• Denis Green

China Sports Business Weekly | 1st May

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

Making the headlines this week: China fans choose Tottenham Hotspur’s Ultimate 90, PP Sports & European leagues engage supporters, Guangzhou Evergrande’s 2019 finances in the red, the CSA confirm Sun Yang suspension, ONE partners with Douyin, China’s internet users reach 904M, and MORE Sports combines with QGhappy & David Huang. 

In this week’s From The Top, we spoke with Tottenham Hotspur’s Head of Content, James Rutherford. We discussed the idea behind the Ultimate 90 concept and how to localise for Chinese supporters, the club’s strategy shift during COVID-19, and how the club has been working as part of the fight against COVID-19.

Top Industry News

1) Tottenham Hotspur Delivers the ‘Ultimate 90’ Concept Reaching 3.1M Fans in China

The Premier League club produced a unique 2.5-hour livestream online in China. The show tied together a series of nine 10-minute match content segments - creating the ultimate 90-minute match - including sponsors, fan leaders and a celebrity host. It was all voted for by the fans, for the fans. The club’s eCommerce operations were also integrated into the show. Watch the live stream here (Chinese)


Mailman Take: This livestream truly put the power and voice into the hands of the fans by letting them choose what content was shown. This type of concept works extremely well in China as fans take pride in seeing their recommendations and comments on screen. Sports organisations often talk about bridging a gap between their brand and their fans, this is a great way to do that.


2) PP Sports & European Leagues Entertain Fans with Q&A & Giveaways

The European football digital broadcaster in China delivered two online fan events with the Bundesliga and English Premier League (EPL). The Bundesliga show had 300K participants, including 60K (prize) winners, while the EPL show reached 350K participants with 60K winners. Read more on PP Sports (Chinese)

3) Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao Suffers $274M Loss in 2019

The current Chinese Super League champions recorded an operating cost of $340M and operating revenue of $110M last year. Since real estate developer Evergrande Group took over the club in 2010, Guangzhou have won eight CSL titles and two Asian Champions League trophies. Read more on Xinhua (English) and Sina (Chinese)

4) CSA Confirm Sun Yang Suspended for Olympics Training

The Chinese Swimming Association (CSA) reaffirmed that Sun Yang is suspended after reports in Chinese media appeared to confirm he was still training with the national team for the delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Read more on SCMP (English) and Sina Sports (Chinese)

5) ONE Championship Partners with Douyin

The mixed martial arts promotion company has become the latest sports property to agree a deal with Chinese short-form video platform, Douyin. Read more on SportBusiness (English) and Lanxiong Sports (Chinese)


Best of the Rest

When Will Live Entertainment Return in China Amid COVID-19?

China live events industry veteran Greg Turner spoke to popular Chinese media publication ‘that’s’ about his insights on the current state of China’s entertainment sector and considerations for the live event experience post COVID-19. “I guess we’ll start seeing some highly controlled events coming back by June and hopefully things will be back to the ‘new normal’ by August or September, letting the busy autumn season go ahead.”  Read the full interview here (English)

China’s Internet Users Reach 904M

This number represents 64.5% of the country’s population, according to a report published by the China Internet Network Information Center. The current figure is 75M more than a year ago. And 99.3% of them, or 897M people, go online with their mobile devices. Read more on SCMP (English) and Beijing News (Chinese)

Mailman Take: The China market is truly mobile-first and is thriving. From consuming content to ordering goods and making payments. Everything is done on mobile. If you’re not targeting and reaching consumers & fans through mobile, you may as well not be in China. Traditional marketing & advertising are a thing of the past.


Esports News


MORE Sports & David Huang Go Behind-the-Scenes with QGhappy 

Sports lifestyle platform MORE Sports invited well-known sports commentator David Huang to visit one of the most famous esports teams in China - QGhappy, and gain insights into their daily routines and preparations for Kings of Glory. MORE Sports filmed and produced the entire series and released it both on the app and social platform for free. The 11-episode series gained 1.5M impressions, 10K engagements, and 500K+ video views. Watch the trailer and first episode

Mailman Take: Bringing together esports and traditional sports is a great way to reach a wider target audience and attract new fans. MORE Sports’ recent entry into esports included one of the most famous football commentators in the country being taught the basics of esports by a well-known team. MORE Sports will benefit here and tap into a whole new audience of football fans looking for further entertainment, especially during a period of no live sport.

