• Denis Green

China Sports Business Weekly | 23rd October

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

Here’s what’s been making the headlines this week: CFA Secretary-General says football is bridge between China and the world, 3.2M applications for just 6.3K League of Legends World Championship tickets, Vivo announces partnership with EURO 2020 & 2024, CSL final to allow for 10,000 fans in Stadium, NFL engages local fans with virtual experiences, China’s army basketball side quits CBA league, Western sports properties tackle digital in China, SportsPro Asia highlights, and why DouYu & Huya had to merge. 


In this week’s From The Top, we spoke with Joseph Krassenstein, Marketing Director for MORE Sports, a Chinese mobile app and video platform that brings all-encompassing coverage to the complete lifestyle of sports with some of the world's biggest athletes.

Top Industry News

1) CFA Secretary-General: Football is a Bridge Between China and the Rest of the World

In a rare interview with the China Football Association (CFA), AFP sports reporter Peter Stebbings spoke with the current CFA Secretary-General Liu Yi, about the country's aggressive push to become a major football power by 2050. Liu Yi also remains adamant football has a vital role to play in China continuing to open up to the world. Read the full interview on Yahoo (English)


Mailman Take: A bold claim from the top of Chinese football and an indicator that China’s ‘football dream’ is still alive. It's also evidence the country wants international football organisations to continue investing into grassroots projects and communities. 2) 3.2M Apply for 6.3K League of Legends World Championship Tickets Riot Games did not put the tickets up for sale, instead, issued a draw to fans that met certain criteria, including owning a Chinese ID and an official account on the Chinese League of Legends platform through LPL.QQ.com. In just four hours of signups going live, Riot Games had already received a million applications. By the end of the signup period, Riot Games received over 3.2M. Read more on Invenglobal (English) and Sohu (Chinese) 3) Vivo Announces EURO 2020 & 2024 Partnership

The popular smartphone maker has been announced as an official partner for the next two UEFA EURO tournaments. As the official smartphone provider for UEFA EURO 2020 and UEFA EURO 2024, Vivo joins Alipay, Booking.com, Coca-Cola, FedEx, Heineken, Hisense, Socar, Takeaway.com and Volkswagen as current partners of UEFA EURO. Read more on UEFA (English) and Tencent (Chinese)


4) CSL Final to Allow for 10,000 Fans in Stadium The Chinese Super League (CSL) is expected to allow 10,000 supporters at each leg of the Chinese Super League final next month. The title will be decided over two legs, on November 8 and 12, in Suzhou. Read more on Yahoo! (English) 5) NFL Engages Local Fans with Virtual Experiences Following the launch of their subscription service on Tencent Sports, the NFL has found an innovative way to engage and deliver additional value to subscribers on a dedicated WeChat service account. This includes easily finding and joining team-specific group chats and exclusive partner offers & experience invitations. The NFL already has engaged local fans with a series of Virtual Coaching Sessions. The series features instruction and discussions with several NFL Legends – both former players and coaches – including two-time Super Bowl Champion and NFL Hall of Famer, Rod Woodson. Find out more on NFL WeChat

6) PLA Quits CBA and WCBA

Following a no-show for its season opener against the Beijing Ducks, the Bayi Rockets, the CBA's only army-owned team, ended its 25-year journey in the league. The Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) posted a thank-you letter on its official social media channels to Bayi, the teams registered under the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). In the letter, the CBA officially announced that the PLA quit CBA and Women’s CBA starting from this season. Bayi won 8 CBA champions and 5 WCBA championships. The current players will retire from the military and join other teams. Read more on China Daily English) and China Youth (Chinese)


7) Making an impression: How the likes of PSG, the NHL and UFC are Tackling Social Media in China China is among the most appealing overseas markets for western sports properties, but succeeding in the country’s diverse social media landscape is about more than just being online. SportsPro’s Sam Carp spoke with senior figures from Mailman, NHL, UFC, DRL, Panini, and KAWO about how to best navigate the ever-changing landscape. Read the full article here (English)

