• Denis Green

China Sports Business Weekly | 5th February

Hello Industry Friends,


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


Making headlines this week: Bach confident Beijing 2022 will transform winter sport, Eileen Gu makes history at X Games, Tottenham Hotspur launches CNY campaign during London derby, the International Olympic Committee celebrates One Year To Go to the Beijing Olympics, Wanda Sports group delists, Bucs and Chiefs launch social accounts ahead of Super Bowl, and IKEA eyes the esports sector in China.


In this week’s From The Top, we spoke with Martin Axford, Head of Digital at the Premier League, about how to adapt digitally in China, creating a very successful Douyin account, opening up in-game clips on Weibo, a new approach to fan engagement, and what plans the Premier League has for esports.


Top Industry News 1. 'Spectacular' Beijing 2022 Games Will Transform Winter Sport - Bach

In a video address to China, IOC president Thomas Bach said Beijing, which will become the first city ever to have staged both summer and winter Games, was ready to deliver ‘spectacular Games’. “Our Chinese partners and friends will deliver spectacular Olympic winter Games that will change the landscape of winter sport for ever,” Bach said. Read more on Reuters (English) and China News (Chinese) 2. Eileen Gu Makes History at X Games

The 17-year-old skier from China won three medals in three events, a never-before-equaled feat for a first-time performer in Winter X Games history. The US-born freestyle skier, also known as Gu Ailing, decided to compete for China in 2019 ahead of next year’s Olympics. Read more on CGTN (English) and GuangMing Paper (Chinese) Mailman Take: Set to become the face of the Beijing 2022, having already signed a host of lucrative deals with global brands and now breaking records, China’s new star can do nothing wrong. If Eileen Gu can land gold in 12 months in Beijing, her name will be mentioned in the same breadth as national heroes Li Na and Lu Xiang. She’s only 17.

3. Tottenham Hotspur Launches CNY Campaign During London Derby

The club’s players warmed-up in special edition CNY t-shirts, with the design voted for by Tottenham Hotspur followers on Weibo. The t-shirts activation has kicked-off a New Year campaign for the club aimed at promoting healthy living amongst its fans. Read more on Tottenham Hotspur (English) Ecosports (Chinese)

4. One Year To Go - Beijing 2022 To celebrate the one year to go milestone of the 2022 Olympic Winter Games, athletes from around the world helped to celebrate through a video with the slogan ‘Together, we will be ready.’ The video is narrated by Chinese freestyle skier and Youth Olympic Games champion Eileen Gu. Watch the Video in English and Chinese

5. Bucs and Chiefs Launch on Douyin and Kuaishou Ahead of Super Bowl Leveraging this year's unique virtual Super Bowl Week festivities and player interactions, the NFL is providing exclusive content in build up to Super Bowl LV. Packed with star power such as Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady, this presents the perfect time to piggyback off the biggest moment for the NFL in China, increasing awareness for the Super Bowl LV and growing its clubs' fan bases on short video platforms. Check out their Kuaishou Accounts (Bucs) & (Chiefs) Mailman Take: Strong move from both teams ensuring maximum reach for the NFL’s showpiece event. China’s leading short video platforms compete for the best sports content out there, meaning the Bucs and Chiefs get the best of both.

6. Wanda Sports Group Delists The delisting has taken effect after Wanda Sports & Media, a limited liability company that forms part of Dalian Wanda, offered $2.50 in cash per American depositary share (ADS). Delisting Wanda Sports Group removes the need for the company to publish its financial results, as per the requirements of the US Securities and Exchange Commission and Nasdaq. Read more on SportBusiness (English) and Zaker News (Chinese) 7. Sportfive to Boost Atlético Madrid in China

The agreement encompasses international strategy, digital audience development, brand amplification and fan experience, but also commercial sales and product development. Read more on Sportcal (English) and Sohu (Chinese)


8. CBA Announces New Reporting System and All-Star Game

The Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) held its first press conference in 2021, announcing that the league will establish a news reporting system and relevant working groups to strengthen communication with the media. This year’s CBA All-Star Game will be held in Qingdao in mid-to-late March, with a small number of spectators expected to be in the stadium. Read more Xinhua (Chinese)

