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  • Writer's pictureDenis Green

China Sports Business Weekly | 26th May

Hello Industry Friends, here is the very latest news and insights from China. 📰 Headlines: Giro d’Italia Ride Like A Pro 2023 a triumph in China, Messi’s Argentina heads to Beijing, Midea extends Man City sponsorship, BWF President confident in Badminton participation & popularity, a blog on the growth of mass participation sports, and Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard approved in China. 🎙️ In this week’s From The Top, we spoke with Greg Hooton, VP, Action Sports Events, IMG about staging the Giro d’Italia in China, enhancements of the event compared to 2019, feedback from riders, the future of cycling in China, and early thoughts on next year’s event.


🗞️ Top Industry News Giro d’Italia Ride Like A Pro 2023 A Triumph in China The event treated cycling fans in China to a two-day carnival of top-class road-racing action and entertainment. The event not only attracted some of the world's leading riders, local government support, and throngs of cycling enthusiasts, but also served to showcase the Yangtze River Delta region's thriving economic and cultural sectors. Read more on China Daily (English) and China Daily (Chinese) 💡 Mailman Take: China may be light on international football and basketball teams heading to its mainland this summer, but live sporting events such as the Giro d’Italia Ride Like A Pro last weekend and Road To UFC 2 this weekend are taking center stage. Football and basketball’s losses are cycling and MMA’s gains.


Argentina and Australia to Compete in Beijing Lionel Messi will lead the world champions in a friendly in Beijing next month. The Argentina embassy in China said that Argentina would play Australia on June 15, bringing Messi to the country for the first time since 2017. Read more on Reuters (English) and Sohu (Chinese) 💡 Mailman Take: A quiet summer is expected in China on the international friendly football front as most teams flock to the U.S. and other areas of Asia. This match announcement surprised everyone, and has been the talk of the town since, with world champion and China fan favourite Messi set to lead out his nation in Beijing’s Bird's Nest Stadium. The Birds Nest has had days to forget in the past with international football, most memorably the Manchester derby that never was, and Argentina - Brazil played in extreme smog. Midea Extends Manchester City Sponsorship The Chinese home appliance group has extended its global sponsorship with the club. Midea is considered among the highest-paying of the club’s 28 global partners behind the four sponsors with on-kit branding rights: Etihad, Puma, Nexen Tire, and OKX. Read more on SportBusiness (English) and Sohu (Chinese) BWF President Confident in Badminton Participation, Popularity After China clinched victory at the 2023 Sudirman Cup, Poul-Erik Hoyer, president of the Badminton World Federation, expressed his confidence in the global popularity of badminton. Read more on Xinhua (English) and Xinhua (Chinese) Douyin’s GMV Gets Boost as Platform Doubles Down on Ecommerce For the first time since debuting its eCommerce unit in 2020, Douyin has publicly released GMV figures for this growing part of its business. The President of Douyin Ecommerce revealed that the platform’s Gross Merchandise Value (GMV) increased by more than 80% in the past year. Read more on DAO (English) and NetEase (Chinese) Yao Ming Steps Down as Chair o CBA's Business Arm The eight-time NBA All-Star will leave his role as chairman of the business arm of the embattled Chinese Basketball Association (CBA). The former Houston Rockets star big man was named president of the CBA in 2017. Read more on Fox (English) and CBA (Chinese)


🤔 Opinion From Medals to Public Well-being, Mass Participation Sports Shift China's Focus Mailman's Gareth Sayers looks at how mass participation sports are taking off in China, driving the country's shift in focus from medals to public well-being. As the likes of cycling, running, ultimate frisbee and flag football become some of the most popular mass participation outdoor sports globally, China is embracing this growth with open arms. Read more on Pandaily (English)


