• Denis Green

China Sports Business Weekly | 19th November


Hello Industry Friends, here are the very latest news and insights from China.


📰 Headlines: Guanyu Zhou becomes China’s first-ever F1 driver, new deadline set for China’s Olympic hockey participation, Shanghai leads NFL’s Flag football push, Hebei FC employees work for free, promising signs for gaming licenses, platform spotlight on Kuaishou, and Huya signs two-year deal with ESL Gaming. 🗣 In this week’s From The Top, Matt Pound, Managing Director at World Table Tennis (WTT), speaks about how WTT has grown in China, the new Migu partnership, the importance of being innovative, entertaining fans with no China event, engaging younger & older generations, and the secrets to digital success.

🗞️ Top Industry News Guanyu Zhou Becomes China’s First-ever F1 Driver A big moment for F1 in China as Guanyu Zhou is announced to partner with Valtteri Bottas for Alfa Romeo next season, while the Shanghai race was recently extended to 2025, despite no race next year. Guanyu Zhou will become the first-ever full-time Chinese F1 driver, which will no doubt spark huge interest from sponsors in his home country ahead of next season. Read more on CNN (English) and Chinanews.com (Chinese)

💡 Mailman Take: A huge moment for China and F1, and one we expect to accelerate the racing organisation's growth & revenue across the country. There will be increased viewership on F1's Chinese digital broadcast partner Tencent and traditional broadcaster CCTV, an influx of new local sponsors, and increased growth & engagement on social media. But it’s best to hold off on the Yao Ming comparisons for now.

New Deadline Set for China Men’s Olympic Ice Hockey Participation China’s men's ice hockey tournament remains uncertain with the head of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) stating a final decision will be made on November 25. As host nation, China is guaranteed a spot in every event at the 2022 Games, but the IIHF said previously that the men's team could be prevented from playing due to its "insufficient sporting standard." Norway is on standby. Read more on Reuters (English) Shanghai Leads China’s Flag Football Push

NFL China Director of Media and Business Development, Roy Jia, stated that Shanghai leads the country in the grassroots growth of American football. In recent years, a large number of American football and Flag football events were held in Shanghai, with the support of the Shanghai Rugby Football Association (SRFA). Read more on Shanghai Observer (Chinese)

Bankrupt Hebei FC’s Employees Offer to Work for Free The offer from employees is a bid to ease the financial burden on the Chinese Super League’s (CSL) club. Hebei is on the brink of becoming the second CSL club to crumble this year after the club issued a statement last month saying operations would not continue until a new investor was secured. Read more on ESPN (English) and Chinanews.com (Chinese) UFC’s Kevin Chang Talks to Forbes on Asia Expansion & Localisation, China, Zhang Weili The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is growing its footprint further across Asia with new broadcast deals and an increasingly localised approach. Forbes’ Russell Flannery spoke with UFC’s SVP of Asia, Kevin Chang, about this strategy. Read more on Forbes (English) Promotional Beijing Winter Olympics & Paralympics Torch Film Wins Sports Oscar The 39th Milan International Sports Film and Television Festival awarded the "Beijing Winter Olympics and Paralympics Torch Promo" produced by the Beijing Winter Olympics Organizing Committee the gold wreath, the highest honor in the "Olympic Spirit and Value" competition unit. Read more on INF (English) and Xinhua (Chinese)

🎮 Esports


Licenses for New Gaming Titles May Resume Soon China is likely to start issuing online video game licenses again in the coming weeks, following a four-month suspension, sending gaming stocks soaring after Beijing’s crackdown on the industry wiped billions from their valuations since August. Read more on SCMP (English) and 21st Century Business Herald (Chinese)

Huya Signs Two-year Exclusive Broadcasting Deal with ESL Exclusive broadcast rights within the deal will include ESL’s Dota 2 and Mobile ecosystems, as well as its ESL Pro Tour for CS:GO and StarCraft II. Huya will cover tournaments in standard Mandarin and other Chinese dialects. This cooperation is also the first time that ESL has signed a multi-year live-streaming copyright agreement in the Chinese market. Read more on Pandaily (English) and ifeng (Chinese)

🤔 Opinion


Chinese Platform Spotlight: Kuaishou

Campaign Asia delivered its second article as part of its Chinese platform spotlight, this time focusing on Kuaishou. China’s No. 2 short-video platform has accelerated its ecommerce presence and introduced exclusive sports content. Read more opinions about this platform entering sports from industry experts on Campaign Asia (English)


💡 Mailman Take: As one of the leading short-video platforms in China, Kuaishou have proven that they are taking the sports category seriously, and off the back of their recent deals with the NBA, we expect many more to come. Beijing 2022 will be key to watch and understand how these platforms deliver value to the Chinese sports audience.


