• Denis Green

China Sports Business Weekly | 29th January

Hello Industry Friends,


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

Making headlines this week: The Premier League, Barcelona, and Cristiano Ronaldo remain most popular online in China, Man City announces Unilumin deal and extends Midea partnership, Portugal national team launches on Tmall, UFC’s China talent continues to grow with two new academy graduates, NFL rallies fans ahead of Super Bowl, AFC renews Konami deal, and PUMA Sponsors Tencent’s King Pro League.


In this week’s From The Top, we spoke with Scott Munn, CEO, City Football Group China, about the recent Alipay partnership announcement, working with Tencent, what to do when there’s no live football, and big things coming up for 2021.


Top Industry News


1. Premier League, Barcelona, and Cristiano Ronaldo Remain Most Popular Online in China In the 10th edition of the Red Card: China Digital Performance Index, the three Red Card winners stayed the same for the first time. Alongside the Red Card winners, six digital awards and two platform awards, the report analyses the impact of COVID-19, the changing media landscape, and what to expect for 2021. Read the report in English & Chinese. Read more on SportBusiness (English) and Ecosports (Chinese)


2. Man City Announces Global Deal with Unilumin Sports, Extends Midea Partnership The Unilumin partnership will be focused on its advanced pitchside LED solutions and create experiences to engage with its customers and stakeholders. As for Midea, throughout the next term of this partnership, Midea will continue to produce digital campaigns with men’s and women’s players, as well as branding appearing across the Etihad Stadium and the Club’s online platforms. Read more on Man City (English) and Sohu (Chinese)

3. Portugal National Team Launches on Tmall The Portugal national team flagship store registered on Tmall will provide officially-certificated merchandise to fans, including hoodies, mouse pads, notebooks, mugs, headbands, masks, phone cases, keychains, bringing Cristiano Ronaldo's Chinese fans closer to his national team. Read more on Ecosports (Chinese)

4. UFC Signs China Academy Graduates Liang Na and Aori Qileng The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has signed two more academy graduates from its state-of-the-art Shanghai Performance Institute. From China, top flyweight prospect Aori Qileng and top female strawweight prospect Liang Na are set to make their UFC debuts at an event to be announced shortly. Read more on Newsdome (English) and Sohu (Chinese) Mailman Take: Following a momentous week of victories for China Power with Li Jingliang and Su Mudaerji, the news of two new graduates signing to the UFC will continue to inspire future generations and advance the level of the sport in China.


5. NFL China Rallies Communities Ahead of Super Bowl During this month's NFL Playoffs, NFL China and the Clubs’ Weibo teams worked together to seed Playoff Party Packs to local fan clubs, fan leaders and football teams to excite ahead of Super Wildcard Weekend. As the Super Bowl approaches, the NFL has expanded its Party Pack program through a social campaign offering all NFL subscribers a chance to “Win a Super Bowl Party Pack” and host a gathering in their hometown. Read more on NFL (Chinese)


6. China’s MMA Talent Continues to Grow Sixth Tone’s Kenrick Davis looks back at the past week in UFC, and how two Chinese MMA athletes have gained ground in their respective divisions and won over fans with convincing victories. Both athletes hope to match the success of Zhang Weili, China’s reigning UFC champion. Read the article on Sixth Tone (English)

7. AFC Renews Konami Deal

The expanded deal is across national team and club competitions for the 2021-2024 rights cycle. The new “sponsorship and licensing deal” covers both the AFC Asian Qualifiers (for both the Qatar 2022 World Cup and Asian Cup 2023) as well as the AFC Champions League. Read more on Inside World Football (English) and Sports Idea (Chinese)


8. CGTN: China Takes Beijing Winter Olympics as Opportunity to Promote Ice and Snow Sports Chinese President Xi Jinping believes that China, with strong support from various parties, will complete all preparation work as scheduled to ensure the Beijing Winter Olympics a success. President Xi made the remarks during his telephone conversation with President Thomas Bach of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Read more on CGTN (English) and Xinhua (Chinese) 9. MLB China Launches New Comedy Series The new original content series Baseball Utopia was launched together with BesTV & KaiXinMaHua. The 12-episode comedy tells baseball stories and culture in a light-hearted and comedic tone. Watch the first episode on MLB Weibo

Esports PUMA Sponsors Tencent’s King Pro League The exclusive apparel sponsorship with Tencent Games for China’s top Honor of Kings competition King Pro League (KPL) was made at the 2020 Honor of Kings Annual Award Ceremony, following the Honor of Kings Winter Champion Cup in Shenzhen. PUMA will provide exclusive co-branded team jerseys for KPL players. Read more on Esports Observer (English) and Sina Chinese)

From The Top


Scott Munn, CEO City Football Group, China


1. Talk me through the recent Alipay deal. How did this come about, and how will the club be able to leverage the platform?

Manchester City has collaborated with Alibaba since 2013 when the Club launched its official account on the video-streaming platform, Youku. In 2017, we also opened an online retail store on Alibaba's Tmall Global. China’s internet population is highly mobile and Alipay has been doing excellent work on daily life online services.

This collaboration is the first it's kind on Alipay and we are the first football club to launch, which is exciting for both sides. We look forward to providing unique fan experiences through the syndication of targeted content, an extensive retail offering of official Club and partner merchandise, and a variety of Cityzens membership activations including gaming and competitions. I’m delighted to see the feedback from fans has been positive and enthusiastic.

2. In a year when the club couldn't visit China, how did you pivot and adapt your content to further engage fans, particularly during a time of no live football?

2020 has been a tough year for every one of us. We as a club always care about how we can make sure our fans know that they are not alone. Through our dedicated China team, we have delivered innovative and interactive content across digital platforms such as Weibo, WeChat and Douyin. In the early stage of the outbreak, we distributed a customised football educational series to encourage people to stay safe and keep fit. Then in May, together with our partner, Jian Nan Chun, we launched an esports tournament for 18 City supporter groups throughout China. We want to build on a solid digital footprint. I’m pleased to say Manchester City has achieved 9 million Weibo followers in December - great recognition.


3. The club has been working closely with Tencent. What types of content have you been producing and how does your partnership with Tencent work?


We have a very good relationship with Tencent. The Manchester City China Talk Show is a 30-minute programme tailored for China fans. Over the past years, the club’s profile has increased significantly internationally and fans are demanding original content that is built exclusively for them. We have delivered club news, highlights and major interviews, for example, Kevin de Bruyne joined us in the latest show. Also, we want this to be interactive and have launched a wide range of campaigns, lucky draws, guessing, etc. We are now planning to bring new and fresh content to our audience, the upcoming show will be broadcasted live on February 8th before the kick-off against Liverpool, everyone is welcome to join us.

4. What new things can we expect to see from the City Football Group this year in China?

We are very excited about the year ahead and the opportunities which are being presented. We are currently recruiting a number of new roles to further enhance and grow our China operations. We are fully committed to continuing to grow our reach to all Manchester City fans through locally produced relevant content. Hopefully we will be able to stage a number of our very successful fan events during the year in different locations to bring our Manchester City family together. Furthermore we are committed to working with the CFA across many areas to help grow football in China.

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