China’s football revolution changes the digital landscape

New ways to connect with the worlds fastest growing fan base
Big Names

You could be forgiven for thinking that the rise and rise of football in China is driven by recent high profile transfers to the Chinese Super League.

The Brazilian pair Oscar and Ramires exchanged bit part roles at Chelsea for huge salaries and heroes welcomes in China. Jackson Martinez arrived from Atletico Madrid and the Carlos Tevez deal, said to be worth a jaw dropping £615k per week, continues to generate column inches.

Next big name to join? This could be Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney if the rumour mill is to be believed.


Image source – Sky Sports 


Big Ambition

Record transfers like these will always fuel the media and fascinate the fans, however the real reason for the dramatic growth of the game in China is not Tevez or Oscar, it’s the massive ambition of the countries leadership.

President Xi has made a very public commitment to the development of the game, stating his ambition to win a World Cup in the next 20 years. The building of 100,000 pitches and soccer schools over the next eight years is also designed to get 50 million Chinese kids playing, as football establishes its place in Chinese culture.


Image source – AliExpress 


Big Opportunities

All of this adds up to the world’s fastest growing fan base, and an opportunity for European players, teams and leagues that is unparalleled in its scale or potential.

Changes within the Chinese digital landscape have revolutionised communication and access to content for fans. Accord to Mailmans Red Card Report, the number one social network for viral content Weibo grew by over 70 million active users in 2016 and the number of football clubs on the platform increased by 50%.

Weibo has also launched Miaopai and Yizhibo. The first a video channel with 2.5 billion videos watched each day, the second a live streaming network with 1.5 million daily viewers.

Huge growth is also reported for WeChat, with the free messaging application now reaching 800 million monthly active users. Mailman sports business director David Hornby has stated that football teams should capitalise by using WeChat as their CRM platform for China.


Image source – TNW 


Add to this widespread engagement with online marketplaces such as TMall, and Chinese fans now have direct access to kit launches and authentic club merchandise, as well as credible content, video and live streaming, making China the number one market for European football.


Image source – TMall 


Big League

Mailmans Red Card Report tells us that the Bundesliga currently lead the way for the big leagues, followed by the Premier League, La Liga and Serie A. The Bundesliga is currently the only European league to have a Chinese language website, and CEO Christian Seifert says that they connect with Chinese fans through a digital ecosystem.

The largest active club fan base on WeChat with over 700k monthly reads currently belongs to Manchester United. During their summer tour of China the club embedded their media partners into the tour party, launched their home kit in Shanghai and supported sponsors activities.

Measured through Weibo followers, engagement and outputs, Cristiano Ronaldo currently tops the players list, followed by Mesut Ozil and Gareth Bale. For players it’s increasingly important to develop their own brand on social media, and Chinese fans appetite for their content has never been greater.


Image source – GSM Insider 



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