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  • Writer's pictureDenis Green

China Sports Business Weekly | 4th December

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

Making headlines this week: Hisense partners with Leeds United, Ice Hockey Championships in the spotlight ahead of Beijing 2022, fans vent anger at CSL clubs name changes, Kuaishou acquires payment license, the first annual Eurasian Sport Industry Conference, and China volleyball movie wins big.

In this week’s From The Top, we spoke with Simon Chadwick, Director of Eurasian Sport, about the inspiration behind the upcoming Eurasian industry event, how China handled bringing back sports in 2020, biggest opportunities for international sports organisations looking to work with Chinese brands, and biggest learnings to build on for next year.

Top Industry News

1. Hisense Becomes Official Partner of Leeds United

The two-year deal gives Leeds an exclusive club-branded app on the Hisense VIDAA Smart TV platform that will house Leeds United TV. Hisense branding will appear on Elland Road’s pitch side LED boards, media interview backdrops and the stadium’s East Stand. Read more on SportsPro (English) and Sports Idea (Chinese) Mailman Take: An early win for Roc Nation following their announcement last week to grow the club’s brand across Asia. This isn’t your typical entry-level partnership either, as Hisense, with its UK HQ located in Leeds, is renowned for regularly sponsoring the biggest names in global sports, including FIFA, UEFA, and PSG.

2. Ice Hockey Championships in Spotlight Ahead of Beijing 2022

The only senior-level national ice hockey tournament in 2020 will include teams nationwide. These teams also present the talent pool in consideration for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games. 200+ players representing seven female teams and eight male teams will participate in the championships. Read more on CGTN (English) and Xinhua (Chinese)

3. Fans Vent Anger as CSL Clubs Forced to Change Names Next season's 16 Chinese Super League (CSL) teams will have to drop the corporate part of their names, leading to large numbers of fans complaining. The Chinese Football Association (CFA) is sticking to its promise that clubs must remove references to investors and the companies that own them and instead use "neutral" names. The change is part of reform plans for football in China stretching back to 2015. Read more SCMP (English) and Tencent (Chinese) 4. Wanda Sports’ Q3 Revenue Falls 42% YoY Alongside the 42% revenue fall, Wanda Sports Group (WSG) saw net profit of $6.6M. Q3 revenues for the company, the sports unit of Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group, came to $109.9M. WSG said this was mainly due to a decrease in revenue from both the Spectator Sports and Digital, Production and Sports Solutions segments of the business, off the back of COVID-19 mitigation. Read more on SportsPro (English) and Eastmoney (Chinese)

5. Kuaishou Acquires Payment License The short video and live streaming platform acquired online payment firm Easylink, also known as Payeco, for approximately $45.6M and an unspecified Kuaishou stock amount. The deal means Kuaishou will control more than 50% in the Guangdong-based company, which owns many online payment licenses. Read more on KRAsia (English) and Sohu (Chinese)

6. Beijing Marathon Cancelled The Beijing Marathon Organising Committee announced that the 2020 Beijing Marathon has been cancelled. Previous Beijing marathons were held during September to November, but this year, due to the COVID-19, the 40th Beijing Marathon will not take place. Read more on CGTN (English) and People (Chinese) Esports

Shanghai Continues Esports Events with 2020 Masters The five-day esports Shanghai Masters, organised by the Shanghai Esports Association, will gather more than 130 professional esports players for five events: League of Legends, Identity V, Brawl Stars, Blizzard and Warcraft III. Spectator numbers have been limited to no more than 550 throughout the event. Read more Shine (English) and Tencent (Chinese)


Riot Games Turning Players into Viewers

SportBusiness’ Callum McCarthy spoke to decision makers within the esports industry to look at how Riot Games is on a mission to turn 100M-plus League of Legends players into viewers. ‘It may have all the hallmarks of a niche interest, but between 75M and 115M players log on to play League of Legends each month, spending over $1B each year on in-game items.’ Read the full opinion piece on SportBusiness (English)


Volleyball Movie Leap Wins Big at Golden Rooster Film Awards China’s top film awards Golden Rooster Film Awards announced its winners on Saturday in the city of Xiamen, East China’s Fujian province. The biographical sports film based on true stories of the China women’s national volleyball team “leap”, snatched up three trophies and became the biggest winner at this year’s festival. The film took home the best film, best cinematography and best screenplay awards respectively. Read more on China Film Insider (English) and Sina (Chinese)


The First Annual Eurasian Sport Industry Conference The Eurasian Sport Industry Conference will invite experts and scholars from all over the world to help develop an in-depth knowledge of the market structure and business prospects of the sports industry in Eurasia from multi-dimensional perspectives of sports, business, management, among many others. Read more on EMlyon (English)

Mailman in Asia

What we've been up to across Asia this week:

Malaysia Spurs fans celebrated José Mourinho’s one-year anniversary by giving their opinions on the coach’s 365 days in the club and their hopes for the team.

