• Denis Green

China Sports Business Weekly - CNY Special


From everyone at Mailman, we’d like to wish you a very happy and prosperous Year of the Ox.

Welcome to the latest edition of the China Sports Business Weekly - our Chinese New Year Special.


Making headlines this week: Vivo looks to offload IPL rights, AFC drops Shandong Luneng, PP Sports loses Serie A feed, China removes Clubhouse, and we look at the very best of Chinese New Year content from global sports organisations.


In this week’s From The Top, we spoke with Richard Young, Managing Director, NFL China, about the Super Bowl journey, how it’s perceived in China, working with Tencent for the big game, and producing engaging social content.


Top Industry News


1. Vivo Looks to Offload IPL Rights The Chinese smartphone manufacturer is reportedly seeking to end its deal with the Board of Control for Cricket in India for the Indian Premier League title sponsorship two years early. Fantasy sports platform Dream11 was title sponsor of last year’s edition of the Twenty20 tournament after Vivo pulled out due to political tensions between China and India. Indian media outlets are stating Vivo wants to offload the rest of its contract to another brand. Read more on SportsPro (English)


2. Shandong Luneng Dropped From Asian Champions League

The Chinese Super League side was removed from the Asian Champions League (ACL) for breaching financial rules. Shandong had outstanding payments, and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) said that the club had not satisfied the mandatory criterion the AFC Club Licensing Regulations concerning overdue payables. The AFC did not elaborate, but Chinese media reported a salary dispute between Shandong and Kevin Stotz, a German who was an assistant to former coach Felix Magath from 2016-17. Read more on Yahoo (English) and Sohu (Chinese)


3. PP Sports Loses Serie A Feed The feed was reportedly pulled over non-payment of rights to the IMG agency, with last Friday’s clash between Fiorentina and Inter Milan not broadcast as scheduled by PP Sports. The move will prompt doubts about whether the deal with PP Sports can be maintained, with the Premier League having already terminated its contract with the broadcaster last year. Read more on SportBusiness (English) and Titan (Chinese)


4. Snowboard World Championships Moved From China to Aspen

Due to COVID-19, the International Ski Federation said Aspen will stage slopestyle, halfpipe and big air events from March 8-16. Zhangjiakuo (Northern China) had been scheduled to host the event from February 18-28. The Colorado resort will also now host four World Cup events - two each in snowboard and freeski - after the worlds. Read more on Yahoo! (English)


Esports


League of Legends: Wild Rift Gets Approval in China Riot Games’ League of Legends: Wild Rift mobile game has gained game approval from China’s National Press and Publication Administration (NPPA), alongside other games, including Blizzard Entertainment and NetEase’s Diablo Immortal, and Nintendo Switch’s Super Mario Party. Read more on Esports Observer (English) and Sina (Chinese)

Other News


Clubhouse Removed in China The popular social media app has been blocked in China after several large Chinese-language chat rooms were set up on the invite-only audio app where guests talked about politically-charged topics. Many Clubhouse users in mainland China reported they received a red error message showing "a secure connection to the server cannot be made." Read more on CNN (English) and Ifeng (Chinese) China Announces New Anti-Monopoly Rules Aimed at Tech Giants The new rules formalise an earlier anti-monopoly draft law released in November and clarify a series of monopolistic practices that regulators plan to crack down on. The guidelines are expected to put new pressure on the country’s leading e-commerce sites such as Alibaba Group’s Taobao and Tmall marketplaces and JD.com. They will also cover payment services such as Ant Group’s Alipay and Tencent Holding’s WeChat Pay. Read more on Al Jazeera (English) and Tencent Chinese)


The Best CNY Content


Chinese New Year is one of the most important times of the year for international sports organisations to create original and creative content for the China market. We’ve taken a look at some of the stand-out celebrations for the Year of the Ox.

  • Bayern Munich - A video of New Year's greetings incorporating Chinese traditions with players sending greetings in Chinese, including Manuel Neuer, Robert Lewandowski and Alphonso Davies

  • Borussia Dortmund - A greeting video from eight first-team players including a UGC campaign

  • Chelsea - created their own Chinese Totem, consisting of the characters "车", "牛" and "年". The video features the three characters written by Gilmour, Kante and Silva to introduce the new Chelsea totem of the Year of the Ox

  • David Beckham - A video featuring Beckham scoring a goal and sending CNY wishes in Chinese, from the Inter Miami CF Stadium

  • Evil Geniuses - Nine custom graphics of the esports team, combining to share Chinese New Year wishes

  • FIFA - ‘Upside down prayer’ comic book story - @who you miss and say what you want to do

  • Juventus - A short film centred around close relationships and safety during uncertain times, with messages from some Juve stars

  • LA Lakers - Hand-painted poster with Lebron James and Anthony Davis holding a poem and New Year's greetings combined with the Chinese translation of Lakers

  • Liverpool - A cartoon for Chinese fans, with a voiceover from Jurgen Klopp, and an interactive event to send limited edition merchandise signed by the Liverpool manager

  • Manchester City - New Year's greeting video called "Manchester City's New Year's Eve Dinner", which shows the classic elements of the Spring Festival and CCTV Spring Festival Gala, as well as fan interaction activities to give football gifts

  • Manchester United - Teaming key players and staff with Chinese celebrity Lu Han, the video shares New Year's wishes to fans, with seven lucky fans receiving giveaway jersey

  • MLB - Poem contest of "MLB Spring Festival Gala" event, inviting fans to complete the phrases; selecting one as the official greeting poster.

