• Denis Green

China Sports Business Weekly | 14th May

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


Making headlines this week: NHL delivers online Street Hockey Program, the CFA plans China Youth League, Sunac and Harbin Sport University collaborate, Hisense kicks off EURO 2020 campaign, a China digital landscape mega-guide, tech giants bet on the electric car market.


In this week’s From The Top, we spoke with Jason Howarth, VP of Marketing at Panini America, about Panini America's partnership with the UFC, engaging with the NFL Draft, growing the business in China, and priorities moving forward.


Top Industry News


1. NHL Delivers Online Street Hockey Program to China The NHL recently completed an online training course to promote their newly created NHL Street Hockey program, dedicated to helping Chinese schools promote healthy and active lifestyles for their students, while providing youth with an opportunity to learn a winter sport. The online portion of the program, which ran over 12 weeks, was specifically created for Chinese teachers to help them implement the program assets provided by the NHL. The program, launched across multiple cities and provinces, primarily focused on the province of Hebei. Over 1200 attendees signed up across China for the online courses, which will be implemented nationwide in the coming months. Read more on Beijing Daily (Chinese)

Mailman Take: A great opportunity for China’s education system and youth communities to learn from the best in the hockey business. The growth in online education opens further opportunities for global sports organisations to reach a wider audience in China through tailored programs & videos.

2. CFA Plans to Promote Youth League The Chinese Football Association (CFA) has laid out plans for the preliminary plan of the Chinese Youth Football League U13 & U15 competitions to 47 member associations and professional football clubs. The Chinese Youth Football League will be held according to the academic school calendar, while the study and examinations of young players will not be affected. The competition system will be fully accessible so that all club levels, social youth training institutions, sports schools and school teams can participate. Read more on China News (Chinese) 3. Sunac and Harbin Sport University Reach Winter Sports Cooperation Sunac, as one of the leading operators of the ice and snow industry in China, alongside Harbin Sport University - a training base for ice and snow sports - will jointly set up a professional training system and launch an academy. Cooperation projects include the establishment of sign-up classes, the implementation of special training programs for ski instructors, as well as academic qualifications. Read more on Ecosports (Chinese)

4. China Names Five Foreign-born Players for World Cup Qualifiers National football coach Li Tie picked a 26-man squad that includes three players from Brazil (Elkeson, Fernando Henrique and Alan Carvalho). The squad also includes Tyias Browning and Nico Yennaris, the former Arsenal midfielder. In their previous World Cup qualifier, a 2-1 defeat to Syria in November 2019, only Elkeson and Yennaris featured. Read more on France24 (English) and Xinhua (Chinese) 5. Baseball Geography Launched

Jointly produced by MLB & Thumb Media, the short-form video series Baseball Geography was recently launched on Tencent, Weibo, Bilibili & Douyin. The series focuses on the rich history and unique culture of baseball in different countries and regions. From Southern California to New York, from Japan to South Korea, China, the twelve-episode series provides a customised travel guide for baseball fans. Read more on China.com (Chinese) and watch the series here 6. Hong Kong Sevens 2021 On Track Hong Kong Rugby Union’s chief executive is confident the 2021 edition of the Hong Kong Sevens rugby tournament will go ahead with full-capacity crowds. Speaking at the Live! Matters 2021, Robbie McRobbie said that he is “confident but not complacent” about hosting the rescheduled event in November. The tournament was rescheduled late last year from April 2-4 to November 5-7. Read more on SportBusiness (English) 7. Hisense Kicks Off EURO 2020 Campaign with Football Legends As a Global Partner of EURO 2020, Hisense has launched its #UpgradeYourHome campaign to encourage consumers to upgrade their home appliances for summer. Ambassador Dwyane Wade encouraged European football legends including Marco Materazzi and Lukas Podolski to bring the Upgrade Season to Europe. Read more on PR Newswire (English) and Sports Money (Chinese) 8. ECOSPORTS Partners with QQ Music on Podcasts The two new podcasts, co-produced by ECOSPORTS and QQ Music, aims to provide high-quality sports audio content on the China market. The LockerRoom Halftime show and Xiao’s Sport Talk will both be produced on a weekly basis. Read more on Ecosports (Chinese) Esports


