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  • Writer's pictureDenis Green

China Sports Business Weekly | 20th September

Updated: Sep 23, 2019

Here are the top China sports business news stories you need to know from this week. In this edition, my From the Top interview is with Carsten Cramer, CMO of Borussia Dortmund Football Club. We talked through BVB’s new partnership with Beijing Sport University, Hero Circle, 2020 China tour, ‘Inside Borussia Dortmund’ documentary & Migu partnership, and what makes BVB’s academy so successful.

BVB Announces Beijing Sport University and Migu Cooperations Bundesliga club Borussia Dortmund (BVB) has announced a strategic partnership with Beijing Sport University (BSU) to cooperate in youth training. Furthermore, BVB also held a premiere in China for its official documentary film, ‘Inside Borussia Dortmund’. At the premiere, BVB announced its cooperation with China Mobile-owned digital platform Migu. Read more on Xinhua (Chinese)

Mailman Take: BVB produces some of the best young footballing talent in the world - a good omen for Beijing Sport University. This needs to be a long-term project and both sides will know it requires patience and commitment to see positive results. As for Migu, the digital platform is becoming a stronger player in the digital landscape, and a player with government backing, which always helps in China.

Dallas Stars To Grow Hockey in China in Partnership with Shougang Hockey Club and Neltex Sports National Hockey League (NHL) team the Dallas Stars, in partnership with Neltex Sports, announced today the commencement of a hockey development agreement with the Beijing Shougang Hockey Club. As part of the Stars’ overall grow-the-game initiative, this first-of-its-kind agreement will see the Dallas Stars amateur coaching staff work with the Shougang Eagles team to help further develop their skills in advance of the 2022 Winter Olympics. Read more on (English) and Ecosports (Chinese)

Mailman Take: Having NHL teams partnering with local hockey clubs in China is significant for the growth of the game. Not to mention that the Shougang Eagles are one of the main developmental pipelines for the Chinese national team. The Dallas Stars are now playing a valuable role to develop their skills and strengthen the bond between the sport of ice hockey and the country.

Fosun Seeks New Investment Wolverhampton Wanderers owner Fosun International is looking to sell a 20 percent stake in the club in order to substantiate ambitions to break into the Premier League top six. The Chinese conglomerate has reportedly drawn up a tender document for prospective investors that values the club at $436 million. Fosun’s valuation represents a massive increase on the reported $56 million the company paid to buy the club in 2016. Read more on SportsPro (English) and JIEMIAN (Chinese)

Mailman Take: This represents one of the success stories of a Chinese company investing in a European football club with considerable growth value and improvement on the pitch. In recent years, we’ve seen difficult times for outbound investment with Wanda divesting from Atletico Madrid, Lander Sports still shrouded in uncertainty, and AC Milan will want to forget all about their debacle with Li Yonghong.

China Open Aces New Fila Deal Sportswear brand Fila has become the official sportswear brand for the China Tennis Open, after signing a three-year sponsorship deal running from 2019 to 2021. Fila will launch a line of co-branded China Open apparel and its children’s brand Fila Kids will sponsor the outfits for ball boys and girls. The China Open is hosted annually in Beijing at the National Tennis Centre of China. Read more on SportBusiness (English) and Xinhua Sports (Chinese)

Chinese Government Plans to Boost Sports Consumption Inspired by increasing public sports participation, China's central government has pledged to further stimulate sports-related consumption through a plan to back the quality development of the sports industry. The plan, issued by the State Council, China's Cabinet, lays out 35 measures to turn the sports industry into a pillar for economic growth. Read more on China Daily (English) and Sina (Chinese)

Nike and China High School Basketball League Expand Partnership Nike is partnering with the China School Sports Federation [CSSF] to expand the China High School Basketball League [CHBL], increasing the league's international reach, investing in league marketing strategies and providing playing apparel beginning in the 2019-20 season. Building off the platform of the 2019 FIBA World Cup, they aim to advance the competitive, recreational and grassroots opportunities within the game nationwide. Read more on Nike (English) and Sohu (Chinese)

FIBA Extends Ganten Deal Chinese mineral water brand Ganten and FIBA, the global governing body of basketball, have agreed a four-year global partnership running from 2019 to 2023. Ganten will have principal commercial rights and exclusivity in the water category across all FIBA competitions during the four-year cycle leading up to the next men’s World Cup, in 2023. Read more on SportBusiness (English) and Sohu (Chinese)

iFlytek Signs Exclusive Deal to Provide Translation Software at 2022 Games

Chinese AI company iFlytek will become the exclusive supplier of automated translation software for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics. The company will provide technological support on voice recognition, voice compound and machine translation at the games. Read more on China Daily (English) and cnBeta (Chinese)

