tencent is also expected to be announced as a broadcaster later today. Read more on SportBusiness (English) and Sohu (Chinese) 💡 Mailman Take: Consistent with the current trend in China of opting for multiple broadcast partners over going exclusive with one, the Bundesliga is aiming for mass reach. Given the monumental drop in media rights fees following the unsustainable days of LeSports and PP Sports, this is the best option for Bundesliga to focus on growing and engaging new fans.

UFC & Migu Collaborate on Youth Fitness With the goal of improving physical fitness levels in China’s youth, the UFC has teamed up with Migu’s fitness platform to jointly create the ‘UFC Elite Training: Youth Health Fitness Course’. The online course, tailored for 8 to 16 years old, falls in line with the country’s five-year national fitness program recently issued by the China State Council. Read more on Beijing Daily (Chinese) 💡 Mailman Take: UFC’s wide-ranging partnership with Migu is much more than just media rights. Fitness & health content was a key pillar from the start, and with the State Council’s new fitness plan, timing couldn’t be better to roll out online educational fitness programs. Factor in UFC’s partnership with the Chinese Olympic Committee, the global sports organisation is set to play a leading role in China’s future of health.

Xiaohongshu at The Olympics Having recently entered the sports world, Xiaohongshu (also known as ‘RED’) were lucky enough to be on-the-ground in Tokyo for the Olympics following deals with CCTV5 and the Chinese women’s national football team. The Xiaohongshu team has been kind enough to give us a wrap-up of their time in Tokyo. Read more on Xiaohongshu (English) The Messi Effect Following the announcement of Lionel Messi to PSG, the French club’s Chinese social media followers surged, including 470K new followers on short video platform Douyin (internationally known as TikTok). To add, 3.6M on Weibo and 2.9M on Douyin tuned in to watch the announcement press conference live. 💡 Mailman Take: The Argentinian international is the 2nd most followed current Western football player online in China, following Cristiano Ronaldo. His move to PSG has already significantly impacted the club on digital with hundreds of thousands of new fans and record-breaking engagement.

Su Bingtian’s Sponsorship Sprint The fastest man in Asia and China’s new local hero has claimed a host of new sponsorship deals following a successful Olympics in Tokyo. Su has been announced as the brand spokesperson for electronics firm Xiaomi and car manufacturer GAC Motor. Read more on SportBusiness (English) and Sina (Chinese) ATP Shanghai Rolex Masters Cancelled For the second year in a row, COVID-19 has meant the always-entertaining event in Shanghai will not be happening. The Chengdu Open and Zhuhai Championships (ATP 250s) have also been cancelled. Read more on Xinhua (English) and The Paper (Chinese)


🎮 Esports Ninjas in Pyjamas Joins LPL, Merges with ESV5 Swedish esports organisation Ninjas in Pyjamas (NiP) has announced a merger with the Chinese esports brand ESV5, creating ‘NIP Group‘ in the process. As a result of the merger, Ninjas in Pyjamas will return to League of Legends by joining Riot Games’ Chinese franchised league, the LPL. Read more on Esports Insider (English) and The Cover (Chinese)


🤔 Opinion Will Luxury Brands Get Tangled Up in China’s Gaming Crackdown? While the official tone on gaming has softened somewhat since, luxury brands must brace for impact if authorities impose stricter regulations on in-game spending, livestreaming, and other activities. Read more on Jing Daily (English)


🗞️ Other News Tencent Merges Short Video Platform Weishi and Tencent Video Products from the two units will now be integrated into Tencent’s online video products department, established in April of this year. The new department is responsible for the overall planning and operation of videos, while also managing Tencent Sports and Pinduoduo. Read more on Pandaily (English) and Sina (Chinese) Tech’s Wealthiest Lose $87B Following Beijing Crackdown Beijing’s regulatory assault on China’s technology industry has taken $87B off the net worth of the sector’s wealthiest tycoons since the start of July, hitting the fortunes of magnates such as Tencent’s Pony Ma and Pinduoduo’s Colin Huang. Read more on FT (English) and NetEase (Chinese)


📢 From The Top 🗣️ Li Shen, Head of Sports Content Operations, Xiaohongshu

1. Why did Xiaohongshu decide to enter into the sports space?

As a leading lifestyle platform in China, Xiaohongshu's sports content has been growing organically for some time. From 2019 to 2020, the number of notes on Xiaohongshu related to sporting events increased by 1140% year-on-year, and notes related to sports and fitness increased by 300%, with content featuring fitness, skiing, surfing, and skateboarding and more. Male users of Xiaohongshu account for 30% of our more than 100M monthly active users so far.

This also inspired Xiaohongshu to bring the Olympics into the lives of our users to encourage participation on a different level beyond simply watching the Olympics - promoting the concept of “competition is for the arena, sport is for life”.

2. How does Xiaohongshu work & collaborate with western football clubs?

Clubs such as FC Barcelona and Juventus, which both recently joined Xiaohongshu, provide exclusive content for Xiaohongshu fans, especially lifestyle-driven content. This provides a glimpse into life outside of the pitch and allows Xiaohongshu fans to directly engage with their favourite clubs in a brand new way. We are also looking forward to working with them on offline activities and fashion collaborations in the future.

3. What is so unique about Xiaohongshu's user base that it attracts international sports organisations?

First of all, Xiaohongshu has a highly-engaged user base consisting largely of the new generation of Chinese consumers. As of June 2020, Xiaohongshu has over 100M monthly active users, 70% of which were born post-90s. This is a community that can help brands and organisations directly connect with this next-generation audience in an engaging and genuine way. We see that sports has entered a new era, integrating with society, culture and tourism and becoming part of people’s daily lives. Being on Xiaohongshu becomes an important way to connect with the next-generation audience and increase the appeal of sports among them.

Secondly, Xiaohongshu’s user-generated content has three distinctive characteristics that make it a unique platform for international sports organisations and brands.

Users are sharing about the influence of sports in their daily lives, rather than just concentrating on the sporting events themselves. For example, during EURO2020, there was content about how to transform the living room into a comfortable place to watch the game, which bars were suitable for watching the games, and tips on how to avoid knock-offs when buying jerseys.

Sports-related content on Xiaohongshu has high engagement. In June 2020, German fitness influencer Pamela Reif joined Xiaohongshu and racked up more than 1.8M fans in a month. Xiaohongshu has become an incubator for less mainstream sports, hosting content from tutorials to sports venues to recommended equipment. Take skateboarding as an example. Searching for "skateboard" in Xiaohongshu gives you a series of content from introduction videos to recommended brands and skateboard shops to buy from. Experienced skateboarders are also willing to give advice and share their own experiences on Xiaohongshu.

4. What more can we expect from Xiaohongshu in the sports industry?

Xiaohongshu is not only a platform for users to get content related to sports, but is also one of the most popular destinations for making lifestyle decisions. On Xiaohongshu, a user's journey from "online sharing" to "community interaction" promotes "consumption", which in turn generates more "online sharing" and restarts the cycle again. This provides immense value to the sports industry as the content on Xiaohongshu not only raises the profile of a sport or sporting event, but also eventually helps to drive consumption - creating a loop from content to consumption to culture.

5. What have been the big wins and key learnings from working with the women's national football team and CCTV5 at Tokyo 2020?

Becoming a strategic partner of China Media Group for Tokyo 2020 and partnering with the women’s national football team was an important step for Xiaohongshu, allowing us to bring in a range of diverse and professional content that brought an increase in conversation around sports. This year, for the first time ever, Xiaohongshu buzzed with Olympics-related activity like never before.


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