Why Athleisure Will Boom in Tier-2 & Tier-3 Cities The athleisure market has exhibited strong growth in China, with people becoming more health-conscious and looking for more outdoor activities post-COVID. As the athleisure industry matures in big Chinese cities, the next market opportunity lies in Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities, which will offer robust growth channels for brands. Read more on Jing Daily (English)

📢 From The Top 🗣 Matt Pound, Managing Director at World Table Tennis


1. How has WTT grown in China both from a digital and commercial perspective since the rebrand? Any notable milestones?


Since the launch of new WTT social media accounts in China earlier this year, we have been able to build our brand awareness and grow our following on the digital and social front. WTT has been constantly pushing out new innovative ideas and creative content to better connect and engage with fans as well. Over the past year, we have attracted more than a million social media fans across our Weibo and Douyin accounts. We have a few exciting additional commercial deals in the pipeline that we will be announcing in China shortly.

2. What was it about Migu that convinced WTT to choose the China Mobile-owned platform?


Migu has shown through its recent acquisitions that they are trying to build the biggest digital platform inside China. This level of ambition was comparable with what WTT aims to achieve with the national sport of China, so it was a perfect match. We liked that Migu didn’t just want a traditional rights deal, but wanted to help innovate our broadcast and bring new elements of technology to Table Tennis to better engage fans and grow the WTT brand.

3. What innovation can we expect to see between WTT & Migu as part of the partnership?

Migu as a company is consistently innovating to stay as a market leader. They will be bringing this innovative spirit into how we present Table Tennis digitally to our fans. Innovation such as 4K and 8K production, as well as virtual reality and artificial intelligence will soon be hitting computers, tablets and mobile phones all around China. This is an exciting space, and the sky is the limit on what we can achieve together. Table Tennis will never be the same!


4. With uncertainty still surrounding events in China next year, what is WTT planning to ensure you're still reaching & engaging fans in the country? How will the Migu tie-up support this?

We are constantly exploring new and innovative ways to bring table tennis to our fans and improve fan experience. For example, on Tuesday we start the World Table Tennis Championships in Houston. We will live stream the mixed zone direct to Migu’s fans due to them not being able to travel to the USA. This will bring their Table Tennis heroes directly to their devices like they have never had them before.


We will work with Migu to develop more innovations to bring fans closer to the Table Tennis action regardless of where the event is. Covid-19 has taught us that technology eliminates distance and travel requirements, so a lot of cool technological fan activation through Migu’s sophisticated platform will be coming soon!


5. Table tennis is ingrained in Chinese culture, how do you position and market WTT to ensure you're still engaging older generations while attracting new younger audiences? Again, how does Migu support this?

With the launch of WTT, we are building on top of the great foundation that ITTF has laid over the past few years in China.

Firstly, to reach out and engage the older generation of table tennis fans. We are not forgetting the basics, and always ensuring that we are providing content that appeals to this group through traditional channels.

Secondly, to attract new younger audiences to the sport, we must keep up with the times and also think out of the box. That includes bringing in more engaging content, new ways of engagement, and allow fans to experience table tennis beyond the action on the table.

Our partnership with Migu allows us to give fans a well-rounded table tennis experience, with on-court action to cater to traditional fans and offering other content such as player interviews and feature videos to showcase player personalities and bring fans closer to their favourite players.

6. WTT achieved huge growth and engagement on social media in China throughout the Tokyo Olympics. What did you do online to hit such huge numbers?

During the Tokyo Olympic period, other than the traditional event coverage content, we have been creating more off-the-table content to engage fans. For example, we launched a “From Tokyo With Love” social media campaign that featured fan interviews, vlogs, and talk shows surrounding the Olympic Games.

Together with the Mailman team, we were also working closely with the platforms to leverage on the trending topics to reach more fans and build engagement throughout the Tokyo Olympic period.


We are blessed in China to have so many huge Table Tennis fans, so we just need to be telling their stories. They do the rest!

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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 China, Southeast Asia, Europe, and the US, we specialise in digital strategy, transformation, social media, content production and eCommerce. Mailman is part of 160over90, an Endeavor company. Learn more about our story here.

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