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  • Writer's pictureDenis Green

China Sports Business Weekly | 21st April

Hello Industry Friends, here is the very latest news and insights from China. 📰 Headlines: CBA teams kicked out of playoffs, World Snooker Tour confirms China return, Zhilei Zhang makes history, Douyin and Tencent enter content agreement, a blog on tennis’ time to shine, and the LPL Spring Finals at the Mercedes-Benz Arena. 🗣️ In this week’s From The Top, we spoke with Nicholas Perrett, Partnerships Director, Mercedes-Benz Arena (MBA) Shanghai, about what has stood out regarding the return of live events to the MBA, the recent LPL Spring Finals, how covid impacted the way events are being run, biggest challenges getting live events back to the MBA, how eager sponsors are to get back in partnership with the arena & changes in their demands, and what to expect from the MBA for the rest of the year.


🗞️ Top Industry News CBA Teams Kicked Out of Playoffs for Match Fixing Two Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) teams were disqualified from the playoffs following an investigation that found both teams engaged in match-fixing. The teams, Shanghai Sharks and Jiangsu Dragons, were also fined, and their head coaches and general managers were banned for three to five years. Reasons given were "being negative in competition" during Games 2 and 3 of their quarterfinal playoff series. Read more on Yahoo! (English) and Sohu (Chinese) 💡 Mailman Take: It was starting to look like basketball could be one of the very few major sports to avoid corruption scandals in China, but no such luck. In what are some of the biggest and most serious fines ever handed out to domestic sports teams, players, and coaches in the country, it’s clear that no one, no team, and no sport are immune from the powers that be. World Snooker Tour Confirms China Return The World Snooker Tour (WST) will return to mainland China for the first time since 2019, announcing a minimum of three tournaments this year. These will take place in Shanghai (September 11-17), Wuhan (October 9-15) and the International Championship from November 5-12 which has yet to confirm a location. The WST said the total prize money for the three events will exceed $2.48m. Read more on SportBusiness (English) and Xinhua (Chinese) 💡 Mailman Take: Snooker joins a growing list of international sports events making their return to China, offering bumper prize money following years away from the mainland. It’s been a testing time for the relationship between snooker and China, as corruption has hit the country’s biggest snooker players and with that their and the sport’s reputation. Zhilei Zhang Eyes Heavyweight Title Fight Following Joyce Victory China’s Zhilei “Big Bang” Zhang has set his sights on Oleksandr Usyk after defeating Britain’s Joe Joyce. Referee Howard Foster stopped the fight in the sixth of 12 rounds at London’s Copper Box Arena after the ringside doctor had twice inspected Joyce’s puffed-up right eye. Read more on Aljazeera (English) and Sohu (Chinese) 💡 Mailman Take: From a relatively unknown outside of boxing circles to a headline maker and social trender, Zhilei Zhang made his name known to all last weekend. Other than Zou Shuming, China hasn’t had many big-name boxers in recent decades. If Zhang can conquer his next opponent, he’ll firmly put China on the boxing map. Douyin and Tencent Video Enter Content Sharing Agreement The long-time competitors have reached an agreement for collaboration, with content sharing between the two platforms now officially endorsed by both sides. Users of Douyin Group apps can use any Tencent content without copyright infringement. Read more on DAO (English) and China Economic Network (Chinese) 100 Days to Go Until University Games Start After four years of preparation, Chengdu is set to host the International University Sports Federation Summer World University Games. The 31st World University Games will be held from July 28 to Aug 8 after being deferred twice due to Covid-19. The city will be the third on the Chinese mainland to host the biennial Summer Universiade, following Beijing in 2001 and Shenzhen in 2011. Read more on China Daily (English) and Tencent (Chinese) 30 Years On, a New ‘Slam Dunk’ Scores Big With Old Fans in China Blending basketball and friendship, the iconic anime has returned to the big screen, drawing millions of middle-aged fans and breaking box-office records. Read more on Sixth Tone (English)