9. Tencent Collaborates with Thailand’s Zense The Chinese tech giant’s collaboration with Thai media company Zense Entertainment will create an app to deliver live streaming match coverage from Thai football. ‘Cheer Thai’ will soft-launch this summer, and offer content including live streaming coverage of Thai domestic league matches, on-demand video content, news, chat functions, ticket purchasing and other ecommerce elements, and gaming features. Zense holds the media rights for all Thai club and national team football in the 2021-28 period. Read more on SportBusiness (English)

Esports IKEA Eye Esports Sector The global furniture retail giant has crossed into the gaming world by debuting its home furnishings collection designed for esports gamers, including tables, chairs, storage boxes, and other accessories, in Shanghai. The custom products are available for online and offline purchase in the Chinese mainland before launching in other markets. The global debut of the collection in Shanghai demonstrates IKEA’s confidence in the Chinese market. Read more on Shine (English) and Beijing News (Chinese)

TCL Sponsors China’s League of Legends Pro League The Guangdong-based Chinese multinational electronics company TCL signed a sponsorship deal with TJ Sports for China’s top League of Legends competition, League of Legends Pro League (LPL). TCL is the 16th brand that joined the LPL sponsorship and partnership list and will act as one of the official partners of the league, alongside Lenovo Legion, Wahaha, KFC, War Horse, OPPO, Suning, and TT Voice. Read more on Esports Observer (English) and Sohu (Chinese)

Other News China promotes education drive to make boys more 'manly' A notice from China's education ministry has suggested young Chinese men had become too "feminine". The message has been criticised as sexist by many online users - but some say China's male celebrities are partly to blame. Last week, the education ministry issued a notice with a title - The Proposal to Prevent the Feminisation of Male Adolescents, which called on schools to fully reform their offerings on physical education and strengthen their recruitment of teachers. Read more on BBC (English) and The Paper (Chinese) Kuaishou’s Hong Kong IPO is the Biggest Since Uber The company saw a three-fold surge in its Hong Kong stock market debut after a $5.4B IPO. The company's listing had been widely anticipated for months. In a filing this week, it said that the offering had been heavily oversubscribed. Read more on CNN (English) and Reuters (Chinese)

From The Top

Martin Axford, Head of Digital at the Premier League


1. As the world of football halted in 2020, how did you adapt digitally in China to keep your millions of fans engaged? It was incredibly important that we quickly adapted to keep Premier League fans engaged. We worked closely with our broadcast partner in China to establish promotion of their broadcasting of classic Premier League matches across our digital channels. This was further supported by live blogging, supplemented with clips, to replicate a matchday experience. In addition, we engaged fans through screenshot challenges, offered prize draws, while delivering bespoke creative and opportunities for UGC to ensure the Chinese audience remained engaged prior to matches restarting in June.

2. The Premier League began a new partnership with Tencent in September and also opened up in-game clips on Weibo for the first time this season. How successful has this been and what have been the biggest takeaways?


The Premier League takes a fresh look at how to bring content to our fans every time we sell rights in each market around the world and we are delighted to partner with Tencent as one of the most innovative digital platforms in the world. We have worked collaboratively with Tencent to maximise our joint activities in China. Using in-game clips on the Premier League and clubs’ Weibo channels to help to drive tune-in to live Premier League matches on Tencent is a demonstration of this approach, and it has proven to be very successful.

3. The Premier League's Douyin account has proven very successful. What insights did you draw from your fan base in order to tailor such a successful content strategy?

We’ve been thrilled and humbled to see how Chinese fans have embraced the content we publish on Douyin. We assess new opportunities very carefully, but in this instance early adoption was key to our ‘test and learn’ approach. The drama, excitement and quality of the Premier League, combined with the virality of Douyin, has proven the perfect match.

4. Digital transformation has accelerated quicker due to the pandemic. How is the Premier League approaching 2021 in terms of fan engagement in China, what looks different compared to 2020?


The Premier League’s digital audience is always challenging us to innovate and we will continue to evaluate platforms to ensure they deliver the appropriate levels of engagement. We strive to create high quality content across our channels at all times and 2021 will see us consider new content forms as we build on our existing output.

5. Esports is a growing industry, particularly in China. Does the Premier League have plans to enter or engage with this space? If so, how?


The Premier League, alongside our partner EA Sports, has been running the ePremier League in the UK for the last three seasons. This has been a successful entry into the world of esports and we are aware of the level of interest in esports from fans around the world, including in China. We will continue to assess opportunities to deliver other ePremier League FIFA-gaming events in international territories. --

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