Leicester City online in China: Better late than never
Updated: Jun 4, 2019
Leicester City, top of the Premier League table and one win away from securing the title in what would be the biggest shock of modern day football. This success will transcend all areas of the club, with the greatest impact to commercial opportunities. China will be a priority market because of the major government investment into football and the existing huge Premier League fan base. Their launch on Weibo is the first major step in the Chinese market.
In late April, Leicester City became the 13th Premier League club to launch an official Weibo account, with their social presence being managed by Premier League rights holder Super Sports. Handing over the reigns to a local sports network is an unconventional move with most clubs choosing to maintain control of their Chinese channels themselves.
The club passed 11,000 followers in under a week, a good start but still far behind the other top 4 clubs: #2 Tottenham Hotspur (1.4m), #3 Manchester City (8.1m) and #4 Arsenal (3.5m). However, this lower follower number has not limited the club’s online fan interaction, reaching 73 average engagement per post. This puts them as the #9 most engaged European football club online, higher than Arsenal (66) and Manchester City (55).
Meanwhile, their launch campaign #LeicesterOnWeibo# reached 15 million reads after securing promotion from Weibo Sports with LED board resources provided for their match against Swansea.
Now Leicester City must figure out what they do next to leverage this season’s success and grow their digital presence online in China. Outside of launching across multiple channels, including WeChat, an official website and e-commerce, there are several events that the club needs to be aware of.
Leicester City do not possess the superstars that the rest of Europe’s elite do, a key reason behind Chinese fans supporting a certain team. However, their underdog story, something that resonates strongly with Chinese football fans, can be even more powerful. Building the story around their journey to the top will be key to attracting a large Chinese online fanbase.
The Champions League is regarded as the #1 football tournament by Chinese fans, with many supporter multiple teams from Europe’s top 5 leagues. Leicester City’s progress now puts them in this elite group, and the club will have to develop a China content strategy which sets them apart around these mid-week fixtures.
Leicester City were also a late addition to the ICC 2016 tournament in the US, taking on PSG, Barcelona and Celtic this summer. These pre-season fixtures will be a great opportunity to showcase the club on the international stage in a developing football market, not dissimilar to China.
Leicester City are on the verge of an historic moment in football that has been timed perfectly with China’s football revolution. Their underdog story will inspire a nation of Chinese fans to follow the club for generations to come. Leicester City, it’s now up to you.