• Denis Green

China Sports Business Weekly | 20th December

From everyone at Mailman Group, we’d like to wish you all a Very Merry Christmas and Festive Season with family & friends.


In this week’s edition, the Drone Racing League announces Shanghai Race 2020, Manchester United prepare for Shenzhen viewing party, CCTV5 & PP Sports remove Arsenal games, Juventus extends Ganten partnership, Tencent-backed eSports Federation launches in Singapore, Snickers is the chocolate of choice for Beijing 2022, and more.

My From the Top interview is with Nicholas Horbaczewski, CEO of the Drone Racing League. We talk about what exactly drone racing is, how it differs from traditional sports, how to become a drone pilot, their recent Shanghai press event, and strategy for China.


Top Industry News:

1) DRL Announces Shanghai Race 2020 The Drone Racing League (DRL), the global, professional circuit for drone racing, has announced a strategic expansion in China. The 2020 DRL Allianz World Championship Season event is set to take place at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai on September 19 next year. Read more on Sina (Chinese) Mailman Take: A spectacle not to miss out on. Drones flying at 145 KMPH, through intricate courses, around the iconic Mercedes-Benz Arena, yes please.

2) Man Utd Set For #ILOVEUNITED Shenzhen Event For the very first time, the club will bring its fan event #ILOVEUNITED to Shenzhen, set to take place on Saturday 11th January for a live screening of Manchester United vs Norwich. Club legends Bryan Robson and Wes Brown will be in attendance. Read more on Man Utd (English) and PR Newswire (Chinese) Mailman Take: This twice-a-year offline event consistently delivers in China as a guaranteed packed out viewing party with hoards of sponsors & commercial partners. Sign up early.

3) Juventus Extends Ganten Water Partnership The Italian giants will continue with Chinese mineral water company Ganten to 2023. Ganten will continue as official water partner of the club. This extension for Juventus comes shortly after renewing with Linglong Tire, another Chinese brand, until 2022. Read more on Juventus (English) and Ecosports (Chinese)


Mailman Take: Juventus, Australian Open, Chinese Super League, China Open, FIBA, FIVB, Shanghai Masters, to name a few all count Ganten as a sponsor. The Shenzhen-based company is banking on sport to grow its footprint in a competitive market. It’s certainly getting noticed.

4) CCTV5 & PP Sports Remove Arsenal Broadcasts State broadcaster (CCTV) and exclusive digital Premier League rights holder in China (PP Sports) removed Arsenal games from their schedule following comments made by Arsenal midfielder Mesut Özil on his Twitter. Read more on BBC (English) and NetEase (Chinese) 5) Tencent-backed Esports Federation Launches in Singapore The Global Esports Federation (GEF) will be headquartered in Singapore, with Chinese technology company Tencent as the ‘founding global partner’. Initial plans are to stage an annual global tournament. Read more on SportBusiness (English) and Sina Sports (Chinese) 6) Snickers the Chocolate for Beijing 2022

The snack brand has become the official chocolate of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, giving Snickers the exclusive supplier of chocolates title for both the Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games. Snickers was previously the official chocolate for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, as well as the 1988, 1992 and 2008 Summer Olympics. Read more on SportBusiness (English) and Huanqiu (Chinese) 7) Cologne Suspends Academy Plans The German football club has suspended a deal to build an academy in China, but says it's not cutting all ties with the country. Club’s management said sporting reasons, not politics, were behind their decision to pull out of the project in Shenyang. Read more on Guardian (English) and Eastday Sports (Chinese) 8) FC Barcelona Signs Up Ecommerce Partner The Spanish club agreed a deal with All Star Partners for the marketing agency to produce club-branded merchandise for the Chinese market. The deal will see the club’s products placed on Chinese eCommerce platform Tmall, expanding Barca’s reach beyond Nike’s online store, currently their sole merchandise distributor in the country. Read more on SportsPro (English) and Sina Sports (Chinese) _______


