• Denis Green

China Sports Business Weekly | 16th July

Here’s the latest news and insights from a busy seven days in China.


📰 Headlines: Xiaohongshu lands CCTV & women’s football deals, Inter upgrades Lenovo sponsorship, AC Milan calls in OPPO, UFC’s fan party, Suzhou handed BWF Sudirman Cup, Tencent’s Huya & Douyu merger blocked, and Tencent Music loses exclusivity.

🗣️ In this week’s From The Top, Jason Shi, Director of Marketing China at Hyperice, spoke about partnering with the UFC, working with Zhang Weili, current opportunities in China, staying ahead of the competition, and dealing with copycat products.

🗞️ Top Industry News

Xiaohongshu Partners with CCTV & Women’s Football Ahead of Tokyo 2020 The social media and ecommerce platform, also known as RED and popular among females and youth, will receive exclusive content from reporters at the Tokyo Olympics. For women’s football, China’s national team players will make appearances and post content on the app. Read more on SportBusiness (English) and Xinhuanet (Chinese) 💡 Mailman Take: Unlike the Euros, the Olympics will only have a one-hour time difference, benefitting the hundreds of millions tuning in from China. Xiaohongshu’s 100M monthly active users are mainly interested in beauty, fashion, travel & food, this looks like their entry into sport.

Inter Milan Upgrades Lenovo Sponsorship The tech brand will be placed on the back of Inter Milan’s new snake patterned kit for the upcoming season. The pair first shook hands in 2019, when Lenovo was coined as the club’s tech partner. Now, branding has been promoted from training kit to first-team kit. Read more on SportPro (English) and PP Sports (Chinese) 💡 Mailman Take: Question marks still hover over Suning’s ownership of the club, and Suning’s situation in general. This will be a temporary relief that the club can still bring in big money from China, as the majority of European football clubs have struggled to strike new Chinese deals in 2021. AC Milan Calls in OPPO The Chinese smartphone brand has been heavily investing in tier-1 sports properties such as Wimbledon and FC Barcelona. AC Milan becomes the latest club to wear the OPPO brand, which is timely, off the back of the club’s recent Shanghai office opening and Shenzhen academy launch. Read more on AC Milan (English) and Ecosports (Chinese)


UFC Fan Party Unites Community The weekend offline fan event took place at the UFC Performance Institute Shanghai, where UFC and eight partners welcomed over a thousand fans to participate in two days of fun, fitness, and education. A host of UFC athletes were on-site giving unprecedented access to fans. Festivities kicked off with a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu team tournament and capped off with a full house watch party for UFC 264. Read more on Sina (Chinese)


Singer Zeng Hanjiang Appointed MLB China Ambassador Prior to the 2021 MLB All-Star Game (ASG), MLB teamed up with pop singer Zeng Hanjiang, who joined Tencent’s livestream of the ASG. The collaboration will extend beyond the ASG and will include youth baseball promotion, content creation and music production in the future. Zeng also produced the ASG’s official song in China. Read more on Ifeng (Chinese)


Suzhou Handed Sudirman Cup Originally due to host the BWF World Mixed Team Championships in May, Suzhou will now host the 2023 edition of the Sudirman Cup instead of India, which in turn has been awarded the 2026 Badminton World Championships. Read more on SportBusiness (English) and Xinhuanet (Chinese) World Rowing Championships Shanghai Cancelled Scheduled for October 17-24, the tournament was cancelled due to COVID-19. World Rowing has since stated its willingness to organise the competition in Shanghai in the future. Read more on CGTN (English) and Xinhuanet (Chinese) 💡 Mailman Take: Ominous signs for all international events looking to stage in China this year. Despite administering 1B+ vaccines across the country, China’s government remains extra cautious staging global events, particularly with the Beijing Winter Olympics on the horizon. Honor Devices for Team China Athletes The tech brand spun off from Huawei, and the General Administration of Sport of China, signed an agreement to gift smart devices to Team China Olympic athletes. Honor will provide devices such as smartphones, smartwatches, and headphones. Read more on Shine (English) and NetEase (Chinese) OPPO Ready For AFF Suzuki Cup Debut The brand continues its big week, this time making a first step in supporting football in South East Asia by signing up as the Official Smartphone of the AFF Suzuki Cup 2020. Read more on Beyond the Match (English) and Ecosports (Chinese)

🎮 Esports - It’s all about the mergers Tencent’s $5.3B Merger of Huya and DouYu Blocked A combined 300M monthly active mobile users across both platforms would have given Tencent an unrivalled grip on the growing esports streaming industry. This aborted merger signals the latest blow to China’s tech giants as regulators increase scrutiny around monopolies. Read more on SCMP (English) and Jiemian (Chinese) 💡 Mailman Take: This blocked merger signals that esports is well within the government's radar. Ultimately it's good news for the industry though,with DouYu, Huya and Bilibili each fighting to secure exclusive media rights to become the dominant livestream platform. This competition means increased revenue opportunities for esports teams, leagues, and players.


