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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Collins

How Roland Garros Became Number One Online in China

Updated: May 29, 2019

Time Online in China

Roland Garros first launched online in China in September 2013. At this time, the tournament was relatively popular in China due to Li Na’s 2011 campaign in which she won the Ladies Singles’ Title. Her career gave tennis an enormous boost in China, sending its popularity through the roof and her connection with the French Open did a lot to raise its profile.

Getting online early and being more active than other tournaments has also been key to their success. The Australian Open and Wimbledon beat them to the punch when they launched online in 2012, however, RG has done a much better job of engaging fans through exclusive and localised content strategies. Inexplicably, the US Open is still yet to launch online. Due to RG continuously updating strategy and keeping up with, or even in front of trend, they have managed to build a strong and devoted fan base from which they are now enjoying the rewards.

Building a Connection

Another major reason for RG’s success was how they first established a strong base of support. They did this by marketing themselves as much more than a tournament; when they first launched in China, they focussed on their rich history, their desire to build and popularise tennis in China and their status as a lifestyle and fashion brand. Their comprehensive annual content plan also helped keep them relevant throughout the year and their work with key opinion leaders and established fan clubs helped them create additional interest online around announcements and campaigns.

This commitment to the Chinese fans has continued and Roland-Garros remains the only Grand Slam to have an annual content plan in China, providing Chinese fans with year-round access to RG content, news and interactive campaigns. The ability to engage with their fan base throughout the year has added strength to their following and makes fans feel far more valued and part of the tournament.

Keeping the momentum in 2017

This year, Roland-Garros has continued to embrace new trends by producing live streaming content from the events in Paris. This has brought fans closer to the tournament than ever before. They have also held offline events in China including a Junior Wildcard tournament, the winners of which were invited to compete in Paris, and RG in the City which was held in Shanghai this week. These offline events provide both another avenue to demonstrate their standing as more than just a tennis tournament and their recognition of the importance of finding another player who can compete on the world stage for the development of tennis as a sport in China.

The recent agreement of a new 5-year digital broadcasting rights deal with Tencent will ensure a much more comprehensive digital presence going forward. This will give RG access to a much larger audience and allow them to provide content that’s far more suited to their Chinese fans.

How far can they go?

As mentioned, Roland Garros as an organisation see it as important to play their part in developing tennis at a grassroots level in China and to this end, they have begun to build clay facilities around China.

Continued efforts to attract new audiences will also be key to maintaining success and growth in China. They have done this very well with their recent of appointment Chinese television star, Jin Dong, as their Chinese ambassador, who brought with him a lot of new fans, and through their digital rights deal with Tencent. However, there are many other opportunities, such as eSports and travel, that will enable them to build further on their base of support and maintain their status as the leading tennis tournament online in China.

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

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