Here are the top China sports business news stories you need to know from this week, and my From the Top interview is with Kevin Chang, SVP Asia Pacific at UFC.
UFC Partners with Weibo
The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has announced a new strategic alliance with China’s leading social media platform, Weibo. The partnership means Weibo becomes the “Official Social Media platform” of the UFC in China and gives UFC another mainstream platform partnership in China to tell its athlete and event stories, growing consumer engagement in the sport of MMA. Read more on UFC English and Chinese
- Mailman Take: UFC follows in the footsteps of the NBA and Real Madrid as the third international sports IP to officially partner with Weibo. I was lucky enough to be given a tour of the soon-to-be-open UFC Shanghai Performance Institute: very impressed. No stone has been left unturned and it’s state-of-the-art in everything.
Southampton Announce LD Sports as Main Sponsor
English Premier League football team Southampton FC have named Chinese sports content, marketing, and entertainment platform LD Sports as their new main sponsor. The three-year deal, which the club stated is the ‘biggest sponsorship’ in their history, will see the company’s logo appear on the front of the team’s kits until the end of the 2021/22 season. Read more on Southampton (English) and Xinhua (Chinese)
- Mailman Take: This deal comes with question marks. For starters, LD Sports (LeDong Sports) is not yet operational and its website is still ‘in progress’. An unknown company in and outside of China, the LeDong deal will likely be met with scepticism following recent reports owner Gao Jisheng has ceded control of the club.
French Tennis Federation and OPPO Announce Partnership
The French Tennis Federation and OPPO, a leading smartphone brand, have announced a partnership agreement making OPPO a Premium Partner of Roland-Garros and the Rolex Paris Masters for the next three years (2019-2021). Read more on Roland-Garros (English) and Sohu (Chinese)
- Maiman Take: Roland-Garros is currently the most followed Grand Slam on Weibo having hit 1 million followers late last year. This partnership also represents another step into the tennis world for OPPO, having become the first Asian sponsor of Wimbledon Championships just last month. With half of the Grand Slams now signed, will we see OPPO eye the US Open and Australian Open to complete the set? it would be bold, but not unbelievable.
NHL Launch on Chinese GIF platform Dongtu
The National Hockey League (NHL) has become the first ever sports league to launch an official account on Chinese micro-content platform Dongtu. The NHL will offer GIF-style content via the platform similar to international equivalent GIPHY. Read more on SportsPro (English) and BBT News (Chinese)
Wang Shuang Documentary a Hit in China
The documentary series of Paris Saint-Germain’s Chinese footballer Wang Shuang generated much attention online as its first three episodes available on the club’s social media channels registered over eight million video views in China. Read more on Xinhua (English) and Sohu (Chinese)
Wolves to Open China Megastore
English Premier League side Wolverhampton Wanderers will launch a new retail store in Shanghai this summer. The Wolves Megastore will open during the club’s participation in the Premier League Asia Trophy and is located near the headquarters of the Fosun conglomerate, which owns the club. Read more on Sport Business (English) and Lanxiong Sport (Chinese)
Sport Business Opens Asia Office
The provider of data, analysis, news, and insight has announced the next stage in its global expansion with the opening of an office in Singapore. The office will be the headquarters of Sport Business’s Asia operation, which will provide a new level of service to sports sector businesses in some of the world’s fastest-developing economies. Read more on Sport Business (English) and Sport Business (Chinese)
Invictus Gaming Partners with Chinese Clothing Brand Lilbetter
Esports organisation Invictus Gaming (IG) announced a partnership with Chinese clothing brand Lilbetter. The two will co-produce a summer apparel line, with pre-orders set to start soon. Read more on Esports Observer (English) and Sohu (Chinese)
In Other News
China Set to Host 2023 Asian Cup
After the only other bidders South Korea withdrew from the process, China was all but confirmed as the host nation of the next Asian Cup tournament in 2023. The Korean Football Association (KFA) notified the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) of their intention to withdraw, paving the way for China to host the tournament for the second time. Read more on Reuters (English) and Sports Money (Chinese)
From the Top
This week I spoke to Kevin Chang, SVP Asia Pacific at UFC, about the recent partnership announcement with Weibo:
1. This marks another UFC partnership with a social media platform in China, can you tell me more about the thinking behind these partnerships?
Social media in China, even more so than other countries, is THE key source for news and information, as well as premium and user-generated content. We always strive to let our Fans Decide, and have a long history with utilising social media to connect with them. In the beginning, when the sport we created was less polished and regulated than it is today, it was far more controversial for traditional media to cover us, so we had to adapt by embracing new media. The fans come first, and this latest partnership gives us the ability to reach new and existing fans.
UFC is still young compared to many football clubs and organisations which have over 100-year histories. Our entry into mainstream was hand in hand with rise of social media. While other sports were testing the water, UFC dove in head-first – with Dana White engaging directly with fans in an authentic way that they respect and admire. As the undisputed global icon of combat sports, our product is exciting, innovative and accessible. It’s similar to the NBA in basketball where fans want to see the best of the best and that’s why they watch it. That’s where we sit for MMA.
2. Video content is key for Weibo. What makes UFC’s video content so appealing?
MMA is a sport which captures unique moments and is 100% unscripted. The underdog story is one everyone can relate to and we see it often in UFC. Also, the personalities of fighters – they’re human beings, each with their own stories and path to the UFC, and our goal is to amplify their voices to build the anticipation and excitement of watching the best fighters in the world. Some are brash, some humble, all are elite athletes who embrace the ideals of Martial Arts.
3. How does this partnership work into the upcoming official opening of the Shanghai Performance Institute?
We’ve been on Weibo for several years, and it just made sense to do it now, so the timing just worked out. This year is a real turning point for us. We have the most passionate, loyal and engaged fans in the business whose appetite for the UFC is never-ending. We’ve passed many milestones and at this point, our value as a major sport property is undeniable. Weibo recognises this and so we have become the very first MMA property to sign an official partnership with them.
Over coming months, we will be able to generate a volume of locally relevant content directly from the Performance Institute Shanghai and I’m excited to see the investment grow and the opportunities which arise in the future.
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Mailman is a global sports digital agency and marketing platform. We help global rights holders, athletes and brands build a successful business across China, Europe, and Southeast Asia. Learn more about our story here