China Sports Business Weekly | 18th October
Updated: Dec 5, 2019
Here are the top China sports business news stories you need to know from this week. In this edition, my From the Top interview is with Brooks Branch, CEO of AIB Sportsbrands that oversees the MORE体育 platform, where we discuss MORE’s journey so far, growing content offerings, e-commerce plans, and next steps in China.
iQiyi Sports Nets Euro 2020 & Asian World Cup Qualifying Media Rights Chinese video streaming platform iQiyi, which has a joint venture with Super Sports Media forming iQiyi Sports, has obtained rights to the 2020 UEFA European Championship. The platform will carry Euro 2020 games live, as well as original content, highlights, behind-the-scenes augmented-reality footage, and “virtual presenters” that appear during broadcasts. Read more on SportBusiness (English) and Sina (Chinese)
Mailman Take: China didn’t participate in the FIFA World Cup last year yet viewership in the country was huge, with the final reaching over 48 million viewers on CCTV5. Next summer’s European Championships won’t pull in as many viewers as the World Cup, but I still expect viewing figures to be high. iQiyi Sports has won a popular IP here, not to mention the Asian World Cup Qualifiers as well, where China is expected to qualify. Nice work, iQiyi.
CFA Hands Control to CSL Clubs Control of the Chinese Super League (CSL), China's top-tier domestic league, is being handed to the clubs by the Chinese Football Association (CFA) in an effort to encourage its commercial development. A league committee will be formed by the end of 2019 to oversee the operation of the country's professional football pyramid. The CFA currently has a 36 percent stake in the CSL while the rest is divided between 16 professional clubs. Read more on Xinhua (English) and Tencent (Chinese)
Mailman Take: From the outside, this appears a positive move by the CFA for the benefit of the sport in China. But we’ve seen announcements similar to this before. How much autonomy the clubs will enjoy for commercial development and day-to-day management will be interesting to watch. I don't expect the reins to be totally loosened.
DQD Survey Shows EA Sports FIFA Helps Educate and Drive Chinese Football Development A recent online survey in China on popular football community app Dongqiudi (DQD) has produced results that the football gaming franchise EA Sports FIFA is beneficial in developing football knowledge, tactics and overall football education. The survey received a total 5551 respondents, and shows that 78% of respondents play football video games at least once a week and 59% play football at least once a week. Read more on Sohu (Chinese)
Yili Signs Ronaldo as Ambassador The Portugal men’s national football team captain has become the latest star to partner with dairy product producer Yili, whose yogurt drink ‘Am Muxi’ now has Cristiano Ronaldo on its branding. Yili also holds sponsorship deals with famous celebrities such as Angela Baby and Yang Chaoyue, to name a few. Read more on Ecosports (Chinese)
Mailman Take: There are not many more marketable than CR7. Car brand Wey and clothing brand Seven are just a couple of Chinese companies to tie Ronaldo to their brand, and with EURO 2020 on the horizon, I expect a few more before next summer’s showpiece tournament.
Axe to Sponsor Global League of Legends Events Riot Games has added male grooming brand Axe as a global sponsor of League of Legends (LOL) e-sports. Axe will be the official men’s grooming partner of LOL’s global events: Mid-Season Invitational, World Championship, and All-Star Event. AXE joins a number of new global partners announced in the run up to the 2019 World Championships, including Red Bull, OPPO, and Louis Vuitton. Read more on esports insider (English) and Ecosports (Chinese)
From the Top
This week I spoke to Brooks Branch, CEO of AIB Sportsbrands that oversees the MORE体育 platform, where we discuss MORE’s journey so far, growing content offerings, e-commerce plans, and next steps in China.
1. It's been over 6 months since MORE体育 launched in China. How has the journey been so far and what have been your key learnings?
