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  • Denis Green

China Sports Business Weekly | 7th February

Welcome to the latest China Sports Business Weekly.


In this week’s edition: Viewership on PP Sports increases during CNY, sports organisations donate funds and facemasks, China’s upcoming sports events in doubt or cancelled, ITTF partners with LD Sports, the CFA removes nine professional football clubs.


From The Top: We spoke with Paris Saint-Germain’s Asia-Pacific managing director Sebastien Wasels, about the club’s huge 2019 across Asia, CNY campaigns, growing the club’s lifestyle brand in different regions, and the importance of eSports & fashion. 

Top Industry News

1) Viewership on PP Sports Increases During Free-to-Air CNY Coverage 

Due to the outbreak of the coronavirus, many people stayed indoors during the Chinese New Year (CNY). PP Sports chose to make all its football content, which is normally behind a paywall, free-to-air for the entire CNY holiday. This resulted in a 151 percent increase in viewership compared to the same period last year. Read more on SportBusiness (English) and China Daily (Chinese)


Mailman Take: Hundreds of millions were stuck indoors during CNY as videos circulated online of boredom setting in. PP Sports took advantage with results paying dividends. A nice offering during a tough time for the country, and a smart business move to draw in more viewers. 


2) Sports Organisations Rally to Donate Funds & Masks The NBA donated RMB 10m to support the fight against the coronavirus, while Inter Milan and RCD Espanyol both donated hundreds of thousands of face masks. Other notable companies donating include Alibaba ($144m fund), Anta Sports ($1.4m), Tencent ($42.8m in aid), Bilibili ($1.4m), Netease ($15m), CBA (RMB 3m), Nike (RMB 10m), and many, many more. Read more on Forbes (English) and Sina Sports (Chinese)


Mailman Take: The outpouring of generosity & support from organisations in China and abroad have been wonderful to see. Donations continue to come in each day for masks, supplies, and medical equipment. 


3) Sports Events Across the Country In Doubt, Suspended or Cancelled Shanghai sports authorities recommended the suspension of all upcoming sporting events in the city. The Chinese Grand Prix, scheduled for April 19, is also in doubt. Key sporting events already affected include the World Indoor Athletics Championships set for March 13-15 in Nanjing - now postponed until next year, Formula E motor racing series abandoned plans for a Sanya race, while basketball, badminton and boxing qualifying tournaments for the Tokyo Olympics have been postponed, rescheduled or moved. The LPGA Tour golf tournament has been moved to next year, ONE Championship has cancelled a Chongqing event, and national basketball (CBA) and football (CSL) league openings have been put back. Read more on Reuters (English) and NBD (Chinese)


Mailman Take: The next few months will undoubtedly be tough for all those involved in, or fans of, sports events in China. It’s important for the industry as a whole to unite and remain positive. A suspension does not mean the end of that sport in the country. It’s a mere setback, which can be used as a motivation to go bigger next time the opportunity arises. 

4) ITTF Partners with LD Sports

The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) announced that Chinese sports content, marketing and entertainment platform LD Sports will be the Major Partner of three ITTF World Tour events this year in Qatar, Korea, and Australia. Read more on ITTF (English) and Xinhua (Chinese)


5) Nine Football Clubs Removed by Chinese Football Association (CFA) The clubs were removed from professional leagues for the upcoming season after failing to pay players and staff wages. The clubs are Sichuan Longfor, Shanghai Shenxin and Guangdong Southern Tigers from the country’s second division, and Nanjing Shaye, Fujian Tianxin, Dalian Gigabit, Yinchuan Helanshan, Yanbian Beiguo, and Jilin Baijia from the third division. The CFA said: “These clubs have failed to submit by February 3, 2020, the confirmation forms for full payment of coaches, athletes and staff wages and bonuses for the 2019 season.” Read more on SportBusiness (English) and ChinaNews (Chinese)


From The Top


Paris Saint-Germain's Asia-Pacific managing director Sebastien Wasels


1. How would you summarise 2019 in China and across Asia, any particular highlights?

Last year was a milestone year for Paris Saint-Germain in China and across Asia, with a record-breaking China tour, the launch of offices in Shanghai and Tokyo following the Singapore office in 2018, commercial partnerships with Ping’An and Bulk Homme, multiple activations with valued partners such as Nike and Accor, and further integration and growth of the PSG.LDG eSports team. 

