• Denis Green

China Sports Business Weekly | 21st January


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


📰 Headlines: Beijing announces no general sale tickets for Olympics, CAA China adds Asian Games stadiums, LA Rams unite Shanghai community, the importance of Mini Programs, ByteDance acquires entertainment assets and dissolves investment arm.


🗣 In this week’s From The Top, we spoke with Justin Downes, President - Axis Leisure Management, about his company’s support for the Winter Olympics, the biggest consumer growth areas since Beijing 2022 was announced, biggest growth areas for China post-Olympics, and the impact of no general sale tickets for the Games.

 

🗞️ Top Industry News No Tickets for General Public at Beijing 2022 Tickets for the upcoming Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games will not be made available to the general public, but will instead be distributed by authorities. Certain groups of spectators will be invited to attend throughout the Games and will be required to "strictly comply with COVID-19 prevention and control requirements before, during and after watching the Games." Read more on CNN (English) and Global Times (Chinese) 💡 Mailman Take: A blow to the live atmosphere of the Games but hardly surprising given the recent COVID-19 outbreaks across Xi’an, Tianjin, and more recently Beijing. If the Winter Olympics can be completed with zero COVID-19 cases, it will be a big win for Beijing and an example of how all other sports events will be run in China for the remainder of 2022 and beyond. CAA Adds Asian Games Stadiums The media and entertainment agency’s China arm has signed a strategic cooperation agreement with the owners of Hangzhou Sports Park, the location for the upcoming 2022 Asian Games taking place in September. The sports park includes an 80K-seater stadium, a 10K-seater tennis centre, and a 10K-seater aquatics centre. Read more on SportBusiness (English) and Ecosports (Chinese) 💡 Mailman Take: Overshadowed by the upcoming Winter Olympics, the Asian Games is a large-scale event that is set to take place in Hangzhou this September, with athletes flying in from all across Asia. CAA will be banking on packed stadiums to ensure maximum profit from tickets and concessions, but as we’ve seen with Beijing 2022, nothing is guaranteed. Swimmer Sun Goes Streaming The banned Chinese swimming star has the potential to become a livestream phenomenon after he helped sell around $7.8M worth of cosmetic products online. Sun played host on Douyin on behalf of the Sanya Duty-Free Mall, reaching almost 7.4M users and attracting 180K new subscribers. Sun received a 20 percent commission on sales, earning himself around $946K after tax. Read more on SCMP (English) and Guangming Daily (Chinese) 💡 Mailman Take: China’s live commerce is flourishing which is partly down to popular and engaging hosts with mass followings and plenty of trust. Sun is one of the most well-known athletes/celebrities in China, who still maintains the backing of fans and consumers despite his doping controversies. Having starred in commercials before for leading brands as well as performing in multiple Olympics, Sun is no stranger to the camera and is set for a fruitful career out of the pool. LA Rams Unite Shanghai Community with Viewing Party To bring its fans closer together for an important NFL Wildcard game against the Arizona Cardinals, the Los Angeles Rams held a viewing party in downtown Shanghai. Hordes of fans were in attendance at 9am to watch the game live, enjoy interactive games, and take part in giveaways. Read more on Rams Weibo (Chinese)


China’s Basketball Stars Take to Xiaohongshu

The CBA’s top male basketball players have opened official accounts on Instagram-style platform Xiaohongshu (RED). Sports content on RED has witnessed huge growth recently, with a 1440% increase on sports-related posts last summer compared to 2020. Read more on Ecosports (Chinese) 💡 Mailman Take: RED is certainly a platform that sports organisations and brands should take seriously. A clear focus on lifestyle and fashion means a direct line to potential new fans and consumers outside their traditional sports-focused audience.

 

🎮 Esports

Tencent Games Announces Youth Gaming Restrictions for Winter Holiday Gamers under 18 will be limited to one hour per day on 14 designated days during China’s festive break. Tencent provided a calendar highlighting the specific times and days between January 17 and February 15 in which minors are allowed to play. Read more on Radii (English) and Global Times (Chinese) Tencent Partners with Olympic Council of Asia The deals will see the parties work together to promote the development of esports in Asia. Tencent will support the OCA in staging esports at the Hangzhou Asian Games, where esports is included as a medal event for the first time. Read more on SportBusiness (English) and Global Times (Chinese)


 

🤔 Opinion


Why WeChat and Mini Programs Should Remain a Key Part of Your China Strategy in 2022

WeChat continues to grow and retain the title of China’s – and perhaps the world’s – only true super app. Much of this growth is attributable to Mini Programs, which continue to be an increasingly important component of marketing strategies in China. Read more by Mark Tanner from China Skinny


