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  • Writer's pictureDenis Green

China Sports Business Weekly | 21st May

Hello Industry Friends, welcome to the latest batch of sports industry news all the way from China.

📰 👀 In another busy week, here’s what caught our eye: AC Milan bolsters China presence with PacificPine Sports tie-up, Anta sponsors national swimming team, the CFA announces elite coaching plan, the UFC Performance Institute Shanghai houses retired athlete program, Beijing 2022 hit with more boycott calls, and ByteDance’s CEO steps down.

❤️‍🔥 It was a romantic week in China. We’ve hand-picked some of the stand-out campaigns produced for China’s alternative Valentine’s - the ‘I Love You’ day.

🎤 In From The Top, we caught up with Raymond Roessel, co-chief executive and co-founder of PacificPine Sports, to discuss their latest partnership with AC Milan, as well as utilising digital as part of the company’s strategy for sports training & education in China. 🎤

🗞️ Top Industry News

AC Milan & PacificPine Sports Launch Shenzhen Academy Alongside opening a new Shanghai office this week, the Serie A club teamed up with China's premier sports academy PacificPine Sports, which will lead to the opening of a number of AC Milan Academies across the country. The first will be in Shenzhen, China’s tech capital. Read more on SportsPro (English) and Ecosports (Chinese)

💡 Mailman Take: Academies benefiting local communities are a key driver for establishing connections with the government and local authorities. And while China is in need of investment and expertise at grassroots level, it represents an opportunity to nurture & educate China’s future stars.

Anta Named Strategic Partner & Exclusive Sponsor of China’s National Swimming Team The apparel brand has seen a domestic sales boost following a backlash against Western brands earlier this year, and is the only sportswear brand among the official partners of the Beijing Winter Olympic Games. Read more on SCMP (English) and Beijing Youth (Chinese) CFA Plans Elite Coaches Training Program The Chinese Football Association (CFA) has long struggled to develop talented young players at grassroots level. In a change to its system, the Association will conduct official training of coaches and deliver certifications in a bid to improve the football pyramid. Read more on China News (Chinese) 💡 Mailman Take: Changes implemented at the bottom of the pyramid are needed if China is to realise Xi Jinping’s lofty football ambitions. The phase of overpaying for foreign talent has long gone, as has outbound investment. It appears sense and money are finally arriving in the right areas. Still a long way to go.

UFC Shanghai Performance Institute Hosts Retired Athlete Program Housed at the brilliant UFC Performance Institute Shanghai, with a focus on the sustainable development of elite athletes, the program consists of a series of public welfare education support programs to ensure future career opportunities for high-level athletes under the management of the State Sports General Administration. Read more on Sports Money (Chinese)

Further Calls For Boycott of Beijing Olympics Groups alleging human rights abuses against minorities in China are calling for a boycott of China's upcoming Olympic Games. "The time for talking with the IOC (International Olympic Committee) is over", Lhadon Tethong of the Tibet Action Institute told The Associated Press. Read more on ESPN (English)


🎮 Esports Wild Rift Opens Beta Test in Mainland China The beta test version of the League of Legends game will be only available for Android users. Earlier this month, Tencent also confirmed that China’s top Wild Rift competition will be called Wild Rift Pro League, simply as WPL. Read more on Esports Observer (English) 🎟️ Events

SportsPro - Making an impression: Taking on digital in China Content owners have looked to China for years for new fans and new commercial partnerships, but as digital media and OTT develop, understanding the distinct patterns of this massive market has never been more crucial. This panel will explore the individually tailored strategies of rights holders working across China. Sign up for free here

💬 Opinion

China’s Emerging Sporting Frontier: Esports & Online Gaming As the second-largest esports market in the world, China is cashing in on opportunities within the growing industry. Governmental support has elevated esports to an officially mandated sport and has fostered career prospects for professional gamers in China. Christian Kurzydlowski from the China Guys explores more (English)


💕 Who got romantic? What? May 20 has become an important fixture in the China marketing season calendar for many brands, and now sports organisations are trying their hand. Why? 5/20, pronounced in Chinese as wǔ èr líng, sounds similar to the Chinese for ‘I love you'.

🚀 Here’s a few stand-out campaigns celebrating China’s alternative Valentine’s Day.


