• Denis Green

China Sports Business Weekly | 20th August


Here’s the very latest news and insights from the past week in China.


📰 Headlines: Migu lands Serie A and EPL, Hisense capitalise on PSG ambition, Eileen Gu lands major ambassador roles, Hong Kong marathon given green light, Bilibili overtakes Youku.


🗣️ In this week’s From The Top, Nicole LaPointe Jameson, CEO, Evil Geniuses, spoke about success in the China market, key learnings in the last 18 months of activity in China, investment impact from Fosun and their partnership with Wolves, opportunities within China's mobile esports titles, and opportunities Asia-wide.

🗞️ Top Industry News Migu Lands Exclusive Rights to Serie A, Sub-licenses EPL The China Mobile-owned platform, which just a couple of years ago was unheard of, now claims rights to four of the big five European football leagues in China, with Ligue 1 expected to be announced by the platform soon. Read more on SportBusiness (English) and ECO Sports (Chinese) 💡 Mailman Take: We’ve not seen a platform house the Big 5 European leagues in China since LeSports in 2016, which proved clearly unsustainable. But times have changed, and at more realistic prices reflective of current market conditions, Migu looks well positioned to deliver and stay alive. Being owned by China Mobile will also help. Hisense Capitalises on PSG Ambition The Chinese multinational with a history in sports, most notably at the recent EURO2020 tournament, is entering year two of its partnership with the popular French club. Hisense will undoubtedly benefit from the global attention put on PSG in recent months following a summer of high-profile signings including Lionel Messi and Sergio Ramos, both extremely popular online in China. Read more on Hisense (English) and ECO Sports (Chinese)

Eileen Gu Becomes China Mobile and Bank of China Ambassador China’s face of the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics has landed ambassador roles for two of the country’s biggest and most powerful companies, in state-owned telecommunications powerhouse China Mobile and the renowned Bank of China. Read more on ECO Sports (Chinese) 💡 Mailman Take: In less than six months, the world will be watching Beijing as it plays host to the 2022 Winter Olympics. Front and centre of these Games will be Chinese-American freestyle skier Eileen Gu. Brands are queuing up to land deals with the athlete in anticipation of her landing gold and becoming the story of the Winter Olympics.

Hong Kong Marathon Given Green Light The Marathon, which was cancelled outright in 2020, will take place on October 24, with a reduced 18.5K runners across all race categories. 74K runners took part in the last edition in 2019. The annual event will be the city’s first large-scale public participation sporting event since the outbreak of COVID-19. Read more on SCMP (English) and Jiemian (Chinese) China Sends 251 Athletes to Paralympic Games The Chinese Paralympians, which includes 132 females and 119 males, will compete in 20 of the 22 sports on the Tokyo 2020 program, including debut Paralympic sports taekwondo and badminton. Read more on Xinhua (English) and Beijing Youth (Chinese)

🎮 Esports Adidas Sponsors LGD Gaming’s Honor of Kings Women’s Team

As a part of the deal, the adidas X9000 L4 running shoes will be the first product to be promoted and featured with five LGD female Honor of Kings players. Read more on Sports Business Journal (English) and China.com (Chinese)

🤔 Opinion Chinese Developers Eye Console Market Independent developers along with major companies like Tencent and NetEase are all eyeing the lucrative console market, with market revenue expected to be $49.2B in 2021. Chinese developers see a chance to expand internationally and grow, despite consoles being banned in the country for 14 years up until 2014. Read more on CNBC (English) and National Business Daily (Chinese)

🗞️ Other News Bilibili Overtakes Youku The Chinese video platform recently hit a record 65M daily active users (DAUs), making it China’s third-largest long-form video site, following iQiyi and Tencent Video, and at the same time surpassing Alibaba-owned Youku. The average amount of time users spend on Bilibili exceeds 80 minutes per day, trailing Douyin’s 100 minutes. Read more on Technode (English) and Sina (Chinese) China State Firms Invest in ByteDance and Weibo

The Chinese government’s investment in two of the country’s biggest tech firms is seen as a move to strengthen its influence in the sector. Read more on Yahoo! (English) and NetEase (Chinese)

📢 From The Top 🗣️ Nicole LaPointe Jameson, CEO, Evil Geniuses


1. What success has Evil Geniuses seen already in the China market?


It’s been just over a few weeks since we announced the capital raise led by Fosun Group International, and the outpouring of support has been phenomenal. As we anticipated, this partnership has opened new doors for Evil Geniuses in China and beyond.


Prior to the announcement, one of the major drivers of the investment and partnership, however, has been the strong organic fandom and presence the EG brand has held in China and the APAC region. In the past year since launching our Weibo, Evil Geniuses’s main Weibo channel has gained over 700K followers, and has landed firmly in the top five most-followed and the most-engaged western esports teams. We have been able to grow and maintain a strong DOTA 2 fanbase in China, from historically winning TI5 and from performing well against Chinese teams in the recent two DOTA 2 Majors.


2. What have been the key learnings in the last 18 months of activity in China?


In anticipation of the investment announcement, we made a concerted effort to create a meaningful touchpoint to engage with EG fans in China. This started with our Weibo account, which has enabled us to learn firsthand about cultural and societal values that encourage engagement (and what doesn’t) and then implement those learnings. In doing so, we’ve seen a 130% increase in engagement since January, and are well positioned when announcing EG’s physical expansion into China. I am hopeful having a strategic and physical touchpoint in China now, beyond the digital, will only strengthen our ability to authentically engage and excite fans.


3. How will this investment with Fosun and partnership with Wolves help to develop Evil Geniuses in China?


We are so fortunate to have incredible partners in both Fosun and Wolves. Fosun provides a clear sport and budding esports roadmap for us to leverage to engage not just on the fandom building side, but on the partnerships side, too. From being able to localise content into Mandarin, to additional opportunities to connect directly with the community and brand there, new doors have been opened for us.


Additionally, through the investment, Evil Geniuses will not only have the capital to expand further by building champions in new and existing game titles, and we’ll have the physical infrastructure to support. For example, if our League of Legends LCS team qualifies for World Championships this year, which is a five-city tour across China, the team will be able to acclimatise and train pre-event in the Wolves esports facility. The same support is offered to all EG rosters when they compete in China.


Our hope is to be able to get the players out in the community while in China to activate alongside Wolves and Fosun’s brands.


4. How do you see the opportunity within China's mobile esports titles? Would you consider acquiring a team within this space?


It’s no secret that mobile gaming is huge in China. In 2020, China’s mobile gaming revenues grew by 31% to just under $30B USD. China makes up more than 25% of the global mobile gaming market with over 681M mobile gamers. That is a massive amount of potential EG fans, so we want to make sure that if we were to enter mobile, we do it the right way that makes smart financial sense for the company.


On the competitive side, Evil Geniuses’ goal is to build champions; however, we don’t enter a title or genre just because it's popular. We have internal benchmarks we need to meet before not only forming a team but the ecosystem around that team. Never say never, though.


5. What about wider Asia, do you see an opportunity to expand further?


Absolutely! We are proud of the strong and loyal fanbase EG has in Southeast Asia. On Facebook alone, over half of our core, highly engaged audience is from SEA, and we can’t wait to get to interact with them in person again. We also have historically partnered with brands in the SEA region from a sponsorship perspective and are happy to re-engage and create new conversations being able to showcase a global footprint and ability to activate.

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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 160/90, an Endeavor company. Learn more about our story here.

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