  • NBA Jr. - Jr. NBA players reveal their own "Young Bull Mentality" and wishes in the year of the Ox

  • NFL - NFL exclusive Spring Festival red envelope cover, shared with fans on WeChat

  • NHL - Seven greetings related to the year of Ox, and use NHL players highlights which are closed to those greeting sentence

  • Paris Saint-Germain - A custom-designed cartoon poster celebrating the Year of the Ox with famous players and New Year’s greetings

  • Tottenham Hotspur - Spurs created an animation video series to encourage fans to have a healthy CNY, featuring stars such as Gareth Bale

  • UFC - Celebrating a huge year of Martial Arts in China by showing some of the best moments from UFC’s rising China talent.

  • WTT - The top stars of table tennis wish their Chinese fans a Happy New Year as well as reminding them to follow the new World Table Tennis social accounts

From The Top


Richard Young, Managing Director, NFL China


1. Why is the Super Bowl so big and how has it grown?


As the NFL’s championship game, the Super Bowl has always been important to NFL fans. But it has only been relatively recently that the Super Bowl attained its current ‘can’t miss entertainment’ status. The halftime musical performance in Super Bowl I was “The Sound of Music” by the University of Arizona marching band, so the focus was clearly on the competition itself rather than the halftime show. Even as recently as 1989, the Super Bowl halftime featured an Elvis impersonator, named Elvis Presto.


Then there were two things in back-to-back years that evolved the Super Bowl halftime show into the spectacle it is now. In 1991, Whitney Houston’s performance of the national anthem went as viral as was possible back then and then in 1992 rival broadcaster Fox, a new upstart channel at that time, aired a comedy show (In Living Color) as counterprogramming to the Super Bowl’s actual halftime on CBS and stole a big section of the audience that only returned once the 3rd quarter of the game started. Rick Lewis of Select Productions saw the opportunity of creating a more compelling Super Bowl halftime and pitched the NFL to bring in the biggest star possible to perform during halftime.

The very next year, Michael Jackson performed during halftime at Super Bowl XXVII and the show format was forever changed. In the US, 29 of the top 30 highest-rated television shows (of any kind) in history are Super Bowl broadcasts. It is without a doubt the single largest television entertainment event in the US every year. In terms of global audience for annual sporting events, the Super Bowl is ranked behind only the UEFA Champions League Final. 2. What did you do during the build-up to Super Bowl to ensure as many fans in China were aware and engaged in the event?


Given the attractiveness of Super Bowl as an entertainment event that can reach beyond an audience of football fans, we are continuously exploring ways to leverage the event as a way to generate buzz, trigger interest and bring in new fans – especially amongst a younger audience. This year, we activated across a range of different partner channels and platforms to drive interest and game tune-in.


Super Bowl LV was aired on 10 different platforms in China either Live or On-demand with additional platforms airing highlights and short form content. NFL China has worked closely with long term digital partners Tencent Sports and BesTV, as well as regional TV partners to live-broadcast Super Bowl and promote this mega event through partners’ own marketing campaigns via mobile, IPTV and traditional TV platforms.


We focused on two areas: serving existing fans across our own operated channels and maximising exposure of Super Bowl-related content on leading social, video and news platforms to engage potential fans where they are. This included launching accounts for the league and two Super Bowl teams on Douyin, Kuaishou, Bilibili and working with platforms to amplify promotions, driving pre-game engagement and gameday tune-in.

The key is balancing content that avid fans are looking for – game previews, strategy & playbook breakdowns, where-to-watch lists – with introductory content that can help bring a first-time viewer or new fan closer to the game, like “a 1-minute intro to watching football”, gameday guides, exciting hype videos and social campaigns to engage them both before and during the game.


With the timing of Super Bowl falling before the Chinese New Year holiday this year, we were also able to better connect and involve the local football community in promotions leading up to the game – many of whom organised their own Super Bowl activities. NFL China seeded Super Bowl Party Packs and launched a “Win a Super Bowl Party Pack” social campaign as a way for fans to bring the party to their homes. 3. How did you work with your broadcast partner Tencent to deliver the best possible product in the region?

Tencent offers every NFL game in Chinese and English as well as condensed games after they have concluded. A full range of highlights and archives are also available. Everything is in 1080p, so the sound and vision is excellent. The Chinese commentators are really starting to come into their own, creating their own personalities that gives them their own fan following. 4. Once the Super Bowl has finished, what types of content and storytelling do you focus on to make sure it's still engaging fans 1-2 weeks after the event?

We package up different highlight themes as well as ‘mic’d-up’ takes and reactions and put them on several platforms from Douyin and Kuaishou, to Bilibili and Tencent.


The off-season gets moving pretty quickly with focus shifting to our next generation of NFL stars at college Pro Days in March (no Combine in 2021) and the NFL Draft in April. Starting after Chinese New Year, we’ll start building awareness for these top prospects headed into the Draft. Fortunately, this year we’ll have an exciting story to watch with one of the top quarterback prospects, Mac Jones (QB for National Champions, Alabama University), who started learning Chinese when he was in elementary school and continued studying the language through high school. Having him engage and invite Chinese fans to follow along on his journey to making an NFL team will present a unique opportunity to keep fans engaged this spring and summer. --

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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 China, Southeast Asia, Europe, and the US, we specialise in digital strategy, transformation, social media, content production and eCommerce. Learn more about our story here.

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