8) ITTF Announces Sinopec Lubricant as Major Sponsor The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) has brought on Sinopec Lubricant Company as a Major Sponsor of the upcoming Dishang 2020 ITTF Men’s World Cup, scheduled for 13 – 15 November 2020. Read more on ITTF (English) and Eastday (Chinese) 9) SportsPro Asia Virtual Summit: Key Takeaways On Wednesday & Thursday this week, SportsPro Asia held its annual Asia event for two days of panels, keynotes, and networking to discuss current topics affecting the sports industry across the region. Catch up on the highlights from Day 1 & Day 2

In Other News

Zach Lavine Launches on Douyin & Kuaishou in Same Week

The 2x Slam Dunk Champion & Chicago Bulls star launched his account on both Douyin and Kuaishou this week making him the first NBA player to do so in such a short time period. Lavine’s Douyin launch video garnered 5.5M+ views and his Kuaishou launched with 3.9M+ video views. Mailman Take: Douyin has traditionally been the platform to activate NBA stars in China given their partnership with the NBA, but as Douyin and Kuaishou continue their battle for market dominance, it will be interesting to see which platform is able to attract more star athlete partners to join their platforms in the future.

China's Economy Continues to Bounce Back from Virus Slump

The world's second-largest economy witnessed 4.9% growth between July and September, compared to the same quarter last year. China is leading the charge for a global recovery based on its latest gross domestic product (GDP) data. For the first three months of this year, China’s economy shrank by 6.8% when it saw nationwide shutdowns of factories and manufacturing plants. Read more on BBC (English) and China Youth (Chinese)


Dunk of China Season 3 Back on Youku

The reality show Dunk of China Season 3 is back on Alibaba’s streaming platform Youku. Current national players Guo Ailun and Zhou Qi, and former national players Wang Shipeng and Zhu Fangyu, are judges of the show. There are also four teams of cheerleaders. The popular show generated 6.2B reads on Weibo on the first day. Read more on The Paper (Chinese)

Blogs

Why Tencent’s Merger Between DouYu & Huya had to Happen Following last week’s announcement about the merger between gaming live streaming platforms DouYu & Huya, we explain Tencent’s grand plan and predict how this new gaming giant will operate. Read the Blog here (English)

Esports News

Honor of Kings Returns As Leader of Mobile Games Revenue Worldwide

Tencent’s mobile game Honor of Kings generated more than $240M in total revenue in September, topping revenue charts worldwide for mobile games. An increase of 87% year-over-year compared to September 2019 was also achieved, while players from China made up around 96% of that total revenue. In second place was PUBG MOBILE, also by Tencent Games, but under a different name in China: Peacekeeper Elite. This generated $1.3B in 2020, and over $3B in lifetime revenue. PUBG MOBILE and Peacekeeper Elite generated over $198M in September, which was up 13.3% compared to the same period in 2019. Read more on Pandaily (English) and Tencent (Chinese)



From The Top Joseph Krassenstein, Marketing and Sales Director for MORE体育 1. How has the partnership between Boston Celtic’s Gordon Hayward and LPL expanded throughout the current LoL Worlds?


With the League of Legends S10 Championship hosted here in China this month, we wanted to partner with the LPL to create something authentic to distribute to the fans in China. Not a lot of people know that our partner Gordon Hayward is not only a star basketball player but is also the NBA’s #1 League of Legends player. So when we reached out to TJ Sports, who operates the LPL here in China, it turned out to be a perfect opportunity to create an awesome piece of crossover content that got some huge visibility via Weibo, Douyin, Kuaishou and Hupu. 


In the piece, Hayward has a zoom call with League influencer YSCandice streaming live from his hotel room in the Disney bubble during the NBA’s Eastern Conference finals. The two reviewed the previous season’s final between TES and JD Gaming going in-depth through the strategy, the decision making, and the personal opinions of the match. 


