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  • Writer's pictureDenis Green

China Sports Business Weekly | 14th October

Hello Industry Friends, here is the very latest news and insights from China. 📰 Headlines: Warriors crowned most popular NBA team online in China, ITTF wrapped up successful Chengdu event. Bilibili & Kuaishou land MLB rights, youth programme launched by Under Armour, well-being campaign launched by Lululemon, plus the latest in China esports. 🗣 In this week’s From The Top, we spoke with Matt Pound, Managing Director at World Table Tennis (WTT), about the organisation’s recent China event, how to host a China event during zero-covid, operating inside the bubble, and lessons for other sports organisations looking to host events in China.


🗞️ Top Industry News Mailman Launches NBA Red Card 2022: China Digital Performance Index Now in its sixth year, the Mailman NBA Red Card: China Digital Performance Index is a comprehensive assessment on the digital performance of NBA teams, players and legends throughout the year in China. The report also provides a guide to broader NBA digital trends, interests, and insights. Read more on SportBusiness (English) and Mailman (Chinese) 💡 Mailman Take: The last 12 months saw the NBA return to CCTV, Kuaishou cement itself as the league’s short video partner, and NBA China double-down on its Corporate Social Responsibility projects across the country. To complement these, the teams, players, and legends of the NBA got creative, delivering high-level original content and campaigns for their fans in China online.


ITTF Wraps Up Successful Chengdu Bubble Event The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) successfully concluded its World Team Table Tennis Championships in Chengdu, China - adopting similar measures to that of the Beijing 2022 Winter Games to safely transport athletes in and out of the country. Once inside the closed loop, athletes were tested regularly, allowing for matches to be the focus. Read more on ITTF (English) and Global Times (Chinese) 💡 Mailman Take: It was the best outcome possible for ITTF, WTT, and the rest of the sporting world to see a global-level sport event take place smoothly in China. Despite the limited number of fans inside the bubble, the creativity, and access delivered through broadcast partners Migu and CCTV, as well as across all social platforms, proved the power and importance that digital can have in times like these.


Bilibili and Kuaishou To Broadcast MLB Postseason Matches Major League Baseball agreed media rights deals with Chinese digital platforms Bilibili and Kuaishou for this year's ongoing postseason games. Bilibili and Kuaishou are new additions to the MLB broadcaster line-up in China this year. Both platforms will feature coverage including live matches; localised commentary and analysis, including appearances by ‘virtual idol’ and local MLB ambassador, Leah; clips, and classic game replays. Read more on SportBusiness (English) and Tencent (Chinese) 💡 Mailman Take: This is further evidence of social platforms becoming increasingly important broadcaster partners for Western rights holders in China. Aside from Migu, digital broadcasters such as Tencent, iQiyi, and Youku look to be scaling back on sports content as they struggle with expensive payments and competition from the likes of Bilibili, Kuaishou, and Douyin. Under Armour Launches Youth Programme in China The American sports brand has officially launched its “UA Next Youth Elite Athlete Programme”. From basketball to volleyball to golf, the brand aims to make sports more accessible to Chinese youth. The initiative will be divided into four major project types: Grassroots Play Program, Rising Stars Program, Alliance cooperation plan, and exclusive training camps. Read more on DAO (English) and Lanxiong Sports (Chinese) China Complete Double Title Defence at World Team Table Tennis Championships Hosts China sealed the men's title for the 10th consecutive time at the World Team Table Tennis Championships after defeating Germany in Chengdu, following on from the women's triumph the day before. In what was a repeat of the final at Tokyo 2020, the challenge of the second seeds proved to be little threat for the Olympic champions as they strolled to a 3-0 win at the Chengdu High-tech Sports Centre. Read more on Inside The Games (English) and Sina (Chinese) Lululemon Launches Wellbeing Campaign Lululemon has launched its "Wellbeing for All" series of activities in the Chinese market, aiming to inspire people to take positive actions towards improving their physical, mental, and social well-being at the World Mental Health Day which falls on Oct 10 this year. Read more on China Daily (English) and Sports Money (Chinese) Kuaishou Accelerates Overseas Expansion with Localised Strategy Kuaishou, China’s second-largest short video social media platform, is currently gearing up for another push into overseas markets. At present, the company plans to aggressively expand to Brazil and Indonesia, two countries containing the largest number of daily active users. For Kuaishou, these two areas are key to its overseas commercialisation. Read more on DAO (English) and Tencent (Chinese)


🎮 Esports Gen.G Esports Signs Partnership with Tencent’s TiMi Esports The Global esports company announced that it has signed a partnership with Tencent’s TiMi Esports, in order to promote “Honor of Kings” in the global market. Gen.G will build a team to participate in an international competition, and the two will cooperate in various ways in line with the global launch of “Honor of Kings”, which is expected in the near future. Read more on European Gaming (English) Mailman Esports Blast: September Last month was a busy business period for China’s League of Legends and Dota 2 esports scenes due to the 2022 League of Legends World Championship (Worlds 2022) and Dota 2 The International. The qualifying Chinese teams, Edward Gaming (EDG) from League of Legends and PSG.LGD from Dota 2, signed multiple deals to power their teams in the last few days of the competitions. Meanwhile, Chinese game publisher NetEase updated its esports plans for the Naraka Bladepoint World Championship. Read more on Esports Insider (English)


🎙️ From The Top 🗣 Matt Pound, Managing Director at World Table Tennis (WTT) 1. How would you describe the experience of being in the bubble for the recent successful World Team Table Tennis Championships in Chengdu? I have been to multiple ITTF World Championships, Olympic Games, and FIFA World Cups, but this was the most amazing experience of my life. The creation of the closed loop system, the way players and staff were looked after, and the friendly and professional atmosphere that was created was simply outstanding. All the players, staff, and officials had a once-in-a-lifetime experience and we are very thankful to the Chinese for having made this event happen. 2. How difficult was it to get the green light for this event to go ahead, let alone complete it? This event simply would not have happened without the leadership and strength of the Chinese Table Tennis Association President Liu Guoliang, the entire ITTF Executive Committee led by Petra Sorling, and the ITTF Group CEO Steve Dainton. For the event to happen, we needed approvals from all levels of the Chinese Government and the ITTF. For the hard work, we will forever be grateful to Mr Liu, whose work was now recognised by being appointed the ITTF Deputy President and the WTT Board Chair. 3. What were the biggest difficulties you encountered during the build-up and throughout the event? When we got the approval for the event, we had to then work out how to get the players, staff, and officials into the closed loop. The only way was to arrange charter flights directly into Chengdu. ITTF/WTT have not had experience in managing such requirements, but quickly went to work in making suitable arrangements. Preparing travel for over 500 international participants to go into the closed loop from two departure points: Singapore and Dubai. In the end, this worked perfectly, and we safely brought in the world’s best Table Tennis players to join thousands of strong workforce in the closed loop, and history was made. 4. Any advice for other sports organisations that are looking to host events in China in the near future? The key is strong unilateral support from all levels of the Chinese Government. Without the strong work of the Chinese Table Tennis Association, and the international support and close collaboration, this simply would not be possible. 5. With the event taking place in a bubble, did you do anything different this time around online to bring the event even closer to fans?

Yes, it was important to bring fans close to the action with limited spectators allowed to attend. We worked closely with our media partners, in particular, Migu and CCTV to produce additional content and provide more live action to engage fans inside China. WTT also had a large team onsite to provide more content and do some new innovations such as a live mix zone on YouTube and additional engaging content.


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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