• Denis Green

China Sports Business Weekly | 28th February

Welcome to the latest edition of the China Sports Business Weekly. The global sports community has continued to rally and deliver powerful messages of support and donations to China.


Paris Saint-Germain replaced their main shirt sponsor patch with ‘Stay Strong China’ for their last home game, while the NFL started an auction page of memorabilia with all proceeds going to COVID-19 relief. Also this week, China Power reigned supreme at UFC 168 and the CFA has formed a special group to tackle club financial issues.


We spoke with Matthew Brennan - Managing Director of China Channel - about WeChat’s latest video function, how brands can utilise it, and what to look out for in 2020 from Tencent.


Industry News

1) Paris Saint-Germain & Accor Team Up for China Support Messaging The Ligue 1 champions were the only European football club to dedicate the front of their First-Team jersey to support China, a spot usually reserved for main partner, Accor. The message read ‘Stay Strong China 中国加油’. and was also included on the mascots’ shirts, LED signage, centre circle banner, and official team photo. Read more on PSG (English) and CCTV (Chinese)

Mailman Take: PSG delivered expertly on this going above and beyond what other clubs have done so far. Front and centre is the most sought-after place on a football shirt, and credit to the club and Accor for using that spot in support of China. The club’s actions were extremely well received online, with content being discussed beyond the PSG core fan groups as engagement on Weibo was 3x higher than average.


2) NFL Auctions Memorabilia to Raise Money for China The National Football League (NFL) has started an online auction in support of COVID-19 response efforts in China. 100% of auction proceeds will be donated to the CDC Foundation, a separate 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, to ensure contributions are provided for frontline aid and relief efforts. Take a look at the memorabilia being auctioned on NFL (English)


Mailman Take: The NFL has been in operation in China for over 12 years developing strong relationships with the country and its people. Auctioning valuable memorabilia such as signed jerseys and Super Bowl balls is a creative and thoughtful way to raise money. More items are expected to be added in coming weeks following positive responses from players and teams.


3) International Champions Cup Asia Cancelled Relevent Sports Group (RSG), the North American and Asian football event and media company, has stated the 2020 International Championship will not take place in Asia this summer Read more on ICC Weibo (Chinese)


4) Yan Xiaonan & Song Kenan Victorious in Auckland at UFC 168

Both fighters, who had to change training camps from Beijing to Thailand, delivered emotional tributes to China after their victories as the country continues to go through difficult times. Read more on SCMP (English) and China News Service (Chinese)


Mailman Take: Yet another milestone for Chinese fighters with Xiaonan this time landing her biggest UFC career win and becoming the first fighter from Asia to register five consecutive wins. The sport witnessed a meteoric rise in China in 2019 - Zhang Weili became the first-ever Chinese champion, the UFC Shanghai Performance Institute officially opened, and Dana White’s Contender Series was announced for Shanghai this year. March 8th could be another historic date for the UFC in China with Zhang Weili defending her title in Vegas at UFC 248 against Joanna Jedrzejczyk, and Li Jingliang also featuring on the Main Card. Two more China wins will mark unprecedented success and further inspire future Chinese champions of the sport.


5) Chinese Football Association Forms Group to Tackle Financial Issues at Clubs

The ‘working group’ will investigate financial problems at clubs, with many having faced serious issues in recent years such as failing to pay wages and struggling to survive. It’s been reported that the working group will employ finance, tax and legal experts to tackle the situation. Read more on SportBusiness (English) and Sina Sports (Chinese)


From The Top


Matthew Brennan - Managing Director of China Channel


1. WeChat has soft-launched its new short-form content function called 'Channels'. What can you tell about this function so far?


WeChat ‘Channels’ is a video-first newsfeed which looks extremely similar to Instagram and can be found from the discovery tab. The entry point is right next to Moments, which straight away indicates the importance of the new product because by putting it there it’s guaranteed to get a lot of traffic and attention. Moments is the second most popular feature on WeChat after Messaging.


It’s a video-first product, you can put pictures on there, but so far from what I’ve seen and feedback I’ve heard while it’s still in BETA stage is that posting pictures doesn’t work very well, it’s all about video. Only a limited number of people can open an account right now. Once it’s open up fully, both individuals and businesses will be able to open up accounts.

2. Does this represent a good change of strategy for Tencent?


There is no real video-first product on WeChat, and it is extremely late to video. That’s due to Alan Zhang who calls the shots. If you’re being negative about the Channels product, it’s because it has come in late and everyone is already on Kuaishou or Douyin. Do we really need another video newsfeed? I’m not so sure, but we’ll have to see. Regardless, because it's WeChat and it has a strong entry point it should do okay.


3. How can brands look to utilise this platform moving forward?

For brands, the content strategy we’re seeing so far is lots of people reposting content from other channels such as Bilibili or Douyin - repurposing content for this new channel. That’s a safe strategy, it's what big influencers are doing and I think it’s a really good way to start. There doesn't seem to be that much that's unique about this Channel in terms of formatting. If you’ve already built up a backlog of great content on Douyin then it should also work on WeChat channels as well.


4. What were the biggest behavioral changes you noticed in WeChat users in 2019?

I’d say the biggest behavioral change in 2019 was the trend of "private traffic" a lot more people using private WeChat groups. Brands and small-and-medium size eCommerce merchants have been using small WeChat groups to drive repeat purchases and advocacy of their products.


5. What are the key changes that organsations and brands should be looking out for this year with Tencent/WeChat?


This year, apart from Channels, the other big thing has been WeChat for work - an enterprise version of WeChat. It had a big 3.0 update recently and what you can do is getting better and better. With COVID-19 taking over everyone’s lives, the adoption of enterprise messaging and productivity tools will become one of the bigger stories of H1 2020.


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