Welcome to the latest edition of the China Sports Business Weekly.
Making headlines this week: Chelsea becomes the first football club outside of China to launch on Kuaishou, the NHL launches educational Mini Program, Esports makes it into the 2022 Asian Games, the CFA announces CSL player salary caps, the AFC renews Continental Tyres global partnership, and Huya & DouYu merger comes under review.
In this week’s From The Top, we spoke with Ned Negus, Executive Vice President, Marketing & Partnerships at Football Marketing Asia, about the partnership with China Mobile Migu, the expected impact of 5G for fans, the Asian Cup 2023, and what lies ahead in 2021.
Top Industry News
1. Chelsea Becomes First Football Club Outside China to Launch on Kuaishou As part of the club’s Kuaishou strategy, Chelsea will publish entertaining match and training footage from the present and past, exclusive behind-the-scenes content, story-telling centred around the club and players’ most emotional stories, as well as local and global fan-related content. All content will be in short-form video formats and through live streaming. Read more on Chelsea (English) and Lanxiong Sports (Chinese)
2. NHL Launches Educational Mini Program on WeChat The National Hockey League (NHL) Mini Program introduces the eagerly anticipated Ball Hockey zone, which provides introductory curriculums for kids and hockey beginners. The NHL official online training course, designed for physical education teachers, is set to launch later this month, with the registration system now open inside the Mini Program. Check out the Mini Program (Chinese) Mailman Take: With the Beijing Winter Olympics only 14 months away, the NHL has recognised an opportunity to bring their game into the hands of young Chinese fans. In doing so, the NHL is giving back to one of its biggest markets and offering the next generation of ice hockey enthusiasts the chance to advance their understanding of the game ahead of 2022.
3. Esports Included into 2022 Asian Games
Esports has been approved for inclusion in the Asian Games in Hangzhou in 2022, the Olympic Council of Asia announced. Hangzhou 2022 will be the 19th edition of the Asian Games and will take place from September 10 to 25. This is the first time gaming has been recognised as a sport in a top continental multi-sport event like the Asian Games. Read more on CGTN (English) and Tencent (Chinese)
Mailman Take: A huge step for esports to be accepted by the wider sports community and help their push to be included in the Olympic Games. With China quickly becoming the home of competitive gaming, it’s perfect timing for this inaugural appearance to happen at Hangzhou 2022. Next step LA 2028?
4. Xi Jinping: A Keen Winter Sports Fan
Chinese President Xi Jinping has championed China's efforts in winning the bid to host the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. Xi, himself a keen winter sports fan, is also encouraging hundreds of millions of Chinese to be involved in ice and snow sports. Watch the video on Xinhua (English & Chinese)
5. CFA Introduces CSL Player Salary Caps
The China Football Association (CFA) will introduce salary caps for top players from the start of next year. Chinese nationals playing in the Chinese Super League (CSL) will see their annual salaries capped at $764K before tax, while foreigners will have a maximum of $3.65M. The move is aimed at "curbing 'money football' and an investment bubble." Read more on Yahoo! (English) and Chinese National Radio (Chinese)
Mailman Take: This financial tightening will discourage Western footballers from making the move East. It’s also one of the clearest moves to date that the CFA is prioritising domestic talent and local commercial growth at the expense of those from abroad.
6. Asian Football Confederation and Continental Tires Renew Four-Year Deal The extension for the upcoming four-year rights cycle sees Continental Tires continue as the Official Tire Partner of AFC national team competitions and the exclusive sponsor in the tire category. Continental’s rights fee is understood to be double the previous cycle, which was worth around $10M - $12M over the four years. China’s hosting of the 2023 Asian Cup is surely an important factor in the value increase. Read more on SportBusiness (English) and Xinhua (Chinese) 7. Wanda Sports Partners with the Social Sports Center of the General Sport Administration In the next three years, the two parties will work closely to leverage their resource advantages to create a series of national fitness activities, including sports dance (street dance), skateboarding, dragon boats, robotics, fitness yoga, etc. Read more on Ecosports (Chinese)
Esports Huya and DouYu Merger Under Review The Anti-monopoly Bureau of the State Administration for Market Regulation stated the Huya and DouYu merger is under investigation due to antitrust concerns. Huya claims it had already proactively filed a declaration of operator concentration regarding the merge with DouYu to the authorities in accordance with the law. Read more on Pandaily (English) and Sohu (Chinese)
Alibaba and Tencent Fined, China Curbs Tech Giants
Fines and probes have been dealt in connection with deals by Alibaba Group and Tencent Holdings. The regulator fined Tencent RMB 500K for failing to seek regulatory approval when subsidiary China Literature acquired Chinese media and entertainment company New Classics Media. Alibaba Group was hit with the same amount for its investments in Intime Retail, a department store chain, between 2014 to 2018. Read more on Nikkei (English) and The Paper (Chinese)
Mailman in Asia
What we've been up to across Asia this week
Ander Herrera Says Hello!
