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  • Writer's pictureDenis Green

China Sports Business Weekly | 8th May

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

Making the headlines this week: Juventus entertains China fans with interactive game show, Chinese Football Association announces pay cuts, esports-led live streaming reaches 560M, China’s women’s volleyball team adds sponsor, Qiaodan purchases Umbro China, May Day holiday sees 115M trips made.

In this week’s From The Top, we spoke with Federico Palomba, Managing Director, APAC, at Juventus. We spoke about the latest Game Show concept, engaging fans during no live sport, the Hong Kong office, success of the J-Squad, and key learnings from operating in Asia.

Top Industry News

1) Juventus Unites China Fans with Game Show Reaching 11.2M Viewership

The Serie A giant, which has 37 Official Fan Clubs in China - the club’s most outside of Italy - delivered a two-hour livestream event incorporating its J-Squad, Fan Clubs, partners, and wider fan groups across the country. The Game Show proved popular and has become the club’s most popular LIVE content ever in China. Read more on SportsPro (English) and Xinhua (Chinese)

2) China’s Football Association Announces Pay Cuts The head of China's football association stated that teams will take temporary player pay cuts ranging from 30% to 50% to help teams manage losses due to COVID-19. Read more on Yahoo (English) and Ecosports (Chinese)

3) Live Streaming Reaches 560M People In China, Led by Esports The number of online live-streaming service users in China hit 560M as of March 2020, accounting for 62 percent of the country's total number of internet users. This represents a 136M increase from the end of 2018. Sitting on top of the list is esports, which 260M Chinese citizens tuned in to watch - the biggest vertical for live streaming video. Read more on Forbes (English) and Sohu (Chinese) Mailman Take: The fusion of ecommerce and live streaming, known as ‘live commerce’, is a growing trend in China. It’s become a staple for many Chinese businesses, and we’ve seen a number of international sports organisations and brands also moving into this space having launched their own online Tmall stores. This platform allows for a fun and engaging way to market products to fans while interacting with them at the same time. Live commerce sales are expected to hit $129B in 2020 with no sign of slowing down. 

4) China Women’s Volleyball Team Adds Latest Sponsor The Chinese Women’s National Volleyball Team has added fruit supplier Xin Rong Mao Group to its list of sponsors. The deal means the volleyball team becomes the first sports organisation to be sponsored by a fruit brand. Read more on Sports Money (Chinese)

5) Qiaodan Purchases Umbro China Iconix Brand Group Inc. has agreed to sell Umbro China Ltd to HK Qiaodan Investment Ltd for $62.5M. Iconix acquired Umbro from Nike back in 2012. Read more on WWD (English) and Ecosports (Chinese)

6) Nenking Group Takes Over FC Sochaux The Chinese conglomerate has taken ownership of French Ligue 2 side FC Sochaux-Montbéliard. Nenking attempted to purchase the club last year but the acquisition was suspended. Read more on SportBusiness (English) and Dongqiudi (Chinese)

Video of the Week

The NBA is producing a series of cartoon video content to educate Chinese basketball fans about the NBA league.

Best of the Rest

May Holiday Sees 115M Trips Made, Tourism Drops 60% on 2019

The five-day holiday was the clearest indication yet that China is well and truly into the recovery phase as confidence is growing. A large number of trips were made by car and by the younger generation, as travellers remain cautious about using public transport. Shanghai, Chengdu and Sanya on Hainan Island were among the three most popular destinations, according to online travel booking site Ctrip. Read more on CNBC (English) and Sina (Chinese)

Mailman Take: No one expected numbers to be close to 2019’s May Day holiday despite this year’s vacation being one day longer. Yet what’s evident is that China is ready to explore again, albeit domestically for now. The new China explorer will most likely have hygiene & personal safety at the top of their lists before deciding where to travel on their next vacation.

