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How Does Douyin Fit into Sports Brand’s China Strategy?

Updated: Aug 27, 2019

What is Douyin?

Douyin is a mobile-based 15-second video platform that’s gained massive popularity in China over the last year. It currently has over 100 million registered users and its 66 million daily active users rack up over 1 billion video views every day.

Originally launched in 2016 by Chinese technology company Bytedance Inc. Douyin received a large investment from news platform Toutiao (also a ByteDance company) early in 2017 and has also been launched in other parts of Asia under the name Tik Tok. The app is designed to foster trends and send videos viral. Users swipe through, like, and comment on the auto-playing videos, the popularity of which is determined by an algorithm. Interestingly, videos can only be shared on platforms outside of Douyin, including QQ, Weibo, and WeChat, links to which are embedded within the app. Many of the most popular trends centre around dances or certain backing music with users putting their own twist on the trend and Douyin has been the birthplace for many trends also seen on other Chinese social media platforms.

Douyin has quickly rolled out other, more monetisable features, including live streaming and live Q&As where users can pay to have their question answered by KOLs and live stream hosts. The platform also now incorporates direct links to Alibaba’s shopping ecosystem, Taobao and Tmall, allowing products to be tagged and linked to from within the app.

Why Should Brands be Excited?

Douyin is very trendy in China meaning that it’s not only experiencing rapid growth but also that users are spending a lot of time on the app and are following a lot of new accounts. This presents a golden opportunity for early adopters to gain followers and exposure fast.

For sports brands, Douyin offers access to a very new and different demographic. 70% of the users are female, under 25 and from tier 1 and 2 cities, representing a well educated and generally wealthy user base. This group is not often engaged by sports brands and as such represents a potential growth market if approached correctly.

The Bytedance ecosystem, namely Douyin and Toutiao, is also unique in China’s digital landscape. While Tencent owns many of the largest platforms in China, they often serve similar purposes or are not appropriate for engaging new fans. However, in Douyin and Toutiao, Bytedance automatically links accounts and even allow fans to follow an account on one of the platforms before it’s active. This ability to pass followers between such different platforms makes it much easier to interact with both prospective and established fans in a number of ways while only needing to be discovered once. By way of comparison, Weibo accounts are not able to advertise their associated WeChat accounts on their channel and vice versa.

How Sports Brands Should Approach Douyin

The first (and most important) thing to understand about Douyin is that it is not a sports platform. Content on Douyin is and has to be, all about entertainment, fun, and trends. This means that it is not a platform for all teams or brands but is best suited to organisations that have a lot of content, want to be seen as trendy and having a fun side, and have the resources to produce content reactively to trends. Douyin videos are very stylistic, meaning that brands using the platform need to both become familiar with the app and produce video specifically for Douyin, posting generic video content designed for other platforms is not going to create game-changing connections with Douyin’s audience.

There are examples of how Douyin can give fans a different perspective to members of the sports community. Skater 李子君 (a Chinese figure skater) has used Douyin to add music and interest to her training videos. The easy editing and effects that Douyin provides give users much more insight into her personality and differentiates her from the many other skaters. As such, are more likely to engage with/remember her going forward.

In March, Juventus became the first European football club to have an account on the platform. To date, they have amassed 11,000 followers and have posted a variety of videos including their mascot taking on a dance trend and a slideshow of talisman Gianluigi Buffon. Juve is a good example of a club with the resources and commitment to find success here and stand well placed to gain the most as first adopters.

The benefits of brands being early adopters of Douyin don’t stop at easy followers and engagement. In an effort to attract more brands, Douyin’s promotional resources are currently a lot cheaper than other platforms. Promotions can take the form of ‘Challenge’ tags (themed hashtags), custom filters, branded campaigns and more. While the costs of working with Douyin will inevitably increase, there is a lot of to gain for brands that partner early and couple the promotion with a solid strategy to leveraging Douyin.

The Three Keys:

  1. Approach Douyin as an entertainment platform

  2. Be ready for and embrace the trends

  3. Keep content specific for Douyin

Mailman is a leading China sports digital and marketing platform. We help global rights holders, athletes and brands build a successful business in China.

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