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  • Writer's pictureDenis Green

China Sports Business Weekly | 22nd October

Hello Industry Friends, here are the very latest news and insights from the past week in China. It’s not been quiet.

📰 Headlines: NHL rolls out Street Hockey in Hebei, NBA brings on Kuaishou as short video partner, China releases fitness upgrade, NBA Cares for Yunnan, Boston Celtics get taken down, and Tencent is China’s most valuable brand.

🗣️ In this week’s From The Top, Mark Black, Vice President, International Operations at the NHL, speaks about the original concept of NHL Street Hockey, why it’s such an important program for China, how it is being implemented across China, the end goal for NHL Street Hockey, and how NHL Street Hockey is playing a role in supporting China’s fitness goals.


🗞️ Top Industry News NHL Rolls Out China Street Hockey Program in Hebei Province The online & offline program, which equips participants with the resources to officially teach street hockey, is designed specifically for use in China by Chinese teachers and students. The popular program has been applauded for being easy to implement without requiring any prior knowledge of hockey or ice hockey. Read more on Ecosports (Chinese) 💡 Mailman Take: Partnering with local governments & schools on educational sport programs which include health & fitness benefits ticks all the important boxes in China right now. The NHL has been smart in making this program as accessible & inclusive as possible. A shining light for China’s hockey future.

NBA Partners with Kuaishou on Short Video, Encourages Content Creators The partnership will give creators on Kuaishou more opportunity to produce content for other fans using the official NBA IP. Kuaishou has been diving deeper into sports partnerships, rights, and content in recent years - this latest deal shows even more commitment to their sports strategy. Read more on SportBusiness (English) and (Chinese) 💡 Mailman Take: A bold move from NBA to give more access for fans to use the organisation’s IP. This wouldn’t have happened five years ago. Western sports organisations are beginning to realise the positive impact this access can have in China, because no one understands a fan better than a fan.

China Releases Fitness and Exercise Upgrade China is proposing schools run mandatory gym classes and for children to have at least one hour of sports every day, under changes to sports legislation as the country fights rising rates of obesity. Read more on SCMP (English) and Xinhua (Chinese) 💡 Mailman Take: Less gaming, less overtime, less Douyin - China continues its bullish journey to a fitter & healthier country. To all western sports organisations and brands; how are you supporting this journey? NBA Cares for Yunnan Province In partnership with the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and China Public Diplomacy Association, NBA Cares in China donated and built a basketball court at Daping Middle School, Malipo, Yunnan. NBA Cares also helped speed up efforts to upgrade infrastructure and provided a better study and exercise environment for local students in the region. Read more on China Daily (Chinese)

Boston Celtics Broadcasts Removed Following Kanter Comments

Enes Kanter posted a video voicing his support for Tibetan independence, resulting in an expected response from China, as digital broadcast partner Tencent cut the live broadcast of the Celtics’ game against New York Knicks. Read more on Washington Post (English) and Sina (Chinese) 💡 Mailman Take: As with previous Tweets and comments that have upset China’s top powers, we don’t expect to see the Boston Celtics being broadcast or found online anytime soon. That said, it’s our belief that China’s decision makers will have learned from the previous NBA debacle that it’s not in anyone’s interest to blow this out of proportion. LFP Eyeing Lyon-Monaco League Match in China The LFP plans to stage the match in Shanghai between February 4 and 6 next year with the date chosen specifically so that it doesn’t clash with European club competition fixtures, according to L’Équipe. Read more on SportBusiness (English) and PP Sports (Chinese) Manchester City Extends Partnership with Midea

This renewal sees the City and Media partnership, covering both men’s and women’s teams, enter its third term. Read more on Man City (English)

PEAK6 Acquire Share in Fosun Sports The investment makes PEAK6 a new strategic partner to Wolves, who will help Fosun Sports accelerate the club’s growth in North America for Wolves and Wolves Esports. PEAK6 also boasts the ownership of esports powerhouse and Wolves partner, Evil Geniuses, which they acquired in 2019. Read more on Wolves (English) and Lanxiong Sports (Chinese)


🎮 Esports

China Claims Top Spot in Global Esports Market

The US and South Korea make up the rest of the top three spots, while Germany ranked fourth and Britain fifth. Read more on GizmoChina (English) and Sina (Chinese)


🗞️ Other News

Tencent Top, Douyin & Kuaishou Surge in BrandZ Rankings

The value of China’s Top 100 most valuable brands has soared by 57% over the past year, with the total value of the Chinese brand exceeding $1.56 trillion, representing a 197 percent growth since 2016. Read more on Kanter (English) and Tencent (Chinese)

💡 Mailman Take: With China’s recent clampdown on tech giants creating monopolies in the market, it will be interesting to see if the value of the likes of Tencent and Alibaba keeps climbing, or if the recent purges put a stranglehold on them.

China Updates Official News Sources List

The Cyberspace Administration of China published an updated list of 1,358 internet news services, stating that information service providers can only reprint news from these sources. The list contains quadruple the number of outlets compared with an earlier version of the list from 2016, and includes more public and social media accounts. Read more on Reuters (English) and Xinhua (Chinese)


📢 From The Top

🗣 Mark Black, Vice President, International Operations at the NHL

1. Where did the concept of NHL Street Hockey come from and is there anything that makes any part of it unique to China?

The concept of street hockey has been around for a long time. There are many different names used to describe kids playing hockey off-ice. But because kids were often looking for a level and paved surface, streets in towns and cities around the world become the obvious spot where many games of hockey started - hence why the name “street hockey” was coined. And as the game grew in popularity in neighborhoods, other kids wanted to join in.

