Interview with Richard Young – NFL China Managing Director
Updated: Jun 10, 2019
Last month, the Mailman team were invited by Richard Young to check out NFL China’s Home Field activation and meet with NFL China’s tour export for 2014, the talented Mr Jerry Rice. A quick search and you will see that Jerry Rice is arguably and statistically the greatest ever wide receiver to have played the game, a look at his career highlights points to a man at the top of his game possessing unrivaled athleticism and skill.
Having accepted the invitation to have a look, I can tell you that at 52, Jerry remains a supreme athlete. He still has the physical presence to match those show reels and he still runs like the wind, and the NFL China brand too, seems to be in good shape.
It is guys like Jerry and last year’s tour export Joe Montana that form the annual NFL legend visit to China but they are just 1 part of NFL China’s marketing push to grow the game and fan base here. The Home Field we visited was itself a living, breathing and engaging marketing activation aimed at feeding the passion of the NFL diehards here in China as well as providing the opportunity for the uninitiated (myself included) to try their hand at some of the key physical skills required to play the game, and begin to gain an understanding of the many facets of the game.
As we walk in to the Home Field I can see the speed tests, the vertical and horizontal jump tests, the quarter back and receiver station all being demonstrated. An abbreviated tag version of NFL is being played in the center of Luwan Stadium, all of this is happening in front of a sizable, passionate & vocal crowd of China based fans. The home field activation is well organised, highly visible and has been part of the exponential growth NFL has had in China, the fan base has built from 1 million to over 14 million in 4 years.
After setting all of the Mailman team records at the various testing stations, Richard introduced me to some of the promotional staff manning the gates and working NFL China’s data capture that forms the nucleus of their growth strategy here. The staff were there to help record and measure my performance at the testing stations but crucially to capture my details, find out what I liked about NFL, provide me with more insight into the game and open a communication dialogue with their fan base. In essence, beginning my journey with the game here in china. It was this aspect that prompted me to request a catch up with Richard to find out a little bit more……..
HJ – What are the key areas for NFL’s growth in China, what will success look like in 5 years?
RY -The areas we will look to grow are our media, being online and free to air broadcast, our audience and channels. Social media fan base and engagement and we will always look to continue growth, innovate and improve our interactions like the Home Field.In terms of success, being realistic,pragmatic and consistent is path we will follow. Our development may be slower but hopefully more stable than other sports. You will see other sports like X games going up quickly but for us, its a marathon not a sprint.
HJ – Can you please tell me a little bit more about the role your partner Epsilon plays?
RY – Our main goal is building our fan base. The way we do that is we need to better engage with our fan base. The way we better engage our fan base is to know more about them & Epsilon works with us in collection and management of our data & we’ve had a very good 1st year. That’s the future for us because not everybody is the same. Some people want 2 emails and 10 WeChats a day, some want 1 a month, some want all live games and some want only highlights fed in to their phone and this gives us a better understanding of the demographic. I am a big believer that the more you know in any Business, if you can take a pen and piece of paper and draw your customer your purchaser of your product and the more you are able to draw out of that person, literally what they look like and what they do, do they own a car, do they have a bike, do they live in a flat, do they live in a house, do they have a dog, are they married, do they have kids, how much education to they have, how much money do they have, what do they like, what do they do, the more you are able to fill out that piece of paper with that pen, the more of your product you are going to sell whether its cars or being a fan of the NFL or whether its computers or whatever buts that’s where we are going with Epsilon.
HJ – What are some of the challenges you face in promoting the game here?
RY – I’ll start by saying that challenges are both a positive and a negative, i can understand especially in a country like China where sports have traditionally been tied to government support, and have been government organised. If you are paying taxes as a citizen in China then historically the primary role of the sporting body in government is to win you gold medals or win you national recognition, right, so why support NFL from that view, other than the inherent benefits that it can help learning team work and interdependency and all the kind of valuable lessons on a developmental level there is no real reason at very, very high level, an elite level for them to support it and i can understand that.That background can be a pretty big head wind for us.
HJ – Richard, congratulations on another successful role out of the Home Field, congratulations on the continued growth of the game here in China and thank you for your time.