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  • Writer's pictureDenis Green

China Sports Business Weekly | 17th April

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

Making the headlines this week: PP Sports looks to fill content void with Dugout tie-up, Mailman launches post COVID-19 Playbook, Netease’s eLearning platform announces legend coach Lang Ping as spokesperson, FC Barcelona & Tencent academies team up against COVID-19, CBA set for late June deadline, Derek Chang to step down as NBA China CEO, Road to Qatar 2020 kicks off online, plus all the best of the rest and esports news. 

In this week’s From The Top is Nico Yennaris (Li Ke), professional footballer for Beijing Sinobo Guoan and the Chinese national football team. We discussed his life in quarantine, engaging with his fans in recent months, how to stay fit & focused, and what he hopes to achieve when (if) the CSL season gets back underway.

Top Industry News

1) PP Sports & Dugout Announce Content Partnership Digital football content platform Dugout will provide behind-the-scenes and archive content in Mandarin to China’s leading digital football broadcaster, PP Sports, which is known as the ‘home of football’ in China. Read more on SportBusiness (English) and Sohu (Chinese) Mailman Take: PP Sports’ business model is built around live football. The company has positioned itself strategically in the market spending north of a billion dollars on exclusive rights to Europe’s top football leagues, the CSL, the AFC, and much more. However, attracting Chinese fans to pay to watch live sports is getting harder these days, and PP Sports will be struggling to keep up due to no live football, anywhere. The deal with Dugout will no doubt help provide hungry football fans with extra content to entertain, but will it help pay the bills...

2) Post COVID-19 Playbook for Global Sports in China At Mailman, we looked at 5 of the unique megatrends and behaviours we’ve observed which are likely to reshape the needs and desires of the Chinese fans, whilst also presenting opportunities for global sport to explore when engaging the Chinese market. Read the Playbook here in English and Chinese

3) Lang Ping Announced as Spokesperson for Netease Youdao The famous Head Coach of the World Championship-winning Chinese National Volleyball Team will act as ambassador and spokesperson for media group Netease’s online education platform, Youdao. Read more on Ecosports (Chinese)

Mailman Take: The rise of education turning digital is a trend we’re seeing more and more across China, as eLearning becomes a new normal for children and parents post COVID-19. Lang Ping is one of the most famous sporting figures in China and will drive awareness & credibility to Netease Youdao. This highlights the opportunity sports brands and athletes now have to integrate with eLearning and provide value to the education system, while gaining brand exposure in a growing industry.

4) FC Barcelona & Tencent Foundations Collaborate in Fight Against COVID-19 The Chinese technology company sent 15K sets of personal protective equipment to hospitals in Catalonia through the Barcelona foundation. Tencent also recently launched a $100M Global Anti-Pandemic Fund to help curb the spread of the virus. Read more on FC Barcelona (English) and Kuaibao (Chinese)

5) Hopes of a Late June Start for the CBA Teams have started training and senior management have taken pay cuts in order to ease the financial burdens from player wages and venue rentals. The league hopes that a June restart date would mean the season could resume and spring back into life with some mid-summer basketball If the end of June comes and no decision is able to be made, then it’s likely the season will be cancelled. Read more on CGTN (English) and Sina Sports (Chinese) 6) NBA China CEO to Resign Derek Chang was appointed CEO of NBA China in June 2018 and was in charge when the league opened the largest NBA Store outside of North America in Beijing. Derek Chang also oversaw more challenging times last October following the fallout Tweet from Rockets GM Daryl Morey. At Mailman, we wish Derek the very best of luck in his future role and life in the UK. Read more on NBA (English) & Xinhua News Agency (Chinese)

7) Road to Qatar Launches Online in China Qatar’s FIFA World Cup 2022™ Delivery & Legacy organisation has launched official accounts on Weibo, Toutiao, and Baidu in China. With 947 days to go until the showpiece tournament, the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy will look to engage & entertain fans and grow excitement throughout the build-up. Watch the opening video on Weibo

Best of the Rest

How is COVID-19 affecting sporting content and ad spend? Campaign Asia took a deep dive into the world of sports content and marketing to see which organisations and brands are adapting well, and which are struggling. Read the article here (English) Tesla Launches on Alibaba’s Tmall in China The US electric car maker, which sold over 10K vehicles in China last month, will debut an eight-day livestream starting April 21, and is expected to give out mini car models for children, 48-hour test drives for the Model 3, as well as coupons for free charging services. Read more on China Daily (English) and China News (Chinese)

Esports News

From January to March this year, China's mobile game market revenue exceeded $7B, an increase of more than 40% year-on-year. Among some of the companies analysed, net profit growth exceeded 200% year-on-year. Read more on Sina (Chinese) Mailman Take: It’s no surprise to see this already growing industry benefit from no live sport around the world. Those sports brands which invested in esports early will be reaping the benefits now, with the likes of PSG, Wolves, Manchester City, and Real Madrid leveraging their esports teams as much as possible across Asia. For those looking at alternative avenues to entertain fans with no live sport, esports should be a staple of that. Will this new wave of interest propel more organisations/teams to invest in esports in China?

From The Top

Nico Yennaris (Li Ke) 1. How have you kept yourself busy & fit during a period of no sport?

I’ve stayed fit and busy by doing my training programmes set by my fitness coaches. Lots of home workouts or outside running when it has been safe and possible. 

2. What have you been doing on social and how have you been interacting with fans to provide entertainment?

I’ve done my first couple of Instagram and Weibo lives to interact with fans. I’ve also done some live sessions with some friends to see how they’re doing. I enjoyed these and will be doing more live sessions in the future. It’s been fun finding different ways to interact with fans. 

3. How was your first season in the CSL? what were the highs and lows?

I would say my first season was good, I settled into Beijing well and I enjoyed it a lot. There were lots of highs which included becoming the first naturalised player to play in the CSL and of course receiving my International call up and making my debut for Team China. Also putting together a 10 game winning streak with Beijing Sinobo Guoan. There weren’t many lows but missing out on the CSL Title by only 2 points is definitely one. 

4. If the season starts again this year, what will your ambitions be personally and as a club?

My ambitions personally are to score a few more goals this year and to try and help the team as much as I can. Of course, the biggest target is to win trophies with Beijing Sinobo Guoan. 

5. What message do you have for sports fans out there who are missing the beautiful game of football?

Be patient, keep safe and all will be back to normal sooner or later.


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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 the globe we specialise in digital strategy, transformation, social media, content production and eCommerce. Learn more about our storyhere.

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