PSG Esports bid farewell to Relyh, who was part of the PSG esports team that competed in Brawl Stars. The star spoke about his time and achievements with PSG.

From The Top

1. Where did the inspiration come from for your upcoming event and what do you hope the audience will take away from it?

Many organisations in different parts of Eurasia are working together, collaborating with one another. On that basis, all of us working in sport, particularly for those of us who are working in Academia, need to understand Eurasia and Eurasian sport in a more meaningful way. What I'm hoping the event will do is to begin a dialogue about countries, organisations, people and sport within the countries.

Keep in mind that approximately 70 percent of the global population is in Eurasia. And if we think about upcoming events, we've got the Tokyo Olympics, Beijing Winter Games, a couple of years ago we had the South Korean Winter Olympics and the Russian World Cup, looking ahead to the end of 2022 we also have the Qatar World Cup. There is something very much ‘now’ to be thinking in terms of Eurasia.

2. As a China enthusiast, what's your opinion on how China has handled bringing back sports in 2020?

The economic strength of China has enabled it to respond far more effectively than in, for example, Britain. The decisive and dynamic way China has dealt with all this is impressive. But what I've also found striking too is the cautiousness where China has responded to the virus.

For example, major sporting events and getting people back into venues, where there seems to be this impatience in Europe and North America. I can understand why that impatience is there, but we've been driven by short-term interest - get people back in because we need to get people back in to generate revenue. What has tended to happen in Europe, because we've been impatient and trying to rush things, what we haven't really thought through too carefully about is the similarities and differences between short-term costs and long-term costs.

I’m in awe of the scale of some of the things that China has done. For example, some cities, where on a Monday the local authorities set out to test eight million people, by Thursday they do that. Whereas in Europe, we've really really struggled with our test and trace regimes.

3. Given China's fast & successful handling of COVID-19, moving into 2021, where do you see the biggest opportunities for international sports organisations looking to work with Chinese brands/companies?

My sense is that because China essentially emerged much more quickly than the West, in terms of decision making, and tactical & strategic planning, China now has a competitive and strategic advantage in the way in which it organises its sport and the way in which it engages in the business of sport. This is going to be really important because I think it shifted the balance of power between China and the West.

But then of course along came the pandemic, and I think China's progress, China's development has accelerated even further - there has been this shift and tilt in economic power. I'm sure many in the West will look at this as an opportunity and think China is still growing, the economy is still fairly strong, there are real opportunities for us to go there and make some money.

China is a growing economy and it has a stronger engagement with sport - it is a much more sophisticated, and certainly a much more assertive China, and so for those of us from the West, we need to show respect and we shouldn't make assumptions. We need to change our views in many cases of what it means to do business in China. It's very much around bilateralism and helping enable the development and growth of Chinese sports.

4. 2020 has been a tough year for sports. From a business standpoint, what have been your biggest learnings to build on next year?

There is something about purpose. A lot of the conversations that I'm having with people in sport currently, a reference is very often made to the United Nations’ sustainable development goals and what they mean for sport.

Given the tough, tumultuous year that we've had, the big challenges that we face as a planet, having a purpose to what you do is really important. If you look at those sustainable development goals, reference is made to gender equality, addressing environmental problems, using sport as the means through which to build harmony, peace, and understanding between communities. I would really like those sustainable development goals to really play a much more powerful and prominent role as we move forward into 2021, and this should certainly guide this notion of purpose.

Those of us working in sport need to be authentic, so in addition to purpose, I think authenticity is going to be absolutely crucial because a lot of us out there are sensitive, raw, confidence is gone, foundations we live on are not as strong as they were. If there's any sense that a football club, sponsor, event, brand, or even a country is taking advantage, it’s going to be detrimental to that sport or brand.

A final thing that’s stood out to me is the way in which sports organisations have rapidly had to create, innovate and transform. So I think that we have to salute these organisations in these difficult times.

One example that stands out in my mind is Formula E running virtual races throughout the pandemic. This spirit of innovation, adaptiveness and creativity. I would wrap it all up in this banner of ‘transformation’. So in addition to purpose and authenticity, I think transformation is really important.

All of us working in business and sport need to embrace the notion of transformation, because we are going to have to transform the way we operate and think to engage with consumers.

Purpose. Authenticity. Transformation.


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