From the Top 1. You define drone racing as the sport of the future, can you explain what this means? As the world’s first and only professional drone racing circuit, DRL brings to life the futuristic sports action that until very recently, only seemed possible in video games, movies and sci-fi fantasies, like Star Wars. We’ve transformed ideas based entirely on computer graphics into reality by investing in new groundbreaking drone technology, immersive FPV (First Person View) video capture, and complex, three-dimensional courses in iconic locations around the world. Whether it’s developing faster, sleeker drones like the DRL Racer4 – flown by elite pilots in our Allianz World Championship Season -- or launching our Artificial Intelligence Robotic Racing (AIRR) Circuit, the premier autonomous drone racing series, we are constantly innovating and pushing the boundaries of the Sport of the Future to forever be a sport from the future.

2. What sets drone racing apart from traditional sports and eSports? DRL is a robotic sport that merges the digital with the real. The league is often described as a real-life video game because of its immersive, futuristic racing where only robots are competing in the field of play, navigated by the planet’s best pilots via remote control and FPV goggles. The 145 KMPH flying DRL Racer4 drones zoom through large scale, neon-bright gates around insane tracks, taking the best of esports while transcending the screen with the physical, real-world adrenaline of high-speed drone racing.


3. As the only professional drone racing league, how can someone become a pilot?

There are lots of ways to get into the sport and even earn a spot in the league.

For aspiring pilots looking to learn how to fly, download the DRL Simulator, a true to life drone racing sim that uses drone physics, science and data to help gamers fly FPV better in real-life. The DRL SIM features a tutorial that teaches players basic flying skills and gives them real-time feedback for improvement -- it's also the platform for our annual esports tournament that transforms gamers into pro pilots. DRL Pilot Christopher "Phluxy" Spangler earned a spot in the league after winning the 2019 Swatch DRL Tryouts, a virtual drone racing competition on the DRL SIM. In addition to recruiting through the DRL SIM, we scout pilots through MultiGP, the largest grassroots drone racing organization: Their champions, like DRL Pilot Vanover, get a contract to fly with DRL. Finally, we're always keeping a pulse on the best drone racing talent, searching for the fastest and most competitive pilots in the world -- if you think you've got what it takes, hit us up.


4. You just had a launch event in Shanghai, what were you announcing?

We shared some incredibly exciting news about DRL’s expansion into China, including unveiling our first China national pilot, Jinghao “MODA” Lai from Guangdong, and announcing details about our first-ever live professional drone race in China.

We’ll be bringing a 2020 DRL Allianz World Championship Season to the iconic Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai on Saturday, September 19, 2020, immersing thousands of fans into high-speed drone racing and offering incredible, unique opportunities for Chinese brands to integrate straight into the futuristic sports action. For anyone interested in grabbing tickets, follow us on WeChat via DRL无人机竞速联盟 – we’ll be posting about ticketing details in the new year.


Fans who want to watch DRL Pilot Moda compete with the pros tune into our 2019 DRL Allianz World Championship Season, which will premiere on Weibo starting on January 11, 2019 at 11am CST.


5. China is a key international market for DRL. Why China and what's your strategy for the world's most populated country?

There is a tremendous opportunity for DRL in China. Last year, Nielsen reported that a whopping 17% of people under the age of 30 were already interested in drone racing. And since launching on Weibo and Youku earlier this year, we’ve amassed tens of millions of views on our drone racing content in China alone thanks to our fast-growing fanbase here and the country’s ever-expanding community of FPV pilots. Next year in China, you’ll see DRL stream new exhilarating 2019 DRL Allianz World Championship Season content on our Weibo channel and Youku, host our first-ever live drone race at Mercedes-Benz Arena, and develop exclusive content for our new WeChat channel to continue to bring new fans into the sport and drive fan engagement. --


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Mailman is a global sports digital agency and consultancy. We help global rights holders, athletes and brands build a successful business across China, Europe, and Southeast Asia. Learn more about our story here

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