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  • Writer's pictureDenis Green

China Sports Business Weekly | 20th May

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

📰 Headlines: AFC Asian Cup off in China, iQiyi Sports lands Serie A rights, PSG teams up with mega-celebrity Jay Chou, Tottenham Hotspur gets creative for NL derby, China drop hits adidas profit, and a deep dive into China’s esports world.

🗣 In this week’s From The Top, we spoke with Lars Silberbauer, Associate Director, Digital Marketing and Engagement at the International Olympic Committee, about delivering two Olympics Games on digital in eight months, Chinese platform strategies for Beijing 2022, and leveraging Chinese New Year to engage Chinese fans.


🗞️ Top Industry News AFC Asian Cup 2023 Moved from China China’s zero-covid policy has meant yet another major sporting event has been wiped from its ever-diminishing 2022/2023 calendar. The event, which is held every four years and features 24 national teams from across the continent, was due to be held in 10 cities from June 16 to July 16 next year. The new host will be decided in due course. Read more on Reuters (English) and (Chinese)

💡 Mailman Take: Arguably the biggest blow yet, and one that signals the unlikelihood of any major sporting events taking place in China over the next 12-18 months. The Asian Cup was set to be China’s audition for eventually hosting a FIFA World Cup. A large number of new stadiums were built across the country, as well as a redeveloped Workers’ Stadium in Beijing to host the final. Zero-covid has negatively impacted China’s live events industry more than anyone could have imagined. iQiyi Sports Lands Serie A Broadcast Rights

The leading digital streaming platform in China for live European football has strengthened its portfolio with non-exclusive new media rights to Italy’s top league. iQiyi Sports also owns digital rights to leagues and competitions such as the English Premier League, LaLiga, and the UEFA Champions League. Read more on Pandaily (English) and Ecosports (Chinese)

💡 Mailman Take: Finally, some positive business news amidst weeks of event cancellations and postponements. Sport continues to thrive in the West and Chinese sports fans, a lot of them currently locked down, have an even greater appetite for live sport. iQiyi Sports is one of the shrewdest players in the sports media rights market in China, having built quite the portfolio of premium content.


Paris Saint-Germain Teams Up with China Mega Celebrity Jay Chou

The Paris Saint-Germain Endowment Fund announced their partnership with musician and actor Jay Chou. The collaboration will see disadvantaged children in France given the opportunity to enjoy a one-week holiday over the summer devoted to togetherness, as well as introducing them to Chinese culture and the musical and cinematographic world of the multi-talented star. Read more on PSG (English) and Ecosports (Chinese)

💡 Mailman Take: Another best-in-class initiative from Paris Saint-Germain as they leverage the power of celebrities in China's icon market. This announcement follows Jay Chou's appearance at the Parc des Princes earlier this season where the club produced content with him onsite as he met players to drive record engagement.


Tottenham Hotspur Celebrates North London Derby Online in China

Ahead of the pivotal clash against Arsenal, Spurs launched a multi-channel campaign to drive fan engagement and build up excitement. The Club produced bespoke graphics reviewing previous fixtures, and new illustration content and collaborated with a Chinese KOL to produce a matchday VLOG in partnership with Bilibili. The campaign reached over 2M impressions. Check it out on Weibo (Chinese)


adidas Reports Nearly 40% Drop in Profits adidas put its poor sales down to a notable drop in China. The German sportswear giant reported net profit of $327M in the first three months of 2022, down 38% on the same period last year. The company said the decline was caused by a "challenging market environment" in China, where sales fell 35%, as well as supply chain disruptions. Read more on CNN (English) and Xinhua (Chinese)

Yili Zhixuan Becomes Official Partner of Chinese National Women's Basketball Team

The popular dairy brand’s plant-based brand will look to grow its brand within China through this partnership. China’s national women’s basketball team is currently ranked 7th in the official FIBA rankings and will be competing in Group A of this year’s FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup held in Sydney, Australia. Read more on SportBusiness (English) Ecosports (Chinese)


🎮 Esports China Esports Blast: April 2022 The COVID-19 lockdown in Shanghai continued to impact China’s esports industry, with no signs of this stopping in May. Many Chinese teams could not attend key international events in person, including Dota 2’s ESL Major in Stockholm and the League of Legends Mid-Season Invitational (MSI). Meanwhile, we saw the cancellation of the Hangzhou Asian Games, delaying esports’ debut as a medal sport. Despite these challenges, there was still positive news last month. Read more on Esports Insider (English)