Esports News

China’s Esports Market tops RMB 100B for First Time 

Esports revenue in China grew 25 percent year on year to reach RMB 117.5B (US$16.6B) in 2019, boosted by official recognition of the sector. Esports revenue, including income generated by games, tournaments and merchandising, passed the RMB 100B milestone for the first time, with the market expected to rake in more than RMB 165.1B in revenue by 2021. Read more on SCMP (English) and China Daily (Chinese)

From The Top

Federico Palomba, Managing Director, APAC, at Juventus. 

1. You recently united the club's China fan base with a unique Game Show. How did this go and how did the fans manage to engage with the club?

It’s been very successful. The Game Show is Juventus' all-time highest performing live initiative in China that reached a total 11.2M viewership. The social performance was strong and the outcome was very impressive. And the reaction of the fans was exciting with 30K engagement during the entire programme and the feedback from partners has also been very positive. 

The creative entertainment content format and having fan clubs and J-Squad integrated in the Game Show made sure the club can engage with the existing fan clubs and further engage casual fans via J-Squad’s social following.

2. How important is it to engage deeper with fans during these times of no live sport?

As we all know, certainly the pandemic has created an unprecedented problem of not being able to play matches. But we know that the hunger for football has never stopped anywhere in the world.

We have worked very hard to offer fans interesting content in the past two months. We have developed over 20 original formats, half of the content is dedicated to China alone. In April, Juventus had the highest follower growth ever, considering all platforms. On China social, we are the club that grew the most on Weibo.

We have always received a lot of love and affection from our fans. We have created a real media factory within the club that manages the presence of our brand on all the main social platforms to keep the fans engaged.

3. You opened an office in HK last year. What have been your key objectives & successes since opening?

The Hong Kong office is key to maintaining and strengthening with our partners in APAC. During the past six months, we have built a team with 6 talented local professionals working in partnership, account management, and digital marketing. We are closer to our fans and providing 360-degree solutions to our sponsors, media partners, and institutions in China.

Our role here is to transfer our knowledge to the headquarters so that Juventus’ strategies are decided with the awareness of what is important in this territory, especially China. Having the physical presence in this market creates a lot of opportunities and connections with the people in the industry as well as the brands that have the interests of sports marketing. To highlight, we also recently launched a new partnership with Dashing in Malaysia.

4. The J-Squad has tripled in numbers in less than a year. How successful has this Asia-wide fan leader program been?

Last year during the summer tour, the club initiated the J-Squad program, a group of local fan leaders and influencers which generated 50M video views on Weibo. Now, the number has tripled since last summer, we are expecting more growth coming in the next season. Our official fan clubs number hit 37 in China, more than any other European football team. All of these allow us to have a direct connection with China fans via a strong club community.

5. What have been your key learnings of operating in Asia during a time of no live sport, and how will you take what you've learnt during the last few months into the future when sport eventually resumes?

The global pandemic certainly brings a lot of challenges to the club operations at every level. This is something we have never experienced before. Facing challenges, we learned and are continuing to learn how to react actively and adapt quickly as a professional club. I believe everyone’s daily routine has been changed a lot during the last few months. The club worked hard to produce creative content to inspire our fans all over the world. Stay positive and stay strong.

Top 10

This week we look at the most followed current Basketball Players on Weibo

  1. Jeremy Lin -- Beijing Shougang - 6.97M

  2. Steph Curry -- Golden State Warriors - 4.52M

  3. Guo Ailun -- Liaoning Bengang - 4.11M

  4. Chris Paul -- Oklahoma City Thunders - 3.42M

  5. Zhai Xiaochuan -- Beijing Shougang - 2.44M

  6. Zhao Jiwei -- Liaoning Bengang - 2.33M

  7. Ding Yanyuhang -- Shandong Luneng - 1.94M

  8. James Harden -- Houston Rockets - 1.78M

  9. Zhou Qi -- Xinjiang Feihu - 1.73M

  10. Russell Westbrook -- Houston Rockets - 1.69M


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Headquartered in Shanghai, China, Mailman is a global sports digital consultancy and agency. We help the world’s leading sports organisations serve their audiences and build their businesses. With over 200 experts across the globe we specialise in digital strategy, transformation, social media, content production and eCommerce. Learn more about our story here.

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