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  • Writer's pictureDenis Green

China Sports Business Weekly | 31st May

Updated: Aug 27, 2019

Here are the top China sports business news stories you need to know from this week, and my From the Top interview is with Peter Hambuechen, Head of Global Operations/Executive Director China at Borussia Mönchengladbach, where we discuss the club’s recent China tour and next steps in China.

Juventus Opens Suzhou Academy There were more than 700 people in attendance as Serie A champions Juventus opened its Academy in Suzhou, China. Two club Juventus Legends – David Trezeguet and Fabrizio Ravanelli – participated in the opening. Suzhou represents Juventus’ sixth Chinese Academy, after the five located in Shanghai, Zhuhai, Nanjing, Tianjin, and Meishan. Read more on Juventus (English) and ChinaNews (Chinese)

Mailman Take: A lot of clubs talk about opening academies and growing the game of football from the grassroots in China. Juventus put money where their mouth is. Now on academy number 6 in China, and 57 globally, the club is making a big impression in the country and creating a new generation of fans.

Borussia Mönchengladbach Partners with Tongji University To help support and grow the national policy of building football campuses in China, Borussia Mönchengladbach founded a Sino-German Union for Youth and School Football with Tongji University. Read more on Borussia Mönchengladbach English & Chinese

Mailman Take: Borussia has been active and present in China, showing clear signs they’re in it for the long term. Partnering with government-backed educational institutions is a smart play to deepen political ties and curry favour with decision makers.

Paris Saint-Germain Launches on Dongtu French Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain has become the first-ever football club to launch an official account on popular micro-content platform Dongtu. Paris Saint-Germain will offer GIF-style content via the platform similar to international equivalent GIPHY. Paris Saint-Germain has so far received 155+ million GIF views. Read more on SportsPro (English) and Lanxiong Sports (Chinese)

Man City Announce JNC Baijiu Deal English Premier League champions Manchester City have partnered with Chinese liquor company JNC to become the club’s official baijiu partner on a multi-year, global deal. Read more on Manchester City English & Chinese

NHL China Games Planned for 2020 The NHL released the following update regarding the NHL China Games: “Due to logistical challenges resulting from the multitude of events occurring in China during the same time frame as our NHL preseason games, we have determined that we will have to forego our preseason NHL games in China until Fall 2020. While we will not be playing preseason games in China this coming September, our commitment to the market remains strong, and the NHL will be engaging in more activities in China during the 2019-20 NHL season than ever before. This will include player visits, ongoing investments in grassroots and youth hockey programs and events to continue to fuel the growth of hockey in China. We look forward to the 2020 NHL China Games, which we will announce with more detail in the coming months.”

Wang Dawei appointed CEO of CBA Co. The CBA League Sports Co. (CBA Co.) announced Wang Dawei, a former SVP and CMO for NBA China, has been appointed the first CEO of the CBA Co. He will help the league improve the overall operations of China’s top basketball league. Wang’s appointment was recommended by Yao Ming, chairman of the CBA Co. and approved by the board of directors. Read more on CGTN (English) and Xinhua (Chinese)

WeChat Partners with Chinese Golfers Tencent-owned WeChat has officially announced that professional golfers Liang Wenchong, Liu Wei, He Muni, and American Chinese player Norman Xiong have become members of its golf family. Through these partnerships, WeChat is aiming to broaden its ecosystem in sports and connect its users on a global scale. Read more on BrandingInAsia (English) and  IMG Golf (Chinese)

In Other News

Lippi Returns as China Head Coach Italy’s Marcello Lippi has been re-appointed as head coach of the Chinese national football team. The World Cup-winning coach will start his second stint with China in June ahead of the 2022 World Cup Asian qualifiers which begin in September this year. Read more on Xinhua English & Chinese

ByteDance Plans to Produce Own Smartphone China’s ByteDance, owner of Douyin, is reportedly planning to develop its own smartphone. ByteDance, with a $75 billion valuation, plans to launch a phone preloaded with its own apps, including newsfeeds, short video platforms, and games. Read more on Financial Times (English) and Solidot (Chinese)

Mailman Take: ByteDance has experienced a monumental rise to the top with its popular apps, both in China and abroad. It seems an unnecessary string to add to its bow and take on the smartphone heavyweights with a self-produced phone. We’ve seen tech companies in China try and bite off more than they can chew in the past resulting in negative outcomes.

Post of the Week

Chelsea & Yang Kun Leveraging off the Europa League final, well-known Chinese singer and Chelsea fan Yang Kun, wished Eden Hazard & teammates good luck while showing off Chelsea’s new kit. In return, the club reposted and promoted Yang’s upcoming concert, giving away two tickets. The posts generated 6,500 engagement in less than 24 hours. See more on Chelsea Weibo and Yang Kun Weibo

Mailman Take: The utilisation of influencers by sport IP is becoming more common in China, with strategic decisions needed whether to use micro influencers or celebrities – Chinese fans are sensitive to these and a natural fit is key to success.


From the Top

This week I spoke to Peter Hambuchen, Head of Global Operations/Executive Director China at Borussia Mönchengladbach, where we discuss the club’s recent China tour and next steps in China.

1. You’ve just experienced the clubs first ever tour to China. How do you quantify the success of the tour? There are different quantities that matter. Media boosts are certainly important. Also the reach of our activities with the interaction of our fans, the media interest, and stadium attendance. We focus on quantities that show these tours matter to the people and our proposed messages are being received.

For us, it’s important to deepen relationships with our partners and fans in China, we aim for quality rather than quantity. The reactions of our fans and partners are the most important factors for us. Our partners, from the Bundesliga to tour sponsors, were very satisfied with the ability to connect with the team and fans. Therefore, with happy fans, satisfied partners and a team that really enjoyed its time in China – I’d say the Tour was a big success.

All the activities we did were the communicative highlights of our China Tour, showing our long-term commitment to Chinese Football Development. Hopefully, it helped us gain attention from more potential partners to align with us and help us with Football Development projects we want to set up in China.

2. What were the highs and lows of the tour? There were no real lows. We had some problems with the number of fans we were allowed to invite to the events due to “security” reasons. For example, the attendance to the open training session was limited to 100 fans, which in our opinion was low as we wanted to bring as many fans and kids to the training session as possible. We wanted to give them a chance to come as close to the team as possible.

On the bright side, the limited attendance gave the opportunity to have more time for each fan on site. I think the fans – and our players – really had a great time at all of the events. So it was one highlight after the other. It was really a fantastic time. Making the first tour and first game in China is something historic. It kept the whole Tour on one big high.

3. Having established a strong social presence, Shanghai office, and now a first tour complete, what are the next steps for BMG in China? The next step is setting footprints in China through more projects that really help football over here improve. We have high standards we want to implement, even though we know this is hard and there’s a long way to go. Quality and sustainability are crucial. Launching more projects and running them professionally will allow us to show our honest and long-term commitment to China.

These projects will be guided by communicative activities: official delegations, legends, and youth team visits will be designed to gain attention and bring more partners on our side. We hope that these can help place a “small brand” like Borussia in such a competitive and entertainment-oriented market. Like many German companies in China, we want to be the hidden champion and a likable team to all Chinese football fans, as we will probably never be able to compete with the big clubs like Real Madrid, Manchester United or FC Bayern. At least not in short-to-middle-term. But we will work hard on it. Now you can subscribe to our China Sports Business Weekly brief and have it delivered directly to you, wherever you are. Mailman is a global sports digital agency and marketing platform. We help global rights holders, athletes and brands build a successful business across China, Europe, and Southeast Asia. Learn more about our story here

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