🤔 Opinion Tennis Eyes Return to Golden Period in China Mailman’s Denis Green sees a bright future for tennis in China as the country welcomes back ATP and WTA tournaments, following a tough few years for the sport on the mainland. Read more on SportBusiness (English) NBA China Is Loving Collabs, But Who’s Wearing Them? In China, the NBA brand-licensing team has been busy, with the organisation’s IP frequently starring in clothing collections and product lines. Thanks to this collab frenzy, consumers who do not watch the game still don the merchandise. Read more on Jing Daily (English) Dewu Takes Branding to Next Level with Video Game Collab The fashion app’s latest campaign leverages the popularity of the Love Nikki-Dress UP Queen game to attract their target audience, mainly Chinese Millennials and Gen Z. The Dewu App provides a comprehensive platform for beauty and fashion, offering users a range of services, including makeup tutorials, product reviews, and social networking. Read more on DAO (English)


🎮 Esports Mercedes-Benz Arena Shanghai Hosts LPL Spring Finals The 2023 LPL Spring Finals kicked off on April 15 in front of 10k+ fans at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai. Jingdong Gaming (JDG), which has won two LPL championships, and Bilibili Gaming (BLG), a first-time finalist, competed last Saturday. Both clubs will represent China at the Mid-Season Invitational in London in the future. JDG defeated BLG 3-1 and will be the #1 seed in the LPL for the 2023 mid-season championship. Read more on ZAKER (Chinese)


🎙️ From the Top 🗣️ Nicholas Perrett, Partnerships Director, Mercedes-Benz Arena (MBA) Shanghai 1. What has stood out most to you regarding the return of live events to the Mercedes-Benz Arena? Hosting events at the Mercedes-Benz Arena is a task that requires carefully planned coordination between many departments, and it is exciting to see the entire team getting back in the full swing of things with our first events in March. From the planning stage to execution on event night, I’m proud to say that our extremely talented team was both excited and laser-focused on making sure we delivered a seamless experience for our event promoters, partners, and most importantly, fans. It was great to see the passion of fans celebrating and welcoming the return of their idols these past few weeks, including recent Weibo Night and League of Legends (LPL) events. 2. The LPL Spring Finals were held at the Mercedes-Benz Arena last weekend in front of a full-capacity arena. How has the epidemic impacted the way these events are being run? It’s no secret the live events industry was quite affected over the past few years, but now that we’re back, I feel confident that things will eventually get bigger than ever before. The LPL event on April 15th opened with Chinese superstar Jane Zhang’s song performance and introduced the tournament finalists (Bilibili Gaming and Jingdong Gaming), and hearing over 10,000 passionate fans cheering in unison was more than enough to fuel the entire arena with the kind of atmosphere that makes live events like these irreplaceable. Needless to say, the energy from the fans was off the charts. 3. What have been the biggest challenges and hurdles in getting live events back to the Mercedes-Benz Arena? The pace at which the return to live events is happening. There’s a huge demand for the arena to host events, so while the Events Team is busy managing venue bookings, the Partnerships Team has been engaging with sponsors and suite clients on arena activation plans. Concerts are back in full swing, and sports events are coming later in the year, as well as family-oriented shows that I’m sure will bring huge smiles to our many guests. Event announcements are already being released in April and May with artists such as INTO1 and Fish Leong. It’s going to be a big year and we can’t wait to see everyone in attendance. 4. How eager are brands/sponsors to get back in partnership with the arena? Any changes in their demands compared to pre-covid? Regardless of age, ethnicity, or status, live experiences are what really build bridges and connections between all of us. Our brand partners understand the power of entertainment, and that the arena represents a space where irreplaceable experiences are created. We are hardwired to connect, and memories are enhanced together with compelling brand experiences. As times have evolved, so have consumers’ tastes and needs - and bringing together entertainment marketing with hospitality has become a leading driver of KPIs for brands in China. Curating shared experiences is at the heart of what we do, and we’re building new partnerships which will serve to elevate the fan experience. 5. What else can we expect to see throughout 2023 at Mercedes-Benz Arena? In the 13 years since the inception of the Mercedes-Benz Arena, it has been our mission to deliver not just the best shows and events, but to develop an emotional bond that is meaningful and memorable to all our fans – because life is better together. It is our continued commitment to providing unparalleled experiences to our community, and we can’t wait for what 2023 will bring.


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