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  • Writer's pictureDenis Green

China Sports Business Weekly | 23rd April

Welcome to the latest edition of the China Sports Business Weekly.

Making headlines this week: the ePremier League expands to China, Chinese Super League opening game welcomes 30K fans as viewership doubles from 2020, China looks to test digital currency at Beijing 2022, MLB launches First Pitch Clinic in Yangzhou, Wuhan is selected as a host city for the LoL World Championships, and KAWO’s excellent 2021 China social media cheat sheet.

In this week’s From The Top, we spoke with Ramón Loarte, Chief Marketing & Commercial Officer at Sevilla Football Club, about the club’s China strategy, working with partners across Asia, and the future opportunities that await on digital in China.

Top Industry News 1. ePremier League Expands into China The Premier League has partnered with Tencent Sports, Tencent Gaming, and EA SPORTS to bring its esports competition, the ePremier League, to China. This marks the first ePremier League event to be staged outside the UK. The ePremier League event will see ‘some of the best Chinese gamers’ from FIFA Online 4, as well as hand-picked content creators and influencers, representing all 20 Premier League clubs. The tournament will be streamed live by Tencent, also the rights holder of the Premier League digital media rights in China. Read more on SportsPro (English) and NetEase (Chinese)

2. CSL Opener Welcomes 30K Fans in Attendance The Chinese Super League (CSL) season kicked off in Guangzhou in front of 30K fans for the local derby between Guangzhou FC and Guangzhou City. This season is still being played in two bubbles, with eight teams based in Guangzhou and eight in Suzhou for the first round. Read more on SCMP (English) and China News (Chinese)

3. CSL’s Opening Weekend Viewership Doubles on 2020 The official Weibo account of the Chinese Super League (CSL) released media data on the first day of the new season, with a total of 30.47M viewership across all platforms. On CCTV5, live viewership reached an increase of 50% over the same period last year. The cumulative number of views on topics related to the CSL on Weibo reached 128M. Read more on Titan (Chinese)

4. MLB Launches First Pitch Clinic in Yangzhou

Together with the Chinese Baseball Association (CBA) and the Yangzhou Education Bureau and Sports Bureau, Major League Baseball (MLB) China has launched its First Pitch Clinic in Yangzhou. MLB First Pitch Clinic is a new initiative launched in 2020 to bring entry-level baseball lessons to kindergarten & elementary schools across China. Yangzhou is the first stop in 2021, and the programme will cover 200 schools this year. On April 16th, Yizheng, a town under Yangzhou, was just authorised by CBA as the training center for China’s U14 National Youth Team. Read more on Netease (Chinese)

5. Zhang Weili Named Global Ambassador of Hyperice The industry leader in recovery technology announced that current UFC strawweight champion Zhang Weili has joined the company as a Global Ambassador. She joins UFC’s bantamweight and featherweight champion Amanda Nunes on the Hyperice roster. The announcement also comes ahead of the highly anticipated UFC 261 event this weekend. Read more on SportBusiness (English) and NetEase (Chinese)

Mailman Take: Zhang Weili has hit global superstar status. Partnerships & ambassador roles with the world’s biggest brands, documentaries about her career on CCTV, Weili is gradually moving into the Yao Ming and Li Na bracket. A win this weekend will help cement her place among those greats.

6. Zhang Fangyong Listed for Laureus Sporting Moment Award Chinese bantamweight boxer Zhang Fangyong, who used to deliver takeaways to support himself while chasing his boxing career dream, is listed for Laureus Sporting Moment Award, one of the regular awards of the Laureus World Sports Awards. This award is given on the basis of an online vote by sports fans around the world and celebrates qualities such as fair play, sportsmanship, commitment or overcoming adversity. Read more on CGTN (English) and The Paper (Chinese)

7. China Sportswear Billionaires Cut Anta Stake In Sale Nearing $1.5B Following concerns the Tokyo Summer Olympics won’t go ahead, as well as questions around whether all countries will turn out for next year’s Beijing Winter Olympics, the controlling shareholders of China’s biggest sportswear company, Anta, said they would lower their stake in the business. Read more on Forbes (English) and Forbes China (Chinese)

8. China Looks to Test Digital Currency at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics

China is trying to make it possible for foreign athletes and visitors to use its digital currency during the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022. China has been working on a digital yuan since 2014 and has recently launched a number of pilot projects around China. It would be the first test for China’s digital currency with international users. Read more on CNBC (English) and Sohu (Chinese)

9. Ganten Water Continues Chinese Super League Partnership The famous water brand has become the only officially designated drinking water for the new season of the CSL, marking the reunion of Ganten Water and China’s premier football league. Ganten Water has served many of the world's top sporting events, including the FIBA Basketball World Cup and Australian Open Tennis. Read more on Ecosports (Chinese)

