• Denis Green

China Sports Business Weekly | 6th November

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


Making headlines this week: Shanghai cements title as global esports capital, Chinese Baseball Academy opens in Tianjin, Nike China cuts 400 jobs, Manchester United launches on Douyin, FIBA announces deal with Henan Zhongwo, Bilibili Gaming establishes HQ in Hangzhou, China stalls Ant Group’s IPO, MLB’s first celebrity livestream hits 68M impressions. 


In this week’s From The Top, we spoke with Chen Jia, Head of Sports, Kuaishou, where we discuss how sports fits into Kuaishou’s ecosystem, the company’s user base, leading in social commerce, and what we can expect in the next 12 months.


Top Industry News

1) Shanghai Cements Title as Global Capital of Esports

There has been nothing but words of praise for the way Shanghai staged the League of Legends Worlds last month. The city is where China's League of Legends Pro League (LPL) was born, and ever since, Shanghai has devoted itself to becoming a home for the competition. Over 80% of China's esports enterprises, including teams and broadcast platforms, have chosen Shanghai as their base, while over 40% of the country’s esports events are staged in the city. Shanghai and all parties involved deserve immense credit for what was an entertaining esports feast. The city has proven it can be done, at scale, with fans, and most importantly, in safe conditions. Read more on China Daily (English) and China Daily (Chinese) Mailman Take: 3M applications for 6K available final tickets demonstrates the level of hysteria in this event. Those in attendance were treated to a spectacular production at the impressive new Shanghai stadium. Esports is now leading traditional sports in China on returning to arenas and delivering a comprehensive entertainment experience.

2) Chinese Baseball Academy Opens at Tianjin University of Sport The Chinese Baseball Academy, co-founded by the Chinese Baseball Association and Tianjin University of Sport, has officially opened. The goal of founding such an academy is to promote baseball in China, develop talents in the sport, and cultivate baseball culture. According to iResearch, China had a baseball population of 41M in 2019, of which 8.5M were baseball participants. Read more on CNR (Chinese) 3) Nike China Cuts 400 Jobs, Prioritises Digital The layoffs will come mainly from sites on the Mainland, as strong online sales and demand from Chinese consumers helped the company back to profit in the first quarter following earlier losses. Nike’s organisational structure will reportedly be adjusted with these layoffs and may result in many executives leaving the sportswear giant. Read more on Jing Daily (English) and Lanxiong Sports (Chinese) 4) Manchester United Launches Douyin, Plans AR Content 

The Premier League club recently launched on ByteDance’s international short-video platform TikTok, and have followed this up by launching on their Chinese version - Douyin. Man Utd became the first football club to reach 10M followers on Weibo earlier this year, and will be looking to make up ground on current Douyin football leaders: Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Chelsea. As we’ve seen with the club’s launches on other digital platforms such as YouTube, despite not being the first to the table, when they go, they usually go big. The club’s TikTok / Douyin will be one to keep an eye on. Read more on Ecosports (Chinese)


5) FIBA Signs Deal with Henan Zhongwo

The International Basketball Federation’s (FIBA) new three-year licensing agreement with Henan Zhongwo Industrial Co. sees the brand become the Official Promotional Partner of FIBA and of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023. The company's flagship product, T Power energy drink, will become the "Official FIBA Energy Drink" in China. T Power has been an official sponsor of the Chinese men's national basketball team for almost a decade and recently became a partner of the Chinese women's national basketball team, too. Read more on FIBA (English) and Tencent (Chinese) 6) Bilibili Gaming Sets Up HQ in Hangzhou The headquarters, located in Hangzhou’s Future Science Town, will also house the headquarters of Hangzhou Spark, which will represent Zhejiang Province and compete in the Overwatch League (OWL). Bilibili Gaming aims to continue ‘cultivating the local esports market and hosting esports events at all levels’. Read more on Pandaily (English) and Baidu (Chinese) 7) MLB’s First Celebrity Livestream Hits 68M Impressions MLB China appointed singer JikeJunyi, who has 15M followers on Weibo, as 2020 World Series China Ambassador, attending Tencent’s live broadcasting game (G4) as a special guest for the first time ever. #Jikejunyi MLB WS Ambassador# hashtag on Weibo generated 68M impressions. Read more on Tencent (Chinese) In Other News Ant Group IPO Stalled Ant Group's highly anticipated IPO was suspended following a meeting between the company's founder Jack Ma and regulators in China. The Shanghai Stock Exchange said it had postponed the company's listing because of "major issues". In a statement on its official WeChat account, Ant Group apologised to investors for "any inconvenience caused by this development." Read more on CNN (English) and Tencent (Chinese) ByteDance to Invest $170M into E-book Reader The owner of Douyin has invested $165.58M in online reading firm Zhangyue Technology in exchange for an 11.23% stake. The online literature landscape, where Tencent-owner China Literature is a leading player, has recently been a big focus point from ByteDance. Read more on Tech Crunch (English) and Xinhua (Chinese) Total Wealth of China’s 400 Richest Surges The total wealth of China’s 400 Richest people soared to $2.11T, from $1.29T a year earlier. The 64% gain was due to the easing of capital-market rules and an economic rebound that enabled China to pull ahead of the world’s other large economies by recovering quickly from the pandemic. Nearly two-thirds of the listees saw their fortunes climb in the past year. The minimum net worth needed to make the list rose to $1.55B, compared with $1B a year ago. Read more on Forbes (English) and Tencent (Chinese) Mailman in Asia A flavour of what we've been up to across Asia this week. In Indonesia, our team created a "Bale is Back" graphic in reaction to his first goal back for the club, with the design highlighting that he is on fire and taking reference from Naruto, a popular comic in Asia. In Japan, we created a Halloween campaign to get fans thinking creatively and draw in the PSG pumpkin. The top 4 artworks were inserted in a poll for fans to vote for the best artwork.

