• Denis Green

China Sports Business Weekly | 15th November

All the biggest China sports business news stories from the week. In this edition: League of Legends World Championships 2020 set for Shanghai, The CFA denies introduction of 50 naturalised players, more jobs in the snow and ice industry, BMG’s first China fan club, Singles’ Day records, and much more. My From the Top interview is with Victor Cui, CEO International at ONE Championship. Top Industry Stories:

1) League of Legends 2020 World Championships Set for Shanghai Esports showpiece the League of Legends World Championship will head to Shanghai next year. The announcement was made at the end of this year’s event in Paris. Touted as the world’s most-watched esports event, Shanghai will host the 10th World Championship Finals in 2020 at the 55,000-seat home of Chinese Super League football club Shanghai SIPG. Read more on SportBusiness (English) and Eastday (Chinese)

Mailman Take: This shows esports is acknowledged at the government level. The vice-mayor of Shanghai was present at the announcement and marked the first time a ministerial official in China was on hand to promote an esports event in public, making headline news on CCTV-1.

2) CFA Denies Introduction of 50 Naturalised Players The Chinese Football Association (CFA) has denied rumors that they plan to introduce 50 naturalised players, saying "the number of naturalised players will be very limited, while the foreign players' policy in professional leagues won't have big changes." In a statement, the CFA noted that "the report that 'CFA has a 50-naturalised-player quota' is completely untrue." Read more on China Daily (English) and Zhejiang Business (Chinese)

3) BMG’s First Official Fan Club in China Bundesliga side Borussia Mönchengladbach has launched its first official fan club in China. The fan club, currently at 86 members from across the country, offers fan club members an official platform to interact with each other. Read more on BMG Weibo (Chinese)

4) China Expects More Professionals in Ice and Snow Sports Industry The Chinese Ministry of Education released a list of higher vocational education programs offering training in ice and snow sports facility maintenance and management, to meet the increasing demand for skilled workers in the industry ahead of the Winter Olympics. There will be courses specific to sports knowledge, language, multi-cultural communication, and first aid. Read more on Xinhua (English) and Xinhua (Chinese)

5) Eileen Gu Partners with Red Bull The Chinese freestyle skier has signed an official partnership Red Bull Austria, becoming the first-ever Chinese skiing athlete to join Red Bull Austria's extreme sports group. Read more on Ecosports (Chinese)

6) Singles’ Day Billion Sales Mark for Sports Brands Adidas and Nike were the only sports brands to reach over RMB 1 billion in sales on Tmall (Alibaba-owned eCommerce platform) within 24 hours of Singles Day shopping. There was a total of 15 brands that achieved the RMB 1 billion sales mark. Read more on Ecosports (Chinese)


7) Marcello Lippi Resigns as China Head Coach The Italian World Cup winner announced his resignation after China lost to Syria 2-1 in the 2022 FIFA World Cup Asian Zone qualification. At the post-match press conference, he stated: "I was well paid and I take the full responsibility. I am now announcing my resignation and I will be no longer the coach of Team China." Read more on Xinhua (English) and Global Times (Chinese)


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From the Top

This week, My From the Top interview is with Victor Cui, CEO International at ONE Championship. We talked about where China fits in ONE Championship’s global strategy, what to expect this weekend in Beijing, what the fans want, and his biggest learnings from the job in China.

1. Where does China fit in as part of ONE Championship's global strategy?

8 years ago when I started ONE Championship as CEO, I remember sitting alone in what was basically a closet-size space for an office. I had no staff, no business cards, no email, and Chatri and I literally had to do everything ourselves. Back then I couldn’t have imagined that today ONE would be valued at $1 billion dollars, recognised as the largest global sports property in Asia, and rapidly expanding globally.

Like almost everyone in the world, China was undoubtedly on our radar and what we had to figure out was our market entry timing. Today, we’ve been fortunate enough at ONE to already have tremendous success across Asia and this has definitely helped our business in China when I moved here 3 years ago to set up our first overseas office. We were very focused on the opportunity in China back then and we remain very committed today – China is the birthplace of martial arts and ONE is the Home Of Martial Arts, a perfect alignment.

2. This weekend's event in Beijing is ONE Championship's 7th in China. How have these China events evolved over the years?

We are seeing our fan base, both within the martial arts community and the general public, expand rapidly. We have hit an all-time viewership high in China for our last event and globally our Tokyo event reached 85 million viewers. What’s particularly helped our brand growth in China is the first-ever Chinese female MMA World Champion Xiong Jing Nan. We’ve seen her fan base explode and she’s an excellent ambassador for the sport.

3. What have been your biggest learnings in China since your first event?

Patience. You hear that from almost every seasoned entrepreneur in China. But on the flip side of the patience coin you’ll find that as soon as things get moving they get moving phenomenally fast.


4. How do you adapt your digital strategy to China to cater to the Chinese fans?

In my opinion, Chinese fans are some of the most sophisticated digital consumers in the world. In fact, I would even go so far to argue that the rest of the world calls it “digital” and in China, we just called it “that’s life”.

Nowhere else is your digital life seamlessly integrated into everything you do. ONE has always been a digital-first company. A lot of our success has come from our deep domain expertise in this area and our ability to localise our digital strategy. Living in Shanghai has helped me go a long way in building a strategy that is specific and unique to China from the ground up. We still incorporate much of our global practices in content, production, social but we also spend a lot of resources localising.


5. How do you see the competition for MMA fans in China and what do you do differently to keep ONE Championship unique?

Competition in any industry is essential because it allows the best to innovate and rise to the top. There are some global organisations that do extremely well in the space of MMA but ONE Championship is the Home of Martial Arts and MMA is just one small piece of martial arts.

Today, some of the best athletes from all around the world in multiple disciplines in martial arts have joined us – Muay Thai, Kickboxing, Sanda, etc and on top of that, we often hold bouts for the national martial arts when we are in that country. For example, when we were in Myanmar we held Lethwei matches, which is their national combat sport.


6. What's the long-term strategy for ONE Championship in China and where do you hope to be in 5 years' time?

We will continue to focus on our fans first. Delivering world-class sports content that is highly relevant to our Chinese fans and globally showcases the power of martial arts to make our world a better place.

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In Other News

Each week, we’ll be introducing 3 awards for Mailman’s Red Card 2020: China Digital Football Awards. 7. Best CSR Project

Arranged a CSR event that made a significant impact on the local community.

8. Best Grassroots Project

Supported the national aims around football development in China with a local program.

9. Best Use of Influencer Marketing

Launched an influencer program to leverage their audiences and star appeal.

For more information on how to submit, click for English & Chinese. Submissions are now open and the deadline is November 30th. $38 Billion in Sales on Singles Day China's annual Singles Day online shopping bonanza achieved a record $38 billion in sales for Alibaba.

The country's biggest eCommerce company topped last year's record 16.5 hours in, before posting a total of $38.4 billion at the end of the day. That's roughly a 25% increase over last year's $30.8 billion, a slightly slower rate of growth than Alibaba recorded in 2018 when the company reported a 27% uptick in Singles Day revenue. Read more on CNN (English) and 36kr (Chinese)

Mailman Take: Without a doubt the world’s biggest shopping day. The numbers are mind-boggling and there’s no sign of a slowdown in consumer spending in China. It’s daunting news for brick-and-mortar businesses, as China continues to lead the way in the online delivery of pretty much anything you could ever imagine.

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Mailman is a global sports digital agency and consultancy. We help global rights holders, athletes and brands build a successful business across China, Europe, and Southeast Asia. Learn more about our story here.

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