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  • Writer's pictureDenis Green

China Sports Business Weekly | 7th April

Hello Industry Friends, here is the very latest news and insights from China. 📰 Headlines: Giro d’Italia returns to China, ATP & LONGi announce partnership, World Tennis Tour events on 2023 schedule, video ecommerce continues to thrive, senior sporting officials take over CFA, WeChat channels to share revenue with creators, and what 2023 has taught us about brand collaborations. 🗣️ In this week’s From The Top, we spoke with Rowan Simons, Founder & Chair at China ClubFootball FC, about China’s appetite for football at the grassroots level, ClubFootball’s strategy before and after covid, and what needs to be done to rebuild Chinese football.


🗞️ Top Industry News 2023 Giro d'Italia Race to Showcase Yangtze River Delta The Giro d'Italia Ride Like a Pro event will make its third appearance in the Yangtze River Delta region's ecological green integrated development demonstration zone. As one of the three most prestigious road cycling races in the world, it made its debut in 1909 and is celebrating its 106th edition. Read more on China Daily (English) and Xinhua (Chinese) 💡 Mailman Take: Although still niche in China, cycling’s popularity is on the rise, highlighted by places for Giro’s 2023 China race being snapped up in just five minutes. The government’s re-energised focus on fitness and health means the general public is looking for new ways to stay active, and no doubt mass participation sports are set to benefit massively from this.


ATP & LONGi Announce Strategic Global Partnership LONGi, the green energy technology company, will become ATP Tour’s Official Solar Energy and Hydrogen Partner. The partnership, brokered with the support of Juss Sports, will help accelerate ATP’s sustainability drive under ATP Serves, in line with its commitment to UN Sports for Climate Action. Read more on ATP Tour (English) and Sina (Chinese) 💡 Mailman Take: Tennis-related news is hitting the headlines every week in China, including event confirmations, new sponsorship deals, and successes of young Chinese talent. State-owned Juss Sports is at the heart of this tennis drive, supporting the growth and return of tennis to China.


ITF - World Tennis Tour Events Will Return to China This Year The International Tennis Federation (ITF) will conduct its World Tennis Tour tournaments in China this year, marking a return after three years away. The ITF announcement accompanied the release of its calendar for the second quarter of 2023. It added that it anticipated the resumption of its activity in China later in the year. Read more on Reuters (English) and Tencent (Chinese) Two Billion Eyes and a Billion Wallets: Short Video Ecommerce is Thriving in China In December 2022, people in China watching short-form videos surpassed 1bn, an increase of nearly 400m in the last five years. According to Goldman Sachs, 60% of these are active on a daily basis, spending on average 120 minutes a day. Short videos accounted for 31% of Chinese people’s online time - more than any other type of entertainment consumed, with this trend set to increase further over the next few years. Read more on The China Project (English) and Tencent (Chinese) 💡 Mailman Take: The short video battle has never been more competitive in China, with multiple platforms vying for the attention of China’s youth. Having established strong user bases, turning these users into money is now at the core of platform strategies, with most integrating livestreaming to help supercharge those conversion rates. Senior Officials to Take Over China’s Football Body Amid Corruption Crackdown A team of senior sporting officials will take over operations at the Chinese Football Association (CFA) amid a sweeping campaign targeting corruption in the sport. The General Administration of Sport of China has set up a seven-member working group to lead its football department, the CFA. Read more on SCMP (English) and Tencent (Chinese) WeChat Video Channels to Share Revenue with Creators WeChat owner Tencent unveiled measures to protect and encourage original content creators on its Video Channels, including a new revenue-sharing scheme and paid subscription feature for high-quality content creators. Creators, whose content is original, can enjoy benefits including comment ads revenue sharing, platform protection for original content, and priority recommendations. Read more on DAO (English) and Wenhui Daily (Chinese) Adidas Unveils First Sustainable Football Pitch in China A total of 40k pairs of discarded sneakers were turned into recyclable materials made of thermoplastic rubbers and reborn as nearly 800 square metres of ground cushions, chair cushions and entrance floor mats. The shoelaces were also given a new lease of life and repurposed as goalpost nets in the stadium. Read more on DAO (English) and NetEase (Chinese) ICF Expands CMG Partnership, Adds Sponsorship and Licensing Deals The International Canoe Federation (ICF) has agreed a new broadcast rights deal with China Media Group (CMG), the Chinese state media company, along with striking sponsorship and licensing agreements in China. The agreement with CMG provides it with the rights to all ICF events in Olympic and non-Olympic disciplines. Read more on SportBusiness (English) WBSC U-23 Baseball World Cup to Take Place in China The 2024 World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) Under-23 World Cup is due to take place in China, and is set to be the first ever WBSC event to occur in the country. It will take place at the Shaoxing Baseball Softball Sports Culture Centre, which is set to host baseball and softball competitions during the Hangzhou 2022 Asian Games. Read more on Inside The Games (English) and Sohu (Chinese)


🤔 Opinion What 2023 Has Taught Us About Chinese Brand Collaborations So Far The first quarter of the year saw an influx of global sportswear businesses tapping local streetwear names, world-renowned footwear brands inviting independent designers to work on collections, and a plethora of collaborative consumer-goods releases. Read more on Jing Daily (English)


🎮 Esports Peacekeeper Elite Teams Up with Top Chinese Colleges to Develop Virtual Campus in Oasis World In a bid to revolutionise the gaming industry, Peacekeeper Elite has joined hands with several top Chinese universities to create a new gameplay of “Oasis World”. Read more on DAO (English) and China Development (Chinese)


🎙️ From the Top 🗣️ Rowan Simons, Founder & Chair at China ClubFootball FC 1. What demand and appetite are you seeing for football in China at the grassroots level post-Covid? China is still trying to recover from the devastating economic impacts and football is in the middle of the largest anti-corruption campaign for over a decade. Senior figures at the CFA are being held in detention without trial, joining Li Tie and many others. You can’t ignore the new allegations about historic match-fixing every day. How might this affect the appetite at grassroots? Well, it doesn’t help. Grassroots clubs were in desperate need of funds before we found out billions had gone missing. But football means a lot to those who love it and many devoted families and schools have stayed with us. It will be interesting to see numbers at the end of this Spring season, going into Summer. 2. Is ClubFootball doing anything differently now opposed to pre-Covid strategies? If so, what are you doing differently? Our broad experiences are the same as for all social enterprises. First, how to survive. That certainly demands painful controls on overheads and a clear focus on maintaining core services rather than chasing new opportunities. It is now time to open our eyes wider. For ClubFootball, and all independent junior clubs, one of the most important differences will be in how the rest of football’s key actors react during this recovery. They are all above us in the pyramid. 3. China’s men’s football rebuilds and targets have failed numerous times for numerous reasons. Realistically, what needs to be done, and what can be done, for China to get close to achieving its goals? Everyone knows exactly what needs to be done. The government’s own Football Reforms laid out the short-, medium- and long-term plan. It is the implementation which has gone wrong and surprisingly quickly – because it started at the wrong end of the pyramid. If the outside world, I mean federations, associations, leagues, clubs and other commercial stakeholders choose to directly support the grassroots in China as they do so admirably in their own and other markets, then we will all be closer to achieving everyone’s goals. As Einstein once said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” How global sports organisations react to this recovery will reveal who is willing to learn from their mistakes and who is happy to keep their eyes closed and jump back on the merry-go-round as it prepares to circle again.


Mailman is China’s leading sports digital agency. We exist at the intersection of digital & sports. We help top sports organisations & brands to build sustainable businesses in China, one of the world's most challenging markets. Mailman is part of the Endeavor network. Learn more about our story here.

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