Esports News Shanghai Sponsors Esports Tournament for Local Residents The sponsorship of the open-to-all video game tournament ( that includes knockout stages at arenas) is yet another marker by Shanghai to establish itself as the global capital of esports. The Esports Shanghai Amateur Championship invites local teams to join separate tournaments for League of Legends and Honor of Kings to compete/battle and win cash prizes. The esports tournament is now part of the Shanghai Citizen Sports Meeting, where locals compete against each other in almost 350 different events including darts, football, triathlon, fishing, and many more. The month-long tournament marathon begins on November 21, while esports fans outside Shanghai can watch the matches on Tencent-owned live streaming platforms Huya and DouYu. Read more on Sixth Tone (English)


From The Top


Chen Jia, Head of Sports, Kuaishou.


Kuaishou is a Chinese video-sharing mobile app that initially built up its reputation in tier- 3 and 4 cities, and is now growing significantly into tier-1 and 2 cities. It’s seen as a direct competitor to Douyin / TikTok. 


1. Where do sports fit into Kuaishou’s overall strategy & ecosystem in China? Compared with other platforms horizontally, Kuaishou has a number of unique advantages over other platforms that have social functions. For example, under traditional and digital media mediums in China, related sports broadcast and media platforms have formed a certain model of distribution for the sports industry. As a social community focusing on short-form content, user adherence is Kuaishou’s most distinct feature. 


Sports can utilise such advantages of Kuaishou, combined with more resources, such as events, institutions, and media, to export these resources as an open platform. Here we’re talking about all sports, whether it’s traditional mainstream sports or challenger sports, they can form their unique social layers on Kuaishou and therefore connect with the whole supply chain. This enables users with similar interests to watch events, stars, and communicate with each other, while providing them with consumption channels. 


Through such an approach, we can connect key areas of the sports market with participants’ resources. This includes combining in-depth integration of athlete celebrities and grassroots influencers, thus providing greater opportunities for all participants in the industry and generate more diverse commercial possibilities that have a better vision and are more risk-averse. Therefore, we welcome the sports industry to build a stronger partnership with Kuaishou and cooperate for reciprocal benefits. It will be a long term sustainable growing path for both.


2. How does Kuaishou work with sports organisations to help grow their following and engage their fan base? There are over 150 million sports consumers on Kuaishou. First of all, cooperation in social and IP rights allows users to get a closer look at the events. The key is to reach the target audience more accurately and to establish a wider interest-base and adherence by producing high-quality contents, social interactions, and effective crossover cooperation. 


Further integration of advantages provided by different resources allows the audience to find what they want to see more effectively. Additionally, Kuaishou can attract more young users to follow sports by a combination of various elements such as short-form videos, interactions and ecommerce. Kuaishou also provides sports events with more revenue streams including brand commercialisation, ecommerce, paid content, and traffic monetisation.


3. What is unique about Kuaishou’s user base and what differentiates it from its competitors in China? The gender ratio on Kuaishou is roughly balanced at 52% male to 48% female, with over 70% under 30. Moreover, as daily active users increase on Kuaishou, other than further penetration into the tier-3 and 4 cities, more interest is coming from tier-1 and 2 cities. According to the data, Kuaishou currently has over 60 million daily active users in tier-1 and 2 cities, and over 80 million in the south of China alone. 


Meanwhile, the sense of community and loyalty of Kuaishou users is irreplaceable. Our users connect with content creators based on their interests. Combined with the influence of Kuaishou’s unique product form on consumer behavior, users’ acknowledgment with content creators will make this bond more precise and closer. Such effect of our platform can also be applied in vertical cooperation with sports.


4. Kuaishou has become a market leader in social commerce. What more can we see from Kuaishou in this area moving forward? This we should divide it into several aspects. For example, sports fans and participants have had a natural demand for sporting goods, equipment, and consumables for a long time; whereas sports ecommerce still has a lot to improve in the field of live commerce. Kuaishou’s advantageous base and continuous investment in live commerce will offer opportunities to sports entities to monetise their traffic, for example relying on the platform’s developed system of cooperation influencers. It also will achieve future improvement and enhancement of monetising capabilities of sports ecommerce effectively in a short period.


5. What can we expect from Kuaishou in the next 6-12 months which will benefit sports organisations and brands?

So far, Kuaishou has developed 35 content categories of sports verticals, covering mainstream sports such as basketball, football, race cars, table tennis and volleyball, as well as recreational or extreme sports such as fishing, roller skating, skateboarding and parkour. We have over 40 thousand sports content creators with high quality, and more than 150 million sports fans. 


Kuaishou will work with top sports IP owners, teams and celebrities globally in a more diverse approach and tied more closely with the sports industry. As a sports content creator and consumer, Kuaishou attempts to build new experience and interaction scenes of events within the short video social ecosystem, and help the development of the sports industry in China. As we all know, Kuaishou is working with top sports organisations such as the CBA, MLB, and Formula E, as well as the teams such as Chinese national women’s volleyball team, Chinese national track & field team, and Chinese national boxing team. Other than that, organsations such as NBA, NFL have launched their accounts. Also, elite athletes like Lang Ping, Zhang Jike, Zhang Weili, Marbury and Lavine as well as renowned famous commentators like Zhang Weiping, Han Qiaosheng, Huang Jianxiang, and Dong Lu are active Kuaishou. They enjoy in-depth cooperation around short form video + live streaming. Kuaishou’s attitude on sports has been open and inclusive, and we are willing to continue investing in the sports industry.

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