And over the years, the first introduction to hockey for thousands and thousands of boys and girls has been playing on the street, not on ice - where the emphasis was on learning the game in a fun and relaxed atmosphere. We thought this was the perfect description for what we wanted to create in China.

But the challenge we faced was attempting to run this type of introductory hockey program in a country that has relatively little experience with the sport itself. That is not a unique challenge, but what makes the NHL Street Hockey program unique is that we’ve chosen to empower the Chinese teachers in our program to learn the relevant skills to start to become coaches. Historically this type of program would be solely reliant on foreign coaches who would come in for a day or two, teach kids some basic skills and move on.

By creating a variety of online resources, we’ve chosen to focus on empowering the schools and teachers themselves to take ownership in leading the way and encouraging their kids to partake in an active lifestyle and learn a winter sport while doing so.

And coincidentally enough, one of the most interesting lessons we’ve learned is how well-received this idea has been received in our more popular hockey countries in Europe, so we are currently adapting this program for use in several other European countries.

2. Why is NHL Street Hockey such an important program for a country like China?

First, there is increasing concern on healthy, active lifestyles globally, and we know this has taken on increased importance in China recently. As schools seek to find suitable programs, the NHL Street Hockey program provides schools with an opportunity for their students (and parents) to learn the benefits of active lifestyles, while also supporting the national efforts to introduce winter sports to participants. And as a side benefit, throughout the program kids are learning a lot other crucial skills, such as communication, teamwork, discipline and leadership – which parents always appreciate.

Second, with an interest in promoting winter sports currently of critical importance in China, these types of programs start to lay the foundation for future success in hockey. While not all boys and girls who participate in the NHL Street Hockey program will ever want to play ice hockey, there will certainly be those who will. And while that’s not the NHL’s main objective in creating this type of program, it is a side benefit to these ongoing efforts in China to create a healthy hockey sporting environment.

Globally, it’s why these types of programs have such a profound impact on the sport of hockey. It allows families to proverbially dip their toe in the water, and have a hockey experience without right away jumping into a full-on-ice program, given traditional barriers such as the cost of the sport. But once parents see all the benefits their kids are receiving from an introductory street hockey program, they are much more comfortable and willing to make the larger commitment and put their son or daughter into an on-ice program.

3. How is it being implemented across China and what benefits are you already seeing for teachers & communities?

By making the program available for free online, we are breaking down traditional barriers of entry when organizations have attempted to run similar sport programs, especially when those programs rely on foreign coaches running them. Not only do those programs historically restrict participation geographically (you must live in a city with relevant training available), but those programs will always be reliant on foreign coaches for their success. The NHL Street Hockey program seeks to empower the Chinese teachers and schools to run their own program, so they are the ones who are key to the success of their own program in future.

We didn’t want this program to be successful in only cities such as Beijing or Shanghai. We want this program to be successful from Yunnan to Heilongjiang, and all interested provinces in between. And the only way for us to do that was to make all our resources available online, in an easy-to-understand program.

Our initial focus for implementing this program has been to work with a select group of cities and provinces that have a keen interest in promoting active lifestyles for their students, while providing an opportunity for the students to experience a winter sport. As much as we would love to see the program being run on a large scale right away, we want to find organizations and schools whose interests in the program align with those key objectives.

The feedback we have received from both teachers and administrators has been amazing, and we continue to refine how best to prepare teachers to run the program. Based on significant requests, we’ve already added additional resources to help interested organizations run their own street hockey competitions. This is a great reward for students (and teachers) who participate in the program, as they have an opportunity to compete against others and test their skills. It’s also a powerful sign of the success in choosing to empower the schools and teachers to run their own programs.

4. What's the end goal for NHL Street Hockey in China and what do you hope to ultimately achieve?

This program was not created with an end goal in mind. As long as there is a desire to promote active lifestyles for kids, and challenge their capacity for learning, in a fun environment, we will continue to provide the resources and support needed to accomplish these important qualities in youth development.

But we have been very impressed with the dedication, commitment and effort put forth by the hundreds of teachers we have trained over the last year. Watching teachers who had no prior hockey experience, growing in confidence as they learn the program, and by the end of the training seeing their excitement in wanting to teach their own students what they’ve learned – that’s maybe the best end goal we could hope for.

5. With the recent country-wide fitness circular announced, how can NHL Street Hockey play a role in supporting this, as well as supporting the Government's goal of 300M people playing ice & snow sports by the Winter Olympics?

Although the NHL Street Hockey program has been under development since 2018 (when we first introduced a preliminary street hockey program in China), the timing of the launch of our new program, with the announcement of both of these initiatives, has obviously been very powerful. The NHL Street Hockey program provides 45-60 minutes of exercise for students per lesson, while at the same time, providing all kids with a base introduction to one of the most popular winter sports, so it’s a perfect fit.

Furthermore, thanks for our partnership in this program with Bauer Hockey (a premier brand of hockey equipment globally), the equipment needed to run this program is extremely affordable. The program is adaptable to suit a school/organization’s individual needs (can be indoor/outdoor, number of lessons can be increased/decreased, etc.), there are no geographical restrictions as all materials for training are available online and we are now equipped to support the planning of street hockey competitions – it truly provides an in-depth winter sport experience for kids, parents, teachers and schools.

With the upcoming excitement of another hockey season upon us, and the scheduled appearance of NHL hockey players in the upcoming Olympics in Beijing, the timing couldn’t be better for the release of such a groundbreaking program.


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