Here are the top China sports business news stories you need to know from this week:
Nike Sponsors Tencent’s LPL US sports apparel giant Nike has officially signed a 4-year sponsorship deal with Tencent for its League of Legends Pro League (LPL), becoming one of the lead partners of the top esports league. Nike will reportedly pay around $7.5 million a year for the apparel rights to all 16 LPL clubs. Read more on Lanxiong Sports (Chinese) and SportsPro (English)
Mailman Take: Nike has become the first traditional sports equipment manufacturer to sponsor the LPL, with the 4-year deal representing the longest contract amongst all LPL sponsors. This will also mark the first time LPL teams will display branding on their jerseys. Nike are set to gain a huge amount of exposure from the sponsorship, with over 17.9 million fans tuning in to last year’s final, while LPLs vast audience of millennials and Generation-Z aligns perfectly with Nike’s target demographics. Nike join a growing list of major LPL sponsors including Mercedes-Benz (Automobile), L’Oreal Men (cosmetic), Doritos (Snack), DXRacer (Peripherals), KFC (Food), Hupu (Media), Allienware (Hardware), Red Magic (Game Phone), Yili (Milk Drink) and War Horse (Energy Drink).
Chinese MLB Graduates Head to Milwaukee The Milwaukee Brewers have signed three young Chinese players from the MLB Baseball Development Center. The deal for the trio – Jolon Zhao, Ian Yi, and Coco Kou – is the first time a Major League Baseball team has signed three Chinese players at the same time. The signings take the number of development center players to sign with an MLB team to seven. Read more on China Daily (English) and MLB (Chinese)
Mailman Take: 2019 marks the 10-year anniversary of MLB setting up 3 development centers in Chinese cities of Wuxi, Changzhou, and Nanjing. Every year, each center recruits 20 trainees and provides them scholarships. The three players heading to Milwaukee is the result of years of hard work at the grassroots level and dedicated focus on youth training. It also shows youth sports development is a long-term project that needs to be given time and patience to yield the best results.
DRL Takes Flight in China with Youku Partnership Alibaba’s digital streaming platform, Youku, has signed a three-year streaming deal with the Drone Racing League (DRL), the only global, professional drone racing circuit in the world, adding a new, futuristic robotic sport to the network. As part of a larger strategic partnership to push DRL in China, Youku will begin airing pro drone racing in the country. Read more on Tencent (Chinese)
PP Sports & Suning Launch CSL Membership Digital sports broadcaster PP Sports has partnered with Suning.com to launch a co-branded Chinese Super League (CSL) membership for their consumers. Users who obtain the membership will be able to watch all 240 CSL games in the 2019 season for free. The launch of the co-branded membership is a PP Sports initiative to further maximize the business benefits of their CSL media rights. Read more on China News (Chinese)
Joeone a Tailor-Made Partner for Jiangsu Suning Chinese Super League (CSL) team Jiangsu Suning FC have signed a partnership with Chinese men’s suit brand Joeone, becoming the official designated men’s business wear partner for Jiangsu Suning FC for the 2019 CSL season. Read more on China News (Chinese)
RCD Espanyol Opens Shanghai Academy The Shanghai base marks the second school that LaLiga outfit RCD Espanyol have established in China, after the launch of its academy in Hunan last year. The choice of Shanghai is a deliberate strategic one, capitalising on the impact of their recent signing of striker Wu Lei from Shanghai SIPG. Read more on Xinhua (English) and Eastday Sports (Chinese)
Qiaodan Sports to Sponsor Sina 3×3 Golden League
The League has signed up a new top sponsor for the 2019 new season – Chinese sportswear brand Qiaodan Sports. Read more on Sina Sports (Chinese)
In Other News:
Chinese Side Yanbian Funde Folds Second-tier side Yanbian Funde has folded just days before the start of the new season due to a tax deficit of US$36 million, leaving its diehard fans furious and players desperately searching for new sides in time for the new campaign. The historic club, who were a founder member of Chinas first professional football league in 1994, become the latest casualty of a turbulent off-season for Chinese club sides. In January, Chinese Super League side Tianjin Quanjian rebranded themselves Tianjin Tianhai after a scandal forced its corporate owner out of the doors, while several third tier clubs including Dalian Transcendence and Shenzhen Ledman have either been wound up or face uncertain futures due to financing issues. Read more on Channel News Asia (English)
Wu Lei Shirts Hit 10,000 in China Sales of Chinese striker Wu Lei’s shirts have exceeded 10,000 in China since he joined LaLiga side Espanyol, according to the club’s official kit sponsor Kelme. Wu’s shirt replica has become a hot seller among fans in China over the past month because of his impressive performances, said Liu Zejun, chief marketing officer of Kelme China. Read more on Xinhua (English) and Netease Sports (Chinese)
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