• Denis Green

China Sports Business Weekly | 30th October

Updated: Nov 2

It feels like just yesterday we were wrapping up our Red Card 2020 report and industry awards event. Today, we’re excited to announce submissions are now open for the Red Card 2021: China Digital Football Awards.


The Red Card is now in its 10th year, and we’re delighted to celebrate the best in the business in what has been a challenging year for all involved. There are six awards to be voted for by our panel of 12 industry expert judges that will recognise outstanding performance across China’s digital landscape. Read more here.

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


Here’s what’s been making the headlines this week: VSPN raises $100M in Tencent-led funding, Beijing’s revamped Workers’ Stadium to host AFC Asian Cup 2023 Final and ceremonies, IDG agrees 10-year deal with FIS, La Liga extends partnership with SuperSports four more years, Alibaba Group tops China’s 100 brands, and BBC & Bilibili team up on content.


In this week’s From The Top, we spoke with John Yan, Founder of Score Sports, and a returning judge for the Red Card 2021: China Digital Football Awards. We spoke with John about what he looks for in submissions, what engages him as a fan, and takeaways from 2020.


Top Industry News 1) VSPN Raises $100M in Tencent-Led Round-B Financing The Chinese esports solutions provider VSPN (Versus Programming Network), which is involved in arranging around 70% of China's esports tournaments, raised in the region of $100M in its Series-B round funding led by tech giant Tencent Holdings. Other investments came from Tiantu Capital, SIG (Susquehanna International Group), and the popular digital platform Kuaishou. VSPN intends to use the investment to upgrade its esports products, continue building a diverse esports ecosystem, and expand reach. Read more on Esports Observer (English) and Ifeng (Chinese) Mailman Take: No surprise to see Tencent leading this investment in one of China’s fastest-growing esports companies, and another statement of Tencent’s growing monopoly over the full esports supply chain. VSPN’s cash injection will fast-track its globalisation strategy while it continues to innovate on domestic esports tournaments which are growing year on year.


2) Beijing to Host Opening & Closing Ceremonies and Final of AFC Asian Cup 2023

The organising committee of the 2023 FIFA Asian Cup in China announced that the 18th AFC Asian Cup opening and closing ceremonies will be hosted in Beijing’s revamped Workers’ Stadium, as well as the final. There will be 10 cities hosting 51 games in total, and all construction of venues is estimated to be completed by the end of 2022. Read more on Inside the Games (English) and People.com Chinese)


3) IDG Sports and FIS Agree 10-year Partnership to Promote Grassroots Programmes The International Ski Federation (FIS) commercial partnership with the winter sports market developer IDG Sports aims to promote the Get into Snow Sports (GISS)-China grassroots programme. GISS China was launched by the FIS and the Chinese Ski Association to help deliver on the Chinese Government’s target of 300M winter sport participants by the time the 2022 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games begin in Beijing. Read more on Inside the Games (English) and Netease (Chinese)


4) Sportfive Announces Partnership with Spanish Football Federation Sportfive has become the exclusive market development and sponsorship marketing agency of the Royal Spanish Football Federation in China. Sportfive will carry out business development operations and assist brands for cooperation rights and marketing activation plans, as well as operating the Spanish National Team’s Weibo channel. Read more on SportBusiness (English) and Lanxiong Sports (Chinese)


5) La Liga Extends Existing Partnership with SuperSports Chinese sports marketing company SuperSports has signed a letter of intent with La Liga to extend the existing partnership of six seasons (from 2019/20 to 2024/25) for another additional four seasons (2025/26 to 2028/29). Read more on Jiemian (Chinese)

In Other News China’s Top 100 Brands In 2020, China’s top 100 brands gained 12% in value, increasing their total worth by $106.8B to $996.4B. The latest BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Chinese Brands report, published by WPP and Kantar, highlighted that 14 out of 24 categories increased in value this year. The BrandZ study again named Alibaba Group as China’s most valuable brand (+9% to $153.3B), just ahead of tech rival Tencent (+9% to $151B). Read more on Kartar (English) and Tencent (Chinese)