Our China tour was a particular high, spending a record 13 days playing 3 matches across 3 cities. This tour was one of the longest tours ever completed by a European football club, incorporating many money can’t buy experiences for our fan base in China. While on tour, our team produced the most-viewed Douyin video by any football club reaching over 90 million views. Tour was the perfect opportunity to activate with our great partners, including a fashion show kit launch in partnership with Nike and multiple offline activities with Accor. 

We were also active in launching on new digital channels throughout Asia, highlighting our global strategy in establishing and growing the PSG brand creating more touch-points with fans in Japan and Indonesia. We worked with our Asia partners, including Bulk Homme in Japan, Ping'An in China, and LoveBet in Asia, helping us to have a stronger on-the-group local presence and work more closely with local communities. 

2. PSG won 2 Red Card awards: Best Douyin Video & Best Use of Tech - what was your strategy on Douyin and how will you continue to utilise the platform and new technologies through 2020?

We were delighted to be awarded 2 Red Card awards which is a testament to the hard work of our team in the region. Douyin is a key medium for PSG to connect with our fan base, but also it allows us to demonstrate our abilities across further entertainment verticals such as music, fashion, and lifestyle. 

We’re constantly innovating and working with our partners in the market to discover how we can develop new concepts and ideas. We listen to fans and react. It’s a two-way conversation. 

Our most viewed and record-breaking video happened during the China tour, brilliantly combining the players, Chinese elements and a food street vendor. That's our approach, entwining multiple verticals with culture to entertain our fans.  

3. The club has been engaging fans during CNY, allowing them to vote for a song to be played at the stadium. How was the response and why is it so important to give more responsibility to the fans?

This was one of our best pieces of content ever online in China. It shows that the brand transcends football and has relevant touchpoints with other industries, especially music.

As the proof is in the pudding, we will continue to look to activate beyond just football, realising that across Asia there’s such a strong bond between the young generations and the entertainment industry. It’s different from other international regions we operate in, therefore we have to treat each market with the respect it deserves. 

Outside of this, we've also worked with WeChat as the only football club to launch HongBaos (red envelopes) on the platform, as well as an animation video. 

4. PSG was active across Southeast Asia and Japan in 2019. What can we expect to see more of in these regions from the club and how will your approach differ compared to China?

We're very positive about these regions and we’re already starting to see strong engagement with our fan bases. There’s lots of communication with our teams and partners in each market to work out together what clicks and resonates. We didn’t dive in head-first, we’ve done our research and are working diligently to ensure we have a clear brand strategy individually tailored to each location and that it’s a strong reflection of the PSG brand. Because PSG is a lifestyle brand and we're very intent on keeping it that way, globally. 

There are great lessons we’ve already learned from previously entering markets such as China. We've seen that fashion is incredibly powerful in Japan, especially with our Edifice partner. But in Indonesia, a focus on eSports works much better. Every day is a case study and learning experience. Every day is different and that’s what’s so exciting. We'll continue to look for new ways to engage our fans in both of these exciting new markets.

5. Community & grassroots are important to the Club. How do you plan to give back to the sport in Asia and excite a new generation of fans and players?

Through our exciting partnership with Ping'An, we've already begun to do this. The activation won a Bronze Award at the Red Card Awards for Best CSR Campaign so we're already making good progress. 

During the China tour, we worked with Ping’An on trials for young Chinese players to have the opportunity to travel to Paris, train with the first-team coaches, and meet the team. It was a thoroughly rewarding program that we hope to replicate in other regions in the future. We'd like to take these learnings and then build something more in other markets as we strongly believe in giving back to the community and ensuring football across Asia continues to grow.

(First-team players from PSG sent across messages of support for the people of Wuhan through the club’s official Weibo platform.)


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