Our hope was just to deliver what the fans want - professionally developed content from China’s favorite superstar athletes. Our partner athletes are excited to connect with fans, sharing more personal sides of themselves and we’re proud to be delivering so much of that. So we are grateful and the response has been so positive and we’re proud to be the platform that serves the superfans in China.
2. Your concept "By The Players, For The Fans" resonates well in China. Can you talk more about this and why it's so important?
Yes - it really is what it says, “By The Players” for this instance. Most content out there is produced by other companies with an agenda. MORE's content is by the players on topics they are passionate about, including when they are talking about their own sport or showing us some of their hobbies and passions. It's behind-the-scenes, in their homes, on the way to practice or just hanging out with their friends. And most of all, it’s made especially for "The Chinese Fans” because the NBA and other global superstars are so passionate about connecting intimately with their fans here in China, where the past relationships had usually been so distant. MORE allows fans to have more access and input. The hope is to do more and more for the fans.
3. The Professionally Generated Content (PGC) system is a safe platform for players and brands to publish content. What was the reasoning for this approach?
Our team's backgrounds mixes experiences from major Hollywood movie studios with knowledge on how to make fun, authentic and viral content. In China, there is so much UGC (user-generated content) which is fun but often disposable. We wanted fans to have more access to players’ knowledge, ideas, humour and stories in a way that is more enriching. With PGC, brands and other partners can feel comfortable that this platform is going to showcase fans and players in the best possible light.
4. Until now you've mainly focused on basketball content, but now we're seeing content coming from sports such as football, e-sports, badminton, rugby and so on. Is this the next natural step of your growth strategy?
MORE has always been planning to be the platform for the overall lifestyle of sports, but with a special focus on the players that Chinese fans are excited about. This makes basketball an ideal focus. However, on the app, we have also provided videos for football, e-sports, badminton, rugby, volleyball, fitness, training videos, and many others. But basketball fans are very passionate and the players are very passionate about the Chinese fans - so it's an ideal area of focus that we will continue to grow. For instance, we will launch a dedicated e-sports channel very soon.
One other important point is that the passion of these sports for the fans often overlap, so that is a key part of MORE’s plan. Steve Nash is a good example of a legendary NBA player, who is most passionate about football. So on his channel SN360 we showcase a wide range of football and other sports.
5. You have an impressive roster of athletes. Can you talk through your key athletes and why you chose them?
We now have over 100 partner athletes and it's a growing list of superstars, legends, rising stars and even some athletes that we think the Chinese fans don’t know about yet. We like to have a mix of the top superstars that fans love - but we also like to introduce fans to players they might love in the future.
For instance, many current superstars worship legends that the fans may not be as familiar with. For example, Giannis Antetokounmpo loves Kevin Garnett. Kevin Garnett loves Chris Webber. Chris Webber loves Kareem Adbul Jabbar. We like to showcase stories of all our athletes for the fans to get to know them better.
6. You will soon be launching on e-commerce in China. What can consumers expect to purchase in these stores?
MORE is all about creating something special for the fans. MORE access. MORE behind-the-scenes. MORE quality. So for merchandise, we want to make sure this is exciting. We will be offering items like signed memorabilia and we are going to try to bring items from key moments in sports history, allowing fans to earn some of the products just by spending time on the app and collecting loyalty points along the way.
We will also be providing our own fashionable merchandise lines, limited edition items, experiences, and many other things that fans can get excited about. We hope to grow this with input from the fans as well. We have a lot of exciting things to come here.
7. What does your next 3-5 year roadmap in China look like?
We always say “MORE to come” because there truly are endless possibilities in the area of “lifestyle". The players have so many ideas of what MORE to do, many of our other exciting partners have ideas of what MORE to do, and we constantly hear from fans on what MORE to do. We intend to keep surprising fans with MORE developments on and off the platform.
Click here to learn about MORE 体育.
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Mailman is a global sports digital agency and marketing platform. We help global rights holders, athletes and brands build a successful business across China, Europe, and Southeast Asia. Learn more about our story here.