• Denis Green

China Sports Business Weekly | 3rd April


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


No live sport? No problem. This week we look at creative ways sports organisations have been engaging fans in China during a period of no live sport.

Making the headlines this week - Manchester United hit 10M followers on Weibo, PSG makes Wuhan nurse’s wish come true, New England Patriots plane delivers masks from Shenzhen to Boston, Li-Ning maximises digital to remain in the green, China’s sports leagues pushed further back, volleyball legend Zhu Ting features in children’s book.


Top Industry News

1) Manchester United Crowned First International Sports Team to 10M on Weibo

The English Premier League club reached the landmark last weekend following a collaboration with famous Chinese celebrity and club fan, Lu Han. As well as leading the Weibo charts for European football clubs, Manchester’s red team remains the most read club across WeChat subscription accounts. Read more on HUPU (Chinese)

Mailman Take: Congratulations Manchester United, a well deserved and hard fought achievement in a very competitive market. The race to 20M will be intriguing as more sports teams consistently invest in the region with no sign of a slowdown. Offices continue to pop up across Asia, summer tours become more crowded, new platforms & commercial opportunities arise, while the battle for a new generation of sports & eSports fans from emerging tier 2 & 3 cities increases. The demand for the Chinese sports fan has never been higher.


2) Paris Saint-Germain Grants Heroic Wuhan Nurse Her Wish

The Club delighted a frontline nurse from Wuhan, Sai Yanhong 赛彦虹, with a ‘Stay Strong China’ shirt worn during a match against Bordeaux. The nurse, who battled the virus head on for months, was contacted by the club through Weibo. PSG delivered the shirt, worn by Kimpembe, all the way to Wuhan. Read the nurse's story Xinhua News Agency (Chinese)

Mailman Take: No one is more deserving of wishes granted right now than the nurses & doctors fighting on the frontline against COVID-19. Small gestures go a long way, and PSG has put a smile back on the face of a true hero in the country. Well done PSG, and thank you Sai Yanhong 赛彦虹. 


3) New England Patriots Plane Delivers 1.2M Masks from Shenzhen to Boston The plane landed in Boston yesterday evening, while a second shipment of another 500K N95 masks is scheduled to arrive as early as next week. Read more on CNN (English) and Sohu (Chinese)

Mailman Take: Huge credit must go to the Patriots, Tencent, and all parties involved in making this happen. In such a tight deadline and with plenty of red tape to get through, this mission will have been very difficult to complete, but it happened. In times like these, uniting together for the common cause is going to be the only way the world can pull through. 


4) Li-Ning Predicts Strong Profit Margins with Online Shift

The Beijing-based footwear and apparel company has appeared to stay resilient in recent months by shifting its strategy online and cost-cutting where necessary. Read more on SportBusiness (English) and Netease (Chinese)

Mailman Take: Digital commerce is the answer for sports brands to keep revenue up in a period of consumer lockdown. Those with official eCommerce platforms who are actively promoting and delivering value to the online community with meaningful products and messaging should come out of Q1 relatively unscathed. Nike and Li-Ning lead the way in China. 

5) China’s Sports Leagues Halted Once More

The country’s General Administration of Sport has again dismissed any hopes of fans consuming live sport anytime soon. Sporting events that include large gatherings will not be immediately resumed, further reducing hopes of an April return for the CBA and CSL. Read more on CBS (English) and Netease (Chinese)

6) Chinese Volleyball Superstar Zhu Ting Features in UK Children’s Book

The book looks to inspire the next generation of athletes, which has resulted in Zhu receiving widespread praise across social media. The book - When I Grow Up: Sports Heroes - features Zhu alongside household names such as LeBron James, Lionel Messi, and Simone Biles. Read more on SCMP (English) and Xinhua Net (Chinese)

No live sport, no problem

Sports organisations are creatively engaging fans in China during a prolonged period without live sport. We’ve compiled some of the most imaginative and well-received concepts at a time when fans have needed entertainment more than ever. 

FIFA launched the #WorldCupAtHome concept, enabling fans to choose which previous iconic match from FIFA World Cup and FIFA Women's World Cup tournaments. Video views on Weibo are currently at 4.8M.

The NHL is bringing #HockeyAtHome to China, releasing the popular challenge to Chinese audiences. The top-performing UGC videos stand the chance of being featured on NHL global channels.

Manchester United star Marcus Rashford interacted with celebrity Lu Han (61M Weibo followers) as part of the ‘toilet roll challenge’ - Lu Han’s video gained 10.64M views and 1.21M engagement.

LA Lakers launched the #LeBron Taco Screenshot Challenge#, where fans have to land a taco in black space with a screenshot and then post it with the campaign hashtag. The post achieved 1.4M impressions and 1.1M video views. 

Tottenham Hotspur worked alongside digital broadcaster PP Sports to auction off jerseys with proceeds going towards the fight against COVID-19.


Borussia Dortmund produced the first-ever virtual fan party on Weibo, incorporating 12 partners and broadcaster PP Sports, reaching 2.9M total video views.

Chelsea, to celebrate its 115th birthday, asked its fan community in China for their most emotional stories about the club, reaching 6.2M hashtag reads.  

MORE Sports leveraged the power of their partnered athletes to initiate a bracket polling challenge where fans chose their favorite performances of each MORE athlete, resulting in a head-to-head "social" competition. Currently standing at 61K video views and 33K engagement.

Barcelona will live stream a replay of its 2010 China Tour game against Beijing Guoan this evening (Friday) on Douyin. 

FC Bayern Munich became the first-ever football club to produce a live stream on Douyin, interacting with their fans in a new way and giving them more insights about the club.

Stephon Marbury produced pictures of himself following the quarantine rules in self-isolation, encouraging his fans to stay safe.  

Best of the Rest

Shanghai Fashion Week Struts Online 

The online experiment with Alibaba’s Tmall was the first purely digital fashion week. Around 150 brands showcased 2020 Autumn collections while selling current items via live streaming to Tmall’s 800M active users. 2.5M+ tuned in for the opening ceremony, and 6M watched on the first day. Women aged 26-35 living in first- and second-tier cities made up three-quarters of the audience. Read more on WWD (English) and Xinhua Net (Chinese)

China’s TV Sports Ratings Increase

In Nielsen’s latest global media report- TV viewing figures in China rose to 7 hours and 40 minutes per day, an increase of 70 minutes. There was a 39% year-on-year increase in sports viewership.

Webinar | Sports in China and COVID-19: Challenges and Opportunities

AmCham Shanghai's Sports Committee will discuss Sports in China and COVID-19 online on April 10th, from 10:00am to 11:00am China Standard Time. Sign up here.


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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 the globe we specialise in digital strategy, transformation, social media, content production and eCommerce. Learn more about our story here.

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