Leicester Name Yabo Sports as Official Partner Yabo Sports – one of Asia’s largest gaming companies – will see their brand displayed on the club’s matchday LED advertising and interview backdrops as they seek to benefit from the global coverage of LCFC and the Premier League. Read more on LCFC (English) and 36Kr (Chinese)

In Other News

The Rise of eFootball in China Mailman CEO Andrew Collins looks at the current state of eFootball in China, the growth of teams and players, and what the future holds. Read the blog here (English)

Beijing 2022 Mascot Launched A panda and a lantern have been chosen as the official mascots for the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games & Paralympic Games. The new mascots will serve as ambassadors for winter sports, bringing joy to those who participate in and watch the Games. Read more on (English) and Xinhua News Agency (Chinese)

Mailman Take: Never an easy job to create a mascot for a global event. I think they’ve done well here, capturing the essence of China and sticking to its roots.


From the Top

This week I spoke to Carsten Cramer, CMO of Borussia Dortmund Football Club.

1. Can you tell me about your new partnership with Beijing Sport University? I’m very glad to be here for the launch of the partnership with BSU because it shows Borussia Dortmund is becoming more and more of an attractive and international football brand. I’m happy we get to work together for the next 12 months and hopefully longer, and I’m sure the two coaches we’ll send to BSU will represent Borussia Dortmund in a certain way which might be helpful to attract other institutions.

I’m sure the black and yellow football experience will be something Chinese people would love to witness, therefore I’m grateful BSU made the first step to become a partner of Borussia Dortmund.

2. The Hero Circle Mini Program is a place for BVB's dedicated fans to enjoy exclusive content. How popular has this been?

I’m not only glad to have a certain platform in a certain market, I’m very happy we have an authentic platform which is able to represent Dortmund to Chinese people in a very special way and which seems to fit to the interests Chinese football supporters have in Dortmund.

We try to deliver exclusive content and we try to make Dortmund as accessible as possible to them. We’re of course looking for more fans, but we’re closely looking for fans who are deeply involved and seriously interested in our club and this is something the Hero Circle is able to deliver to the people. We want to transfer the intense football experience to the Chinese supporters and for us it’s good as we like to hear such open feedback so we know what they are looking for from us.

3. Will we see the First Team in China next Summer? We’ve decided we’ll return to Asia for the next 2 seasons. We try to make it as sustainable as possible and not jump from one territory to another year by year, that’s the reason we played 3 times in a row in the US and before that we played twice in Asia.

We’re always impressed with the knowledge and support by the Chinese fans of Borussia Dortmund, they’re very educated in German football and the players very impressed by them.

4. BVB's Amazon documentary ‘Inside Borussia Dortmund’ is being released in China this week on Migu - what can the fans in China expect from this? It’s not only called ‘Inside Borussia Dortmund’, it is inside Borussia Dortmund. I’m very proud that we made the decision to open our doors to the audience. We want to have our fans share the experience whether we win or lose.

We have previous managers, players, and reviews talking about the history of the club. People will see how the team is working and will get closer insights into the team and how it functions. Our coach Lucien Favre gives insights into his views and feelings, you can really see his emotions. We opened the doors wide to the people and hopefully they will enjoy it.

It was important we produced something that wasn’t made just for the German market. For the people around the world, especially in China, we want to share the intense football experience. We’d love everyone to come to Dortmund and see a live game, but it can't happen, so the documentary gives a good inside view on how the club is thinking and operating.

5. BVB is synonymous with youth and producing world-class youngsters. What makes BVB’s academy so good? Whatever we do we do by ourselves. It’s not just money falling down to BVB and we just need to spend it. We have to be creative and we have the experience. We have many players who know the Dortmund way and this is knowledge we love to share. The Chinese are very interested in the education of young people, and this is something we are passionate about.

6. Your China office is well-established and there's a growing number of official fan clubs across Asia. What's next in the strategy pipeline for BVB in Asia? As a club which defines itself as an authentic club, it’s important to leave a sustainable footprint. It’s not only important to develop new ideas, sometimes it’s the aim to create a sustainable and credible relationship to the country. Everything we do has to be medium-term or long-term.

Of course we need the digital world to share the football experience with fans, and yes we are looking for grassroots initiatives and to educate young kids. And yes our professional teams and legends in-market do help to get in touch with people. But you don’t always need to develop new ideas. The Dortmund approach is to operate in a sustainable long-term way, that’s why we opened our office 3 years ago, and we signed a 5-year contract which shows our commitment to the Chinese market and its people.


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Mailman is a global sports digital agency and marketing platform. 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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