Other News Tencent Music and Sony Music Entertainment Extend Partnership Sony will continue to make music available across all its online music platforms in mainland China, including QQ Music, Kugou Music and Kuwo Music, as well as its live streaming platforms and WeSing, its online karaoke platform. Read more on PRnewswire (English) and China Daily (Chinese) ByteDance CEO Steps Down Zhang Yiming, co-founder of ByteDance, will step down as CEO and transition to a new role. Another co-founder, Liang Rubo, who is currently head of human resources, will take over as CEO globally. Read more on CNBC (English) and The Cover (Chinese)


🗣️ From The Top 🗣️

Raymond Roessel, co-chief executive and co-founder of PacificPine Sports

1. How is PacificPine Sports supporting AC Milan with the launch of its new academy?

The AC Milan Academies are known globally for their excellence and innovation, in particular their training methods and curriculum. PacificPine are experts in the Chinese market, our basketball and golf programs are the largest in China and with 250 team members on the ground we can provide resources across operations, sales & marketing and facility selection to support the launch and development of the academies across China.

Since Tuesday’s partnership announcement we have already received a significant number of inquiries from both our existing and potential new partners to establish AC Milan football programs, we are confident the partnership and programs will be well received and successful.

2. What is PacificPine Sports' long-term strategy in China?

Our goal is to become the pre-eminent sports education provider in China and we align with industry leaders in three key areas to achieve this: (i) brand & curriculum, (ii) facilities and (iii) customer engagement.

Our partnerships with the PGA of America and AC Milan provide best in class sport-specific training and curriculum, access to world-class coaches, content and resources to develop our local Chinese coaching team, all key aspects of our business as we expand and look to add complementary partners across our other sport verticals.

China Resources, Ping An, New World Development and Mission Hills are key real estate partners, providing world-class facilities for our programs.

As PingAn Group’s preferred sports education provider, we offer content and programs to their 1.3m agents and 200M customers, providing unparalleled customer engagement.

3. What are the biggest opportunities you see regarding youth sports in China?

We see the market as virtually limitless. The Central government has been extremely supportive in the development and investment in the industry and more specifically the youth sports sector. As a company we are well-positioned to take advantage of this policy. Additionally, there continues to be significant growth in the middle and upper-middle class, creating an expanding customer base that realizes the benefits (especially general health and well-being) of participation in sports and consequently demands greater access to quality sports education and training.

4. What do you anticipate being the biggest challenges in launching & running your projects / academies in China?

Like many in the sports industry, the pandemic has posed unique challenges, but we view these as short to medium term. China’s strong response to the pandemic and early reopening of most activities has allowed us to achieve strong growth across the majority of our business. An interesting result of the pandemic is the demand and interest in summer camps programs are at record levels, as most international travel is restricted.

Our core challenge which is fortunately our core competency is the recruitment, development and retention of our coaches. We strive to have a standardized experience for our students in all our cities and locations. We can only achieve this by standardizing our curriculum and developing rigorous coach training and development capabilities. This is what sets us apart. This comes from the top. Both in my background as a PGA Member and former coach and Joel Haines, my Co-CEOs background as a basketball coach. We know how to develop and motivate our coaches.

5. Is PacificPine Sports' focus predominantly offline or online, or will it be a hybrid model?

To date our business has been exclusively offline, with one exception. Generally training and instruction is received at partner or wholly operated facilities. One of the focuses and unique aspects of our business is our wide range of learning environments and facility options which allow us to engage with students in multiple formats and venues and at different points in their introduction to the sport. This could include participation in PE class or after school activity held at the school, enrollment in one of our dedicated indoor facilities or participation at one of our full facilities such as the Mission Hills Golf Academy.

The exception to this is our use of online / tech for ongoing communication with customers and clients. The use of technology across all of our programming is extremely prevalent. Coaches communicate with students online and provide lesson plans, videos and drills on a number of platforms.

We see the expansion of this online aspect of education as a growth opportunity. We do not believe that it will replace offline instruction, but rather supplement it. A customer's first engagement could be online, especially when there are no physical facilities in a convenient location, they could gain an introduction to the sport, learn basic fundamentals and interact with coaches virtually or via AI. This engagement could then drive participation in an offline activity, such as attending a specialty training camp.

While ambitions are to offer our coaching and programs nationwide, China remains a very large market. We plan to use online to target smaller cities to begin engagement with students. We can then deliver an offline experience at our various holiday camp locations.


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Headquartered in Shanghai, China, Mailman is a global sports digital consultancy and agency. We help the world’s leading sports organisations serve their audiences and build their businesses. With over 200 experts across China, Southeast Asia, Europe, and the US, we specialise in digital strategy, transformation, social media, content production and eCommerce. Learn more about our story here.

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