• Denis Green

China Sports Business Weekly | 2nd October

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


Here’s what’s been making the headlines this week: Sports authority criticised for testing standards, Alibaba’s Youku takes Bundesliga and Serie A content, Midea sponsors Suzuki Cup, Wanda Sports Group looks at delisting, Sina quits Wall Street, Nielsen ranks League of Legends and Badminton top of interest charts.


In this week’s From The Top, we spoke with Jonathan Li, Senior Vice President, Digital Media at NBA China, about the latest partnership with Kuaishou and the new audiences that this new platform will help to reach, the biggest challenges from other international leagues, staying ahead of the competition, adapting on digital during COVID-19, and key digital areas to invest in over the next 12 months.


Top Industry News 1) Sports Authorities Criticised at Physical Test Standards The outrage online has come off the back of the authority’s physical fitness rules, in particular, at the recent National Swimming Championships. Even if athletes finish first, they can only reach the finals based on results of pre-tournament physical tests. Many race winners missed out on the finals. The General Administration of Sport (GAS) in China implemented the ruling across the board in February, with professional athletes subject to standardised physical tests. The recent farce at the swimming championships in Qingdao has brought the issue back into the spotlight. Read more on Foreign Policy (English) and People’s Daily (Chinese) 2) Alibaba’s Youku to Broadcast Bundesliga and Serie A

The Alibaba-owned streaming platform which has previously sub-licensed rights such as the 2018 FIFA World Cup, will stream live coverage of Italian Serie A and German Bundesliga matches this season in a tie-up with PP Sports. PP Sports currently holds the rights in China for the two leagues. Read more on Sports Money (Chinese) Mailman Take: A positive sign for rights holders as Youku makes its way back into buying football content. Sub-licensing media rights is the norm in China and offers rights holders the opportunity to carve out more packages to a wider audience. That’s now WWE, Bundesliga, and Serie A which PP Sports has sub-licensed, and we expect there to be more.


3) Midea to Sponsor Suzuki Cup The Asean Football Federation brought on the well-known Chinese consumer appliances manufacturer Midea as sponsor for the 2020 Suzuki Cup. As sponsor, Midea will feature on perimeter advertising boards, in-stadia TV commercials, the tournament’s digital channels and on official tournament collaterals. Read more on SportBusiness (English)) 4) Wanda Sports Group Looks at Delisting Option The sports marketing company has received an offer from a subsidiary company of Dalian Wanda to acquire all outstanding Class A ordinary shares. A definitive offer which gets approved could lead to the delisting of Wanda Sports Group, which issued a downsized initial public offering on Nasdaq in July 2019 with much fewer shares sold than desired. Read more on PR Newswire (English) and NBD (Chinese) 5) Guangxi Zhuang Eyes $15B Regional Sports Industry The autonomous region’s sports bureau announced investments for a regional sports industry worth $15B by 2025. The investments include the creation of the China-ASEAN Sports Industry Park, an industrial park to house companies involved in sports equipment manufacturing and other sports-related sectors. Later developments will include the building of more than 100 sports complexes, more than 1,000 community fitness centres, and more than 10,000KM of ‘fitness trails’. Read more on SportBusiness (English) and Sports Money (Chinese) In Other News

Sina and Sogou Quit Wall Street After 20 years Sina, the owner of social media site Weibo, and web search firm Sogou are both exiting from Wall Street. Sina announced it will leave the Nasdaq in a $2.59B deal with Beijing-based New Wave Holdings, and Sogou stated its shareholder Tencent would take the web search firm private in a $3.5B deal. Read more on CNN (English) and Tencent (Chinese)

Luxury Brands Bet on Bilibili For luxury brands, Bilibili represents an opportunity to seize on Gen Z customers, which make 81% of the platform’s user base, according to QuestMobile, and familiarise them with their products and brand ethos. The advantage is clear: while they might not have a strong purchasing power for now, this generation is expected to account for 55% of total luxury consumption by 2025. Read more on Vogue (English) Esports News Nielsen Rankings: League of Legends and Badminton Top The Charts The latest rankings on traditional Sports vs. esports, China sees badminton come in first for level of interest, followed by swimming and table tennis. As for esports, League of Legends expectedly comes out on top, with Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds 2nd and Counter-Strike 3rd. Read the rankings on Nielsen (English)


From The Top


Jonathan Li, Senior Vice President, NBA China


1. Talk me through your latest partnership with Kuaishou and what new audiences this platform will help you reach.


The NBA has always been committed to establishing authentic connections with our fans. With more than 300M daily active users, Kuaishou is a content community and short video platform that aims to showcase and connect its users’ authentic, everyday lives. The platform has become an entertainment and cultural hub for people across China.


Kuaishou’s vast user base overlaps with the demographics and fans that we want to connect with. With the addition of an official NBA account, we hope to provide users with unique, high-quality content that was not previously available on the platform. We also hope to draw inspiration from Kuaishou’s many outstanding content creators who capture their daily lives in creative ways. The goal is to reach a more diverse fanbase, cultivate new fans and continue to promote the game of basketball in China.

2. The NBA is renowned for being the most followed international sports league in China. What are the biggest challenges you see from other international leagues, and how do you ensure you stay ahead of the competition?


The fact that many of the world’s top sports leagues are focusing on the Chinese market is definitely a good thing for the overall sports culture in China. The NBA entered the Chinese market relatively early, and after nearly four decades, we have an extremely passionate and knowledgeable fanbase. The challenge now is to continue to diversify our content, enhance the overall fan experience and promote the game of basketball, which is why we’re partnering with Kuaishou.

3. How did you adapt on digital during COVID-19 to ensure fans stayed engaged and entertained?


In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we produced new and innovative content and created a handful of new digital programs that are distributed throughout the week across multiple platforms to ensure we stayed connected to our fans.


On NBA O'Clock & NBA Daily Express, distributed every morning there is a game, a three-hour program that provides fans with real-time game updates; NBA Lunch Special, distributed at noon each weekday, is comprised of five segments that cover different aspects of NBA culture, from hardcore basketball analysis to fashion and lifestyle, such as "24-Second Breakdown" and "Do You Have NBA Style?”. NBA Study Hall, distributed every evening, is a 60-minute program that provides in-depth analysis of previous and upcoming games; and Basketball Love, distributed every weekend, is a short documentary series that showcases everyday fans and explores how the game of basketball influences their lives.

4. What are key focus areas NBA China will look to continue to evolve digitally or invest in over the next 12 months?


To further enhance the fan experience, we will continue to focus on innovation and emerging technology, including 5G, which is becoming more broadly applicable and has provided us with exciting new opportunities. This season, 5G technology-powered ‘hologram interviews’ debuted during the NBA season restart in Orlando, allowing an analyst in a studio to interview a player remotely as if they are in the same room. The technology was utilized during the Conference Finals and is also on tap for The Finals.


We are also focused on enhancing game broadcasts with the application of 4K equipment, which will provide fans with a more stunning and impactful viewing experience.

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