Esports Around The World: China China, being one of the world’s largest economies, is also the world’s largest esports commercial market. During the last decade, China has cemented itself as one of the absolute leaders in both esports game development, publishing, and tournament organising. The country is home to world champions in a number of games, and some of the largest esports companies in the world. Read more on Esports insider (English)


🗞️ Other News

Liu Genghong Is the Face of China’s Hottest Trend, Workout Livesteams

The pandemic has unexpectedly made a hit livestreamer of singer and actor Liu Genghong. On Douyin, Liu and his wife Vivi Wang have sparked a fitness revolution: they gained more than 64M followers within a single month and their livestreams have been viewed roughly 100M times. Read more on Jing Daily (English) and Sina (Chinese)


🤔 Opinion What’s a Metaverse with Chinese characteristics? In China, the Metaverse has struck a chord with young tech-savvy consumers who heavily rely on their mobile devices. But whether an empty buzzword or a promising concept, a wide range of Chinese technology companies have seized the chance to shape this new virtual ecosystem in which people can work, interact and play via online avatars: What will China’s Metaverse look like? Read more on DAO (English)


🎙️ From The Top

🗣 Lars Silberbauer, Associate Director, Digital Marketing and Engagement at the International Olympic Committee.

1. Having completed two Olympic Games in the space of 8 months, how challenging was this from a digital standpoint, and what were your biggest learnings?

Two Olympic Games back to back was a challenge, yet also a huge opportunity for us to accelerate our digital strategy.

Yes, there was very little time after the flame went out in Tokyo, before it was lit again in Beijing, but this gave us the advantage of being able to take what we learnt during the summer campaign and apply that straight away – building on these successes quickly.

Tokyo 2020 was out of the ordinary: postponed a year; closed to spectators. At the same time, the pandemic had accelerated digitalization across every aspect of our lives. Against this backdrop, we learnt a lot, fast, about how people want to engage with the Olympics in this new world. From a China standpoint, we also learnt that people wanted to see bespoke, local content.

2. Which were your most popular campaigns and content from Beijing 2022 on Chinese channels, and what made them so special?

With the Olympic Games Beijing 2022 coinciding with Chinese New Year, we led with a celebration campaign, aiming to capture the hearts of fans by invoking memories of Beijing 2008 and fast-forwarding to where they are today.

With the aligning of the dates, it was important for us to celebrate and integrate the moment into our plans. We led with the Olympic Chinese New Year film, which led to a peak engagement moment – over 75M video views and more than 4M likes, shares, and comments across 3 Olympic official social media handles. Over 80 athletes and influencers in China shared the film.

The film was complimented by social activations including ‘Olympics, See You Again’ on Kuaishou, where people were invited to share their memories of Beijing 2008 and their hopes for the 2022 edition, with thousands of videos created and viewed.


3. With fans unable to attend Beijing 2022 from overseas, did this impact your digital strategy in terms of delivering the Games to the fans across social media?

The absence of international fans due to the pandemic created a unique challenge – it was even more vital to create opportunities to digitally connect people to the Olympic Games and each other. We also needed to make sure that athletes felt the support of their loved one and fans at home.

We took all we learnt from Tokyo and continued to accelerate our social media strategy, with the Stronger Together campaign spotlighting the unique relationship between fans and athletes, wide-ranging games action content, digital partnerships, and creator partnerships, to name a few.


4. How did you differentiate your digital strategy across multiple platforms in China such as Weibo, Douyin, and Kuaishou - any secrets to your success?

The key to success is to create bespoke strategies for the differing platforms.

On Weibo, for example, we focused on publishing real-time news and updates and leveraged the functions and features to engage and to interact with audiences and the Olympic family - such as athletes, International Federations, Rights Holder Broadcasters and TOPs.

On Douyin and Kuaishou, we connected with the predominantly younger audience through participation, shared interests, and creative trends, with a focus on grassroots.

Across the board, we created original content for the Chinese audience – leading to incredible digital engagement in the host nation.


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Mailman is China’s leading sports digital agency. We exist at the intersection of digital & sports. We help top sports organisations & brands to build sustainable businesses in China, one of the world's most challenging markets. Mailman is part of the Endeavor network. Learn more about our story here.

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