BBC and Bilibili Sign Content and Production Deal BBC Studios and the popular Chinese video platform will generate more China-inspired content and bring more premium BBC shows to China. As China-related stories become increasingly appealing to overseas markets, Chinese users also demand higher-quality and more diversified content. The Bilibili-BBC partnership is committed to developing better content for Chinese audiences and exporting the premium Chinese experience abroad. Read more on Pandaily (English) and Beijing Youth (Chinese) Jack Ma’s Ant IPO Raises $34B The tech tycoon helped raise more than $34B in another record-breaking IPO, this time with Ant Group. Estimates state that Ma’s fortune could soon hit $71.B, making him the 11th wealthiest person in the world. Ant’s valuation has risen to at least $315B, pushing it well past ICBC’s $250B and China Construction Bank’s $180B Read more on CNN (English) and Tencent (Chinese) Mailman in Asia


A flavour of what we've been up to across Asia this week.


Germain In Japan Inspired by the popular movie Emily in Paris, we produced a collaboration of Japanese cartoon characters (Pokemon, Hello Kitty, Doraemon) alongside the PSG mascot, Germain. The cartoon characters and Germain the LYNX visited museums, shrines, and art exhibitions together. Blog: Singapore Leads Esports to Success in Southeast Asia Nowhere has witnessed the explosive growth of esports more than Singapore. Our blog analyses Singapore’s key advancements as well as opportunities in the esports industry. Esports News Red Bull to Host League of Legends World Championship 101 Stream for Newbies The global brand has partnered with esports celebrities and professionals for Red Bull Worlds Simplified, a League of Legends World Championship stream for those who are new to the sport. The aim is to “demystify” the League of Legends championship event which is currently on-going in Shanghai and with the final set to take place this Sunday. Read more on Esports Observer (English)


From The Top

John Yan, Founder of Score Sports

1. What would you like to see from this year’s submissions which you previously haven’t seen?


More contributions from an individual perspective, more stories and content related to personal experience. We have always been exaggerating China's market size, population and internet traffic, which does or does not have direct influence in sport growth in China. With more input from personal and individual perspective, sport would have a better chance of rubbing into everyone's daily life.


2. What do you see as being some of the challenges sports organisations have met this year in China. Any suggestions on how to overcome these?


The absence of supporters inside stadiums is killing the industry. Whether football, basketball or any other sports, no matter if it is in China, USA or Europe, the interactivity between live match and pitchside audience has never been noticed as being so vital to sport than before.


The only solution is to create suitable ways to re-introduce supporters back inside the stadiums. Covid-19 would be here to stay for a long while in our lives, we have to live with it and bring sports life back to normal in creative methods.


The overall economic circumstances are damaging sport in China as other places. The whole industry in China is a weird combination of state-owned Olympics-themed national sports training scheme, and wild jungle free market in regards to media rights, marketing issues and sponsorship deals. The amateurish training field and school sport structure are also very unstable and not streamlined, the pandemic era would be a good time to restructure every level from a social cultural perspective.


3. As an industry professional as well as a sports fan, what types of content / activations engage you the most and why?


The real stories from the real people on the field. The emotions they exuded in regarding sport. The events which really influenced people's attitude towards sport. One good example would be the Arsenal fans in China, who financed and constructed an elementary school building in Guangxi. 4. For you personally, what have been the biggest learnings from a professional standpoint in this industry in 2020? Professionally, well, this profession is dying rather rapidly in China... Personally, this year has taught me, there is nothing better than participating in sport more regularly in life. Try jogging three times a week, that helps reduce the mental stress everyone has in a pandemic era, even though it does not contribute to anything obvious in this profession.

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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 China, Southeast Asia, Europe, and the US, we specialise in digital strategy, transformation, social media, content production and eCommerce. Learn more about our story here.

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