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  • Denis Green

China Sports Business Weekly | 24th January

Happy Chinese New Year to all clients, partners, industry friends, and media. From everyone at Mailman, we wish you all a prosperous Year of the Rat.


In this week’s edition: International brands invest big in CNY campaigns & adverts, State media agrees on Olympic partnership with administration agencies, FC Bayern launches local Tmall store, FC Barcelona Collaborates with China Academy of Art, Huya to broadcast LCS & LEC, Eileen Gu wins Youth Olympic Gold,160over90 recruits John Steere, Alibaba displays artwork at Tokyo airport ahead of the Olympics, and SportsPro returns to Asia.


We spoke to Kevin Chang, SVP APAC at the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), about a busy 2020 ahead in China, benefits of the Performance Institute on athletes, the impact of Zhang Weili as champion, and how the younger generations can participate in the sport. 


Top Industry News


1) International Brands Invest Big in Chinese New Year Chinese New Year adverts & campaigns have been receiving high praise as international brands invest and become more creative. A few campaigns and initiatives produced so far include Nike, Apple, Real Madrid, Tottenham Hotspur, FIFA, Chelsea, PSG, BVB, and Juventus. We look forward to seeing more over the holiday period.


2) State Media & Administration Agencies Sign Olympic Partnership   China’s General Administration of Sport and its State Administration of Radio and Television will create a platform for events, programmes and content covering summer and winter Olympic sports. The platform’s content will focus on Chinese athletes and Olympic events, with the aim to create high-quality sports content with Chinese characteristics and narratives. Read more on SportBusiness (English) and CCTV (Chinese)

3) FC Bayern Opens Domestic Tmall Store The German champions have launched a flagship store on Tmall, China’s largest B2C shopping platform. The club previously opened on Tmall Global in 2015, and by launching a store on the original Tmall marketplace, fans will benefit from faster deliveries as Tmall inventory is stored in China. Read more on Alzila (English) and Bayern Weibo (Chinese)


Mailman Take: The speed and efficiency of eCommerce in China are second to none. Consumers demand fast delivery of a quality product, and sports fans are no different. Having official inventory in China with next day delivery will ensure satisfied fans and a higher quality of customer service. 

4) FC Barcelona Collaborates with the China Academy of Art for CNY This includes creating co-branded posters featuring the club’s stars to celebrate Chinese New Year. The series of posters will be distributed on official Barcelona channels throughout New Year. Read more on Barcelona (English) and Ecosports (Chinese)


5) Huya Becomes Exclusive 2020 Chinese Broadcast Partner of the LCS and LEC

The Chinese live-streaming platform acquired exclusive rights in China to the League of Legends (LoL) North American Championship Series (LCS) and European Series (LES) through 2020. The deal expands on Huya’s existing three-year partnership with Riot Games, the title’s publisher, and competition organiser. Read more on SportsPro (English) and Tencent (Chinese)


6) Eileen Gu Claims Youth Olympics Gold China's US-born skier claimed her first gold in the women's freeski halfpipe competition at the Winter Youth Olympics in Lausanne, with a score of 93.00-China's second gold of the Games following Yang Binyu's victory in the mass-start speed skating competition. Read more on China Daily (English) and Xinhua (Chinese)


7) 160over90 Recruits John Steere in China The marketing services arm of sports and entertainment group Endeavor, has recruited John Steere as senior vice-president and managing director of its operations in China. Steere will be responsible for further developing 160over90’s presence in Asia across advertising, experiential, PR and sponsorships. Read more on SportBusiness (English) and Sina (Chinese)

8) Alibaba & Narita Airport Portray Tokyo 2020 Artwork Technology firm Alibaba Cloud partnered with Narita Airport to showcase digital artworks related to Tokyo 2020. An “Alibaba Cloud Gallery” will launch in March and display digital art in Japanese styles on screens along nine walkways at arrival terminals. Read more on SportBusiness (English) and Sina (Chinese)


From The Top


Kevin Chang - SVP of APAC at the Ultimate Fighting Championship 


1. 2020 marks a big year for UFC in China. How are plans ahead of Dana White's Contender Series in Shanghai?

We will launch DWCSA in early April, yet another major milestone following the completion of the Performance Institute Shanghai in 2019. The purpose built facility will host 8 DWCSA events, drawing from talent within the UFC Academy as well as the best mixed martial artists in the region.

There is tremendous interest from both athletes who want to compete, and the ever growing MMA fanbase who are hungry for more. DWCSA has proven to be the best way to get noticed by Dana as evidenced by the many alum who are now making strides in the UFC. Athletes from Asia now have an opportunity to shine in front of a global audience and gain a spot on the UFC roster with an impressive performance. DWCSA also gives us a local relevance that complements our annual calendar of 42 international events.

2. The Shanghai Performance Institute is fully up and running. How’s feedback been from the athletes?

They believe in our system and it shows. Our UFC Academy athletes have amassed a record of 33 – 4 to date, proof that our investment to accelerate the development of the sport is taking effect in a relatively short period of time. We are less than 1 year in and the competition for scholarships is getting fierce. We have over 90% of the top talent from China already, and will look to bring in other athletes from around the region in 2020. We also have strategic partnerships with many of the top MMA promotions in the region, with many of our UFC Academy athletes already being Champions.

3. What’s been the most sustainable & recognisable impact from Zhang Weili becoming the first-ever Chinese champion?


It’s been a whirlwind since she became our first Chinese (Asian!) champion ever last August. There’s been tremendous interest from media and an outpouring of support from her fans, not only for her prowess in the Octagon, but also for what she represents as a determined human being. (If you haven’t heard her tell her story in her own words, you should https://www.theplayerstribune.com/en-us/articles/zhang-weili-be-water-my-friend).


The media coverage has been unprecedented, from FTA TV channels including CCTV 1, 4, 5, 13, CGTN, Regionals and Satellite Channels, to headlines in top print media like Xinhua, People’s Daily and China Daily, cover pages of periodicals like Fashion Cosmo China and People Magazine, to all major online portals and social media sites. We had over 400m # reads on UFC official platforms in 24 hours alone! Zhang Weili has been on talk shows, had documentaries made about her, and was even recently named non-Olympic athlete of the year at the 2019 CCTV Sports Awards Ceremony. We are very proud of her accomplishments.

4. As we enter a new decade, what advice would you give to youngsters in China looking to either become MMA athletes or to follow the sport? 

Be dedicated to the craft, a true martial artist. IMMAF has a growing presence in China and it’s a great option for young amateur talent to learn to do things the right way. Another alternative is to start with a particular discipline like BJJ or Sanda, and over time add to the skill set. The UFC Academy is always looking for the best young talent in China, so train hard and do something to impress!

In Other News SportsPro OTT Returns to Asia The OTT Summit will again take place in Singapore for its second year to discuss the hottest topics in the industry. The two-day conference will bring key stakeholders from the Asian and international markets together to connect on all aspects of the sports OTT revolution. Focusing on the varying consumption trends and challenges in Asian markets, there will be insights around rights packaging, delivery and latency, piracy, best practice revenue models and much more. Read more on SportsPro (English)

Mailman Take: The SportsPro team delivered a great event last March, and judging by this year’s line-up & programme, it’s going to be another insightful two days in beautiful Singapore. Interested? reach out to Will and the team to find out more - https://asia.sportspro-ott.com/sign-up/

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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 the globe we specialise in digital strategy, transformation, social media, content production, and eCommerce. Learn more about our story here