2. How have you leveraged off the need for more behind-the-scenes content in a time of no tours or fans in stadiums?


MORE is all about taking you behind-the-scenes into the lives of your favorite superstars. Amidst Covid, their reality is much like ours – many of them have been stuck in their homes. So we have remained authentic to our commitment and captured what the reality has been like. Often this means capturing zoom calls or 1st person vlog type of content to make sure we are continuing to give our fans “behind-the-scenes” and “in the bubble” access. 


We also double-downed on growing the Chinese social presence of our NBA player partners during this time to fuel the passion with authentic direct-to-fan China-centric content. Regardless of the difficulties of COVID, we still successfully launched Trae Young, RJ Barrett, Donovan Mitchell, and Zach Lavine across Weibo and Douyin.

3. What have been your biggest learnings when launching athletes across social platforms in China?


It all starts with creating inspirational, exciting, and authentic content with our NBA or other superstar partners. Our partners have things they want to share with the fans here in China and then our job is to listen to the social platforms here to ensure what we create is authentic for each of them. Each of the major social platforms in China have different strengths and types of audiences so when we launch and operate an athlete’s social account, we try not to take a blanket approach but to really tailor-make content for each outlet. Creating authentic “made for China” content has really paid off in increasing the overall fan engagement and fan following across all the accounts we manage. 


What we are most excited about is to continue partnering with big brands who don’t want to pay for an unenthused talent that doesn’t care about their product. The MORE approach means that we will bring superstars to China that understand the significance of the market and are truly excited about the partnerships available here. Gone are the days where we could utilize any global star and land any brand partnership here in China. 


The brands are more social media savvy, are looking at the average influencer click-through rates, and trying to be more cost efficient with their marketing dollars to only spend on what they can track high sales conversions on. We’re able to leverage our strong content production abilities and our extensive roster of superstar athletes with strong social media followings and high levels of engagement to help further many brand’s marketing and validation efforts here in China.


4. Do you have different strategies for Douyin and Kuaishou?


Our MORE Sports account on both platforms are performing well. We launched our Douyin last year and our Kuaishou account only a few months ago. Both of our official accounts feature many categories of content like training, fashion, esports, cooking, education, and more. But what works for Douyin doesn’t necessarily work for Kuaishou. For instance, our Douyin sports fans are used to seeing more of our professionally produced content that features in a lot of game highlights whereas our Kuaishou fans desire to see more first person stories and intimate conversations amongst the stars. As we continue to build our partnerships with both platforms, I think we’re figuring out quickly what works and what doesn't. 


Our biggest advantage is also managing the superstar accounts on both platforms and being able to cross-pollinate content to distribute from the MORE account, players accounts, and also through the accounts of any brand we partner with. We’ve been excited about managing the accounts of top stars such as Steve Nash, Kevin Garnett, Trae Young, Donovan Mitchell and so many more that are just launching. As we continue to solidify our partnership with Douyin, we will continue to launch new players on their platform in the future. Zach Lavine is actually our first player launched on Kuaishou and so far, we’re impressed with the type of engagement and what we’re seeing in the resources they are making available for promotion. Stay on the lookout as we plan to launch a few top players before the start of next season. 5. With Game 5 of the NBA finals airing across China’s CCTV Sports Channel this month, what do you see for the NBA and player’s marketability in the future? 

The thing I’ve been most encouraged about is that the fans here really missed the NBA and the loyalties they have for the superstars continues to grow. I think everyone is excited that this is getting back on the right track. We know our players are excited to get back to directly connecting with the Chinese fans and the fans are excited to have more access to their idols. This momentum can only be good for everyone involved in the business. As the top level seems to be making some progress recently, we can already see a nice uptick in our platform’s viewership across our mobile app and via social and some interest from the brands and their desire to work with our NBA player partners. I really applaud all the parties that have worked hard to bring NBA basketball back to mainstream distribution and we are excited to be a part of bringing fans closer to what they love. The passion that both the players and fans have, has and always will be marketable.

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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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