7 Entertainment Trends in China to Watch for in 2022

2021 was another year of evolving consumer habits, and more are expected in 2022. So, what will the next 12 months bring for the entertainment industry in the world’s most populous nation? Radii China presents expected entertainment trends - from patriotic films and old-time crime dramas to virtual influencers and the growing number of metaverses being developed in China. Read more on Radii (English)

 

🗞️ Other news


ByteDance Acquires Entertainment Companies The acquisitions include cinema ticketing platform Yingtuobang and online comics service Yizhikan Comics to further grow the company into the entertainment market. Both online ticketing and comics are important, expanding verticals in the entertainment field in China. Read more on Technode (English) and IT Home (Chinese)


ByteDance Dissolves Investment Arm

The Douyin owner has decided to “strengthen the focus of the business, reduce investments with low connection (to the main business) and disperse employees from the strategic investment department to various lines of business.” Read more on CNBC (English) and Chinanews.com (Chinese)

 

📢 From The Top 🗣 Justin Downes, President - Axis Leisure Management


1. What has your company done over the past year to support the upcoming Winter Olympics?


Firstly, we have been engaged by several of the large National Olympic Committees (NOCs) to handle their logistics support on the ground in Beijing, Yanqing and Zhangjiakou. The services in this category have ranged from accommodations sourcing and contracting, transportation and procurement, to hospitality services. In addition, we have acted as the key interface between the NOC and various key local stakeholders including the Organising Committee.


Secondly, we have been contracted by the Yanqing (NASC) Alpine Venue, and Genting Freestyle Venue to provide medical rescue services to the competitions. We have 40 technical experts coming into China from North and South America and Europe to be deployed at the venues to oversee the rapid response and the very important safety and medical protocols at the venues.


2. What have been the biggest consumer growth areas you’ve seen in China since Beijing was announced as host?


When Beijing submitted its bid, the government announced the audacious goal of getting more than 350M people involved in winter sports. Last week, it was announced that this goal had been met. This absorption permeates into many aspects of the industry. The continued rapid growth in participation is evident in the statistics China now has the largest ski industry in the world in terms of ski destinations, with more than 800 venues.


Certainly, the change in work, travel, and spending habits of most Chinese has been dramatic with the sport-tourism industry being a significant benefactor. Even one year ago, you’d see resorts comparatively empty during the weekdays and full on the weekends now you see them full 7 days per week. This is a testament to the Chinese population seeking out and appreciating a happier, healthier, and more balanced lifestyle.


3. Other than COVID-19, what have presented the biggest challenges in ensuring a successful Winter Olympics goes ahead? COVID-19 of course is the single largest challenge that we have and will continue to face, I'd say that pretty much all of our obstacles have been derived from COVID in some way. That being said, China and Beijing 2022 have a very robust and rigid plan in place to mitigate against any interruption to the Games and most importantly eliminate risk to the public at large.


Probably the most obvious challenge related to COVID has been that many of the venues. While they have been ‘event tested’, they have not had the opportunity to be in full flight with full international athlete and team delegations, media and full workforce, working hand in hand. I am confident however that it will all come together through shared will and determination, coupled with several years of solid planning.


4. What do you predict will be the biggest growth areas for China post-Olympics? Without a doubt I see skiing and snowboarding leading the charge in mass-market growth, but the uptake in Ice Hockey and ice rink development is also going to flourish. I see the entire ecosystem of Ski/Snowboard/Hockey clubs, children racing programs, freestyle camps and interprovincial and national competitions starting to grow.


With most countries hosting a Winter Olympics you typically already have a fairly mature and stable consumer base in place. In the case of skiing/snowboarding you may have upwards of 20% of a population already involved in the sport at Games time, and the Games themselves may not activate a significant infusion of new participants. In the case of China, we may still only have 2-3% of the population considered as active ski/snowboard users, so there are still many tens of millions yet to even try the sport as of today.


The Olympics will hit everyone’s radar and will stimulate a continued upward growth trajectory for the industry as a whole. Obvious benefactors from this growth will be the sport destination and venue operators, the equipment and apparel brands, the infrastructure supply chain (chairlifts & snowmaking companies etc) and technology. But less obviously and perhaps more importantly, we will see the migration of a new workforce that will now see the winter sport industry as a career path rather than a pitstop, therefore seeing the development and implementation of a new education ecosystem.


5. With the recent announcement of no tickets on general public sale, what impact do you think will have on the Olympics, and how will China likely make up for the lack of spectators? While this news is of course disappointing to most of us, it was not altogether surprising. If you are lucky enough to know someone who has access to tickets and if you meet the COVID testing and vaccination requirements, then there is no reason why perhaps you could not score yourself a seat.


Of course it would have been great to have the stands full of cheering fans from China and around the world, but there will still be crowds and animation to motivate the athletes if they need it. Let’s face it,.the Olympic audience is enormous and almost extensively focused on television. Many millions will tune in, and I am certain that the experience would be no different for them than any other Games.

 

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