From The Top


James Rutherford, Head of Content, Tottenham Hotspur Football Club


1. Where did the idea for the Spurs Ultimate 90 concept come from?

During this challenging period, we are constantly looking at ways to keep our fanbase engaged across digital channels while they are at home. Being able to recall happy footballing memories is an important way for us to keep spirits lifted during this time. Having discussed which archive match re-runs we should consider running on our platforms, we kept coming back to specific moments in matches that captured the imagination – two goals in five minutes or a break-away goal after withstanding fierce pressure from an opponent. 

We also know fans are craving the opportunity to watch a full 90 minutes of football at the moment, so we wondered what the ultimate 90 minutes from past Spurs matches would look like if broken down into unforgettable 10-minute sections. Once we had our selections, we put it to a fan vote to create our Ultimate 90.

2. What made it so successful?

Given the demand for archive football action during this time, we’ve seen a trend amongst fans wanting to discuss and debate their favourite matches, moments and goals. The Ultimate 90 concept speaks to that and offers a clear structure with a vote to decide, as well as giving the fans the ability to watch a full 90-minute package as a unique viewing experience. The livestream hit a viewership of 3.1Min China, which shows the high demand that exists for this kind of content.

3. How does this link into your other China digital initiatives?

Our ongoing aim is to bring our fans in China and across Asia closer to their club – as a result, all our digital initiatives in China are taking a fan-centric approach. The Ultimate 90 concept was a great example of this – a full 90 minutes of football imagined and put together purely by our fans in China.

4. How has COVID-19 shifted your international digital approach? 

Without regular football to cover, our focus has switched to creating brand new formats and content ideas. This isn’t just about finding new ways to entertain our global fanbase but also about how we can amplify the important messaging coming from national governments who are fighting to beat COVID-19. We have given a new perspective to our content, especially in the context of supporting people’s mental health and wellbeing at this difficult time. 

It has also been important to keep our fans updated across all channels with news on how the club is assisting in the efforts to fight the pandemic on its doorstep in North London, which is something we hope can inspire our fans around the world and give them a sense of pride.

5. The club has been active in helping the global fight against COVID-19, which areas have been the focus?

The Club is committed to supporting the NHS and its local communities during these unprecedented times. We were the first Club to offer its stadium facilities for NHS use during the pandemic. Player areas have now been transformed to accommodate our local hospital’s Women’s Outpatient Services - freeing up much-needed capacity at the hospital itself to treat patients facing COVID-19 symptoms whilst supporting the redirection of pregnant women away from the hospital during the pandemic. 

Meanwhile, our basement car park is being used as a drive-through COVID-19 testing facility – the first stadium in the Premier League to be used for this purpose. We are also assisting in the production of protective equipment for the front-line, with Design, Technology and Engineering staff at our London Academy of Excellence School building using state-of-the-art equipment to make around 2,000 face shields a week. 

Our stadium is also being used as a food distribution hub, ensuring food is reaching some of the most vulnerable within our community. Jose Mourinho is making weekly deliveries of fresh fruit and vegetables harvested at our Training Centre Kitchen Garden to the food hub.

Top 10

This week we look at the most followed Tennis Players on Weibo

1.  Li Na - 22.6M

2. Maria Sharapova - 2.7M

3. Zheng Jie - 2.0M

4. Rafael Nadal - 1.9M

5. Novak Djokovic - 1.6M

6. Zhang Shuai - 1.3M

7. Andy Murray - 1.2M

8. Victoria Azarenka - 1.1M

9. Caroline Wozniacki - 1.09M

10. Petra Kvitova -  913K

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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 story here.

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