Ninjas in Pyjamas Agrees to Chinese Team Merger Best known for its Counter Strike team, Ninja in Pyjamas has agreed to merge via equity swap with ESV5, which counts China's video game streaming site DouYu and anti-virus firm Qihoo 360 among its investors. Read more on Reuters (English) and Core Esports (Chinese)

Opinion China Patriotism Could Launch ANTA Sales Past Adidas If the so-called “Nike of China” continues to overperform, it will soon overtake adidas to become the world’s second most valuable sports clothing brand. Jing Daily explores why. Wimbledon Teen Star Emma Raducanu Set for Breakthrough Off the Court Emma Raducanu’s Wimbledon may not have ended how she or the British public will have wanted but there is plenty to be positive about for the Chinese-Romanian 18-year-old. Not least that she won the Wimbledon Breakthrough Award this week, sponsored by Chinese brand Oppo, a sign of how far she has come. Jonathan White from SCMP explores more (English)

🗞️ Other News Tencent Music to Lose Music Label Exclusivity China's antitrust regulator is set to order Tencent Music to give up exclusive rights to music labels. The State Administration of Market Regulation will also fine it $77K for lapses in reporting the acquisitions of apps Kuwo and Kugour. Read more on Reuters (English) and Sina (Chinese) Alibaba and Tencent to Increase Services Collaboration The two mega-companies are gradually considering opening up their services to each other, according to a Wall Street Journal report. Alibaba’s plans to introduce WeChat Pay to its own platforms, while In return, Tencent may allow Alibaba’s ecommerce information to be shared on WeChat. Read more on Pandaily (English) and Ifeng (Chinese)

📢 From The Top 🗣️ Jason Shi, Director of Marketing China at Hyperice


1. How is Hyperice's partnership with UFC being implemented in China?

It’s a great partnership for Hyperice - the collaboration between our brand and UFC China is moving to the next level in the local market. Last weekend, UFC China held its annual Shanghai Performance Institute (PI) Experience Tour for its China fans. As an official partner of UFC, Hyperice was invited to join the event with a booth presentation, also branding and product display, plus exposure all around the floor to engage with UFC fans and general sports lovers.

The Hyperice team will further work on the production of a specific video series to engage Hyperice with one UFC China athlete to share product introduction and education for our China consumers in the coming weeks.

We’ll keep activating our UFC partnership throughout the year and will have more updates to share when we have them. Stay tuned!

2. What impact has Zhang Weili had on the brand in China, and what value does she bring?

As a world champion and great athlete, Zhang matches the values of Hyperice perfectly and has been one of the major faces representing Hyperice when introduced to local UFC audiences and even broader sports fans in China.

Not only China, but she also has the global name! Jim Huether, Hyperice CEO said: "Zhang is one of the most exciting world champions in all of professional sports. We're proud to have her join team Hyperice as a global ambassador and will work together to raise the bar for performance and recovery worldwide."

3. What are the big opportunities Hyperice has identified in China?

Same path as global strategic direction leads; Hyperice China is actively communicating its brand with local consumers through the following marketing pillars: Major sports + sports league/teams (NBA, Lakers, UFC, Soccer, NFL, MLB, etc.); Fitness; Influencer marketing and Gaming.


4. As the market leader in this category, what are you doing to innovate and stay ahead of the competition?

Recently, the League of Legends Pro League (LPL), Riot Games’ tier-one esports competition in China, has named Hyperice as its official recovery technology partner for 2021. As a part of the deal, Hyperice will provide all 17 participating LPL teams with access to its recovery technologies in its facilities, during training in separate team bases and onsite during match play.

We want to leverage gaming as a strong channel to approach Generation Z and build our future consumer base; actively we work with the LPL and LPL teams to introduce the brand and execute product education to help any gamers to move better, which is something new in our sports recovery category.

Just like the statement from Jim Huether, CEO of Hyperice: “League of Legends Pro League is the premier esports professional event to showcase Hyperice’s innovative range of recovery technologies for real-time recovery while optimizing play league-wide via custom training facilities. The partnership not only helps expand our footprint in China but also helps to diversify the Hyperice global customer landscape in support of our mission to help the world move better.”

5. There's a clear grey market with plenty of copycat products, how do you combat this?

We are adding true value to consumers through products carrying well trusted industry-leading technologies, and also emotional boosts to live a healthy, positive and fresh life. We are the choice of elite athletes, major leagues, celebrities and sports lovers. People can tell the difference between us and others; we just need to be ourselves.

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