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  • Writer's pictureDenis Green

Red Card 2023: China Digital Performance Index

Today sees the release of the 12th edition of the Red Card 2023: China Digital Performance Index. The report ranks European football clubs, leagues, and players online in China. The Red Card also provides detailed analysis, insights, and projections regarding China’s fast-evolving digital sports landscape.

The 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar made a notable impact on the rankings, with Argentina star player Lionel Messi returning to the number one spot after four years behind Cristiano Ronaldo, whilst PSG benefited from Messi and Kylian Mbappe’s successful tournaments. The French club reached the number one club spot for the first time thanks to a mix of new initiatives, launches on popular platforms, and a stellar year on Douyin. The English Premier League maintained its dominance as the most popular league online, claiming a fifth title in a row.

Download the report here


🏆 Most Popular European Football Club Online in China: Paris Saint-Germain

🏆 Most Popular European Football League Online in China: English Premier League

🏆 Most Popular Player Online in China: Lionel Messi


Paris Saint-Germain’s Winning Year

  • 1m new followers on Douyin, the only team to surpass this milestone

  • 21m total Douyin engagement, #1 most engaged team

  • 293k new Weibo followers, #3 fastest-growing team

🗣️ It’s an honor to be presented with this prestigious award. We’re extremely proud of the work that we are doing to engage in new and authentic ways with football fans in China - from launching PSG on Bilibili to broadcasting a record-setting friendly match in Saudi on Douyin. We look forward to continuing these efforts in the coming year.” Anthony Baca, Digital Director, Paris Saint-Germain


English Premier League’s Winning Year:

  • Continued dominance online in China with wins across a number of the metrics

  • Weibo engagement was 2x higher than second-placed LaLiga

  • Douyin followers reached 3.6m, higher than any other football account at the time of ranking

🗣️ “The Premier League is honoured to receive the Red Card award for the most popular European Football League in China for the fifth consecutive year. We are delighted that engagement with the Premier League in China continues to grow across all channels, and thank our clubs, media partners, and fans for their support in bringing the Premier League to life in China.” Alexandra Willis, Director of Digital Media and Audience Development, The Premier League


Lionel Messi’s Winning Year

  • Success heavily driven by Weibo, generating 50% more engagement than Cristiano Ronaldo

  • The fastest-growing player with over 1m new followers on the platform, surpassing 8m in total

  • 80% of annual growth came in November and December

🗣️ It’s an honour to win the Red Card award for China social performance in 2022. Thanks to the Chinese fans that followed me throughout the year and shared the incredible moments together. I hope 2022 was a great year for you all and I really hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.” - Lionel Messi, Paris Saint-Germain and Argentina Football Player

🗣️ “China continues to be at the forefront of innovation. A mobile-first ecosystem provides digital opportunities and solutions that are not yet available in many other countries. Clubs that fail to adapt risk losing out on a huge chance to connect with this valuable growing audience with increasing disposable income.” Sum Huang, Endeavor China CEO
🗣️ “In the first ever Winter World Cup year, Douyin's broadcasting of the tournament was a milestone, attracting a huge audience and record fan engagement. The platform made history by being the first short video platform to broadcast the World Cup live, and the results were astounding with a cumulative number of live stream viewers reaching a whopping 10.6bn.” - Andrew Collins, Mailman Group CEO

Methodology: The full methodology is available on request.


Mailman is Asia’s leading sports digital agency. We exist at the intersection of digital & sports. We help top sports organisations & brands to build sustainable businesses in Asia, one of the world's most challenging continents. Mailman is part of 160over90, an Endeavor company.

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