Worlds 2020 Generates $4.6M in Direct Economic Effect for Shanghai Five esports events were featured in the most impactful 15 sports events held in Shanghai in 2020. The report was released by The Shanghai Sports Bureau (SSB). The League of Legends World Championship 2020 (Worlds 2020), the biggest esports event of 2020, ranked #2, behind the 2020 Shanghai Marathon. The multi-title esports event Esports Shanghai Masters, Peacekeeper Elite World Champion Cup, and League of Legends Pro League (LPL) Spring and Summer Split were ranked #6, #7, #10, and #13, respectively. Read more on The Esports Observer (English)


Reports The Mega Guide: China Ecommerce & Digital Marketing, Q2, 2021 This 650+ page report includes the latest insights on 9 major consumer groups, 3 emerging consumer groups and major trends and happenings in Chinese ecommerce and digital marketing in Q2, 2021. As well as key information and data, the report interviewed over 50 China experts to give the most up-to-date, actionable advice on China marketing strategies. Download the report here (English)

Other News Tech Giants Bet US$19B on Global Electric Car Market China is shaping up to be the first real test of Big Tech's ambitions in the world of car-making, with giants from Huawei to Baidu Inc injecting almost US$19B into electric and self-driving vehicle ventures. The lure is an industry that's becoming increasingly high-tech as it pivots away from the combustion engine, with sensors and operating systems making cars more like computers, and the prospect of autonomy re-envisioning how people will use them. Read more on Business Times (English) and Sina (Chinese)


Meituan Shares Slide Following Poem Debacle

Shares in the Chinese food delivery giant fell around 14% after its boss shared a 1,000-year-old poem on social media. The Book Burning Pit by Zhang Jie was posted, then deleted, by the firm's billionaire chief executive, Wang Xing. The Tang dynasty poem was interpreted as a veiled criticism of President Xi Jinping's government. The company is one of China's biggest takeaway food delivery and lifestyle services platforms and is backed by technology giant Tencent. It has a market valuation of around US$220B, and in April raised US$10B, to fund its investment plans for deliveries using drones and self-driving vehicles. Read more on BBC (English) and Sohu (Chinese)

From The Top

Jason Howarth, VP of Marketing at Panini America

1. Panini has now landed the exclusive trading card rights for UFC rights. What has that meant to your global and China strategies with the rights and new partnership?


We are excited to add UFC as our newest trading card license. We just recently launched our first UFC product - PRIZM and to see how excited the global UFC fan base and UFC China fans were for the product is very promising. We can’t wait to be able to interact and be a part of their live experiences.


2. The NFL Draft this year was a major moment in 2021 as sports move beyond the pandemic. What was Panini's approach this year in terms of activations, and how were they leveraged in China?


Coming out of last year's NFL Draft which was all “virtual” we took some key learnings and chose to expand upon them in the digital/social space rather than revert to some of our more traditional tactics. In China, we’ve seen a lot of energy and growth around our NFL products so we really wanted to jump into the Draft this year in China by highlighting the most compelling rookies and you will continue to see more of that as we approach the season


3. The NFL has made strides in China in recent years and is seemingly gaining traction in the market here. Has this been reflected in the popularity of Panini NFL products in China, and do you think they will contend with basketball or soccer trading cards?


It’s been great to see the traction and continued growth of the NFL in China. We’ve also seen that interest in our NFL trading card products here as well especially over the last 18 months. Even with the popularity of our soccer and NBA products - we have always been and will continue to be committed to growing the popularity of the NFL and our NFL trading cards through our social platforms, the introduction of products into the market and other unique opportunities and initiatives.


4. Panini has now been operating social platforms and D2C sales channels for over a year in China. How has the China market responded to expectations and what are the priorities moving forward?


The Chinese sports fan and consumer has embraced our brand and we are excited to do all we can to engage them and connect to them. This last year was a bit challenging due to limitations around the pandemic - but feel like we are building great momentum in the community and looking forward to having more of those in-person experiences in the future.

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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. Learn more about our story here.

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