10. MLB Cup Open Tournament Spring Season Kicks Off in Weihai

Over 200 players across 23 teams joined the first event, in northeastern China. Starting in 2008, the MLB Cup has expanded from 5 cities, covering only a U12 age group, to covering 5 different age groups across 20 cities. Read more on Xinhua (Chinese)


Wuhan Mayor Says City Will Be a Host for 2021 LOL World Championships The city will become one of the Chinese cities in the “City Tour” to host the 2021 League of Legends World Championships. During the “China Esports Annual Ceremony,” Wuhan major Yongwen Chen revealed the news about Wuhan’s involvement: “We will build Wuhan as the new ‘high ground’ of esports competitions, try to successfully run the League of Legends World Championships, and import more international esports tournaments into the city.” Read more on Esports Observer (English)

Other News The 2021 KAWO Ultimate China Social Media Cheat Sheet The team at KAWO has put together an incredibly useful graphic for anyone and everyone with an interest in China’s social and digital media landscape. Download HD graphic here

Tencent Announces $7.67B Investment in Sustainable Innovation Tencent’s CEO Pony Ma announced that the company would invest $7.67B in areas including “basic science, education innovation, rural revitalization, carbon neutrality, food/energy/water provision,” along with “public emergencies, technology for senior citizens and public welfare.” In what Tencent called a “fourth strategic upgrade,” the tech giant restructured its Corporate Social Responsibility department, merging it with the existing Tencent Foundation. Read more on Pandaily (English) and Forbes China (Chinese)


LIVE! MATTERS 2021 With insights delivered by brands, venues, promoters, rights holders, media and tech companies, LIVE! MATTERS will cover music, sports and gaming, new technologies at online and physical events, sponsorship in a new hybrid world, plus health and safe distancing measures. And it’s FREE. Read more and sign up on All That Matters (English) From The Top Ramón Loarte, Chief Marketing & Commercial Officer at Sevilla Football Club

1. China is one of your key international markets. How are you prioritising it and what are you doing differently compared to other regions?

Sevilla FC’s international development is mainly focused on 5 key markets: USA, Mexico, India, Japan and last but not least, China. Sevilla FC’s awareness and fans in China has experienced significant growth during the last 5-6 years, not just in TV audience but also in media SOV, social media interactions, engagement, followers, and website traffic. This is extremely valuable considering that not even one Chinese football player joined our squad during this period.

Under our strategic plans for 2019-2024, China has been named as one of our priorities. For us, the real value of football lies in the truth of this sport: competing against anyone, even much bigger than yourself in terms of revenue, stars, budget, media attention…. but at the end of the day, anyone might win the game. This is the beauty of this superb game. We encourage and boost people's ambition to aim higher in life, being an example that inspires them to achieve their goals. And this is exactly what China represents to us: working hard to keep on growing, as its citizens, as a country, as a market, and with global influence.

2. How do you align and work with your Asian partners to ensure you're building a profitable partnership together?

We work like a real partner with our sponsors. Some of them are Asian sponsors while others are global companies with Chinese business, operating in China. With all of them, as well as working with Asian local agencies, media, and other companies, we try our best to deliver more than they expected from a football club. We rely on local experts to adapt our proposals to the Chinese market, creating ad-hoc content, contests, quizzes, promotional activities for this specific segment of football fans.

Not all football fans behave the same way globally, so it is extremely important to work with the best local team as well as being flexible in the way we approach the market as well as prepare the best sponsorship solutions given to our sponsors.

We also monitor every content, every campaign done, tracking its results on a daily basis, sharing them and getting the knowledge to optimise further ones. Despite the top global TV audiences and global social media interactions and engagement rates, we always suggest them to give importance to quality, rather than just focusing on “quantity”. Brands need time to achieve their goals and a partnership is not a short-term advertising tool, though sometimes it can be one of the best solutions to certain problems.

3. You're active on WeChat and Weibo, but which other platforms are you researching, and why? Any further plans to grow your China business operations?

China is an interesting target for Sevilla FC – one of the most interesting challenges I would say. Our activity in the Chinese social media ecosystem is increasing on a daily basis. We are focused on WeChat and Sina Weibo, platforms in which Sevilla FC profiles have the best relative growth of all our social media profiles in the current year. Due to our new content policy, with specific Chinese graphics and videos, we are connecting more with Chinese football fans.

Our number of followers increases by an average of 30% per month. That’s why we are studying the possibility of starting Sevilla FC profiles on other interesting social media channels like Douyin, Kuaishou or Youku. We are putting in a great effort to produce top video content and obviously we would like to offer them to our Chinese fans on their most loved platforms.


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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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