🎮 Esports Microsoft’s Acquisition of Activision Blizzard Approved in China The deal has received “unconditional clearance” in China, after a local investigation found no issues in the merger. The approval would mean China joins more than 30 regulators that have approved the acquisition. Read more Esports Insider (English) Coca-Cola & Riot Games’ First Limited Edition Gaming Concept Debuts in China The popular drinks brand teamed up with Riot Games to launch their first gaming-inspired limited-edition product, “Hero’s Arrival”. The Chinese name for the product draws inspiration from the ultimate ability name of the famous champion “Galio” in League of Legends. Read more on DAO (English) and Economic Observation Network (Chinese) Meituan Wins Over Esports Lovers by Rooting for Elderly Gamers The Chinese food delivery giant sponsored an amateur esports team whose members have an average age of 55 years old. The engagement with those senior gamers was viewed as a “heart-warming collaboration”, which harnessed the heart of China’s young esports enthusiasts. Read more on DAO (English) and NetEase (Chinese)


🎙️ From The Top

🗣️ Greg Hooton, VP, Action Sports Events, IMG 1. As one of the first global mass participation events back in China following the country’s border opening, how pleased were you with the overall operation and performance of the event? The first thing I will say is that it is amazing to be back in China doing the event and the buzz around the cycling community for the event has been fantastic. We started on a high when for the first time we sold out on the first day of registrations opening and we had not done that on either of the 2 previous events, so an awesome start. Another pleasing aspect of the 2023 sell-out was that the Fun Ride, which is open to families and riders of all abilities, sold out as quickly as the more serious road events and for us this is very important, as we try to bring cycling to a broader range of riders in the community. Having now just completed the event, I could not have been happier about the performance of the team with the event delivery and a vital part of the successful event delivery is the cooperation and working relationship we have with the districts we ride though, and in particular Qingpu, because without their support there is no way we could close 90km of roads in Shanghai. 2. The event has seen a number of enhancements since the first one in 2019. What were they and how were they received? The aim of what we do is to continually try and enhance the event offering for cyclists of all abilities and this year we delivered on a number of enhancements such as: Offered an increased distance for the Sunday ride; Altered the course to take in some stunning scenery along the canals and through some great picturesque park areas; Continued work on offering the best road surfaces to ensure the safety of the riders; Schools program for young riders; Created an amazing cycling festival that allowed the riders to relax and enjoy post their rides. All the changes and the event itself were very well received and the final arbiter these days is social media and the comments that were made on social media were more than positive. 3. What was the general feedback from riders on this event including the riders from Australia, UAE, Thailand, and of course your Ambassador Andy Schleck – the former Tour de France winner? I spoke to many many riders including the overseas riders and when all of them say “we will return” I think that is the ultimate feedback as to how much they enjoyed the ride. Andy actually said to me at one stage he had to slow down to take in the beauty of the area he was riding through. The aim of what we are trying to create is provide a cycling experience for riders of all skill levels that shows them what it is like to “ride like a pro” as per our event name, and when riders came back in and said that they felt like they were receiving a pro riding experience, it is a great endorsement of what we are trying to create. 4. Mass participation sports, particularly cycling, are on the rise in China. How do you see the future of cycling in China and what improvements have been made throughout your years visiting the country? When we started exploring doing this event back in 2018, many people were concerned about the riders having enough ability to handle a mass ride like what we were proposing. People even said the amateur riders could not do a team time trial event. What a difference 5 years makes, we had over 800 riders in each wave on Sunday for the 88km ride and all handled the start and ride exceptionally well. Another interesting observation is that over the years you can see a discernible lift in the riding ability of the young kids especially, which only bodes well for the future of cycling in China. So over the 5 years I have seen rider experience increase enormously as well as a vast increase in the quality of bikes in the market. I see a very bright future for cycling in China at the amateur level and also I believe there will be more Chinese riders in the future participating in the cycling World Tour events. 5. Any early thoughts on next year’s event? Anything you’d do differently? The early thoughts are how do we expand the offering to allow a greater number of riders to experience the event and so we will review our format and distances to see if by some additions we can look to allow more riders to experience “riding like a pro”.


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