For 12.12, PSG Indonesia posted a video of a lifelong fan of Ander Herrera, hoping that Herrera would see it. Dreams do come true: Herrera retweeted, thanking the fan.
Chelsea UCL Draw Chelsea ran a regional initiative (SEA + Japan + China) for the UCL last 16 draw. For each potential opponent, we created a card game graphic with a unique strategy to use.
From The Top
Ned Negus, Football Marketing Asia (FMA)
1. What role did FMA play in the AFC & China Mobile Migu wide-ranging deal?
FMA was involved in every aspect of the deal, from strategy, to sales process, negotiations, and to recommendations. And the unique nature of this deal is that our parent company, Super Sports Media, was very heavily involved, and it was more of a collaborative effort with regards to media rights and sponsorship. Any deal including the AFC, other than media rights in the Middle East, is done by FMA.
2. How does the AFC & FMA plan to utilise 5G to enhance the viewing experience for fans throughout this deal?
If we’re looking at the Asian 2023 tournament, then a lot can happen regarding technology between now and then, so naturally it will be a process working with China Mobile Migu, the AFC and the local organising committee of Asian Cup 2023 to optimise this partnership’s impact on fan experience. While we don’t yet know, nor need to know, specifics of what the promotion of 5G technology will entail, we absolutely have a clear idea of how the benefits to fans and the event overall we want it to deliver.
On the broadcast side of things, certainly working with China Mobile Migu, we’ll see big enhancements in the viewing experience. On the sponsorship side of things, particularly with all the new stadiums being built across the country with 5G implementation, we’ll see huge amounts of promotion and activation using the benefits of 5G at the venues themselves.
It’s a simple and realistic objective, we want the Asian Cup 2023 to be the most innovative sports event ever in China. With one of the most innovative companies in China Mobile Migu and 10 brand new stadiums, we’re all very excited and optimistic.
Other areas in which we’ll look at with China Mobile Migu is how their 5G technology can benefit the overall event planning, operations and connectivity around venues and host cities.
3. The 2023 Asian Cup is a standout event as part of this deal. How do you plan to ensure this competition is a memorable and successful one for fans, sponsors, and broadcasters?
It’s going to be the culmination of a few factors, and that starts with the venues. It’s going to be a level of stadia never seen before for Chinese football fans. Also, with China being the size that it is, there are going to be ‘football hubs’ in and around cities to ensure the best possible fan experiences.
Due to the size and scale of China, from a commercial and sponsorship standpoint, it’s going to be an incredible uplift for most partner brands. Compared to the three previous Asian Cups, 2023 is going to be, simply put, next level.
Another key focus for us is about genuine localisation, in terms of how we make sure the rights are allocated, delivered and activated in an appropriate and impactful manner in Mainland China and across all the other key markets around Asia. It was a very homogeneous sponsorship program before, sort of one size fits all, and we're consciously moving away from that now. On top of that, we’ll have much more sponsor variety, with brands from all over Asia and the world, meaning more diverse activations, more learnings, and more cross-sharings.
4. 2020 has been tough for the industry. Does this deal provide a springboard for FMA as we move into 2021? What will equal success for FMA in 2021?
We were lucky in a sense that our events have only been postponed, not cancelled, and it actually gave us more time to completely reinvent the marketing and sponsorship programs. We work very closely with the AFC to ensure, given this time we have, that we further refine and develop our offerings and ensure the clients we’re working with are getting something very special. So in a way, it’s given us extra time to further innovate a program we were already innovating on a very tight timeline.
The deal has been the first announced, but it’s not actually the first one signed. This deal, plus the ones we’ll be rolling out either side of Chinese New Year, will absolutely be the springboard and foundation for the partnership program moving forward. There should be four to six more global deals announced during that period.
For 2021, it’s about signing new deals, delivering on those deals with activations on digital and offline, and it’s also about the further professional development of our FMA staff as we begin to enter operational mode. --
Subscribe here to keep up-to-date with all the latest sports business news from China.
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.