China Sports Business Weekly: Manchester United expand Chinese Presence

China Sports Business Weekly: Manchester United expand Chinese Presence
Here are the top China sports business news stories you need to know from this week, and my From the Top interview is with a Manchester United Spokesperson where we discuss the opening of the Club’s Preview Center in Beijing and launch of a dedicated Chinese-language App.


Manchester United Open Preview Center and Launch China App
The English football club has officially opened a Preview Center to the Club’s Experience Centers as part of a partnership with Harves Entertainment. The first Preview Center opened in Beijing, and is expected to fully open in 2020, followed by centres in Shanghai and Shenyang. The club also announced the launch of a dedicated Chinese-language App. Read more on Sport Business (English) and NetEase Sports (Chinese)

Mailman Take: Manchester United is famous for being late to the party - most notably as the last Premier League club to launch an official YouTube channel. However, this time they’re first with state-of-the-art Experience Centers in China, offering a unique environment to entertain fans. A smart investment by the club, and one I expect other clubs to emulate in coming years.


Inter Milan Signs Partnership with Lenovo
The Italian Serie A club has agreed a sponsorship deal with Chinese IT and technology company Lenovo. The five-year deal places Lenovo as a global technology partner of the club, and will benefit from brand exposure across the San Siro and on the back of Inter’s training kit. Read more on Lenovo (English) and Ecosports (Chinese)

Mailman Take: There aren’t many football clubs with as many China partnerships as Inter Milan. This is largely due to Suning ownership, with sponsorships ranging from ceramics to online travel companies. An impressive number, sure, but keeping all partners satisfied will prove a tough balancing act for the Club should that number continue to rise.


Benitez Signs for Dalian Yifang
Spain's Rafa Benitez has been named manager of Chinese Super League (CSL) side Dalian Yifang. Benitez replaces South Korean Choi Kang-hee, who reportedly stepped down for personal reasons. Dalian are currently  10th of 16 teams in the CSL with 17 points, 22 behind leaders Beijing Guoan. Read more on Xinhua (English) and Sina Sports (Chinese)



Sport Set for Further Investment

As part of China’s latest Catalogue of Encouraging Foreign Investment Industries, a category on sport is included. This focuses on culture, sports and entertainment, and includes a section on receiving foreign investment for the following industries: fitness, stadium management and facility operations, performance venue operations, competitions and performances, sports training, courses, and intermediary services. Read more on Sport Business (English) and Xinhua (Chinese)

Mailman Take: It’s always helpful when the government gets behind a sport initiative. Having pulled back on investment in sport outside of China in recent years, it’s refreshing to see foreign investment in sport being encouraged.


In Other News

James Harden Apologizes for Traffic Violation in China
Houston Rockets guard James Harden apologized for violating a traffic law during his trip to Shanghai after riding a scooter in an area where they are forbidden. "China, thank you for your hospitality. I would like to apologize for violating traffic rules during my scooter ride today," Harden wrote on his Weibo account. "Not a good example obviously but I was just trying to enjoy the city as much as possible. Thank you for your understanding and I'll make sure to abide by the rules next time here.". Read more on Bleacher Report (English) and Sina Sports (Chinese)


Tour de France Signs New Media Cycle in China

Digital broadcast platform China Sports Zhibo has announced a three-year deal to live stream the Tour de France in China from 2019 to 2021. The cycling stage race, which begins this weekend in Brussels and concludes July 28 in Paris, will stream throughout its entirety on China Sports Zhibo’s website. Read more on SportTechie (English) and Sina Sports (Chinese)


China Mobile Partners with TJ Sports, Blizzard, and NetEase
Chinese telecommunication giant China Mobile has partnered with game publisher NetEase, Blizzard Entertainment, and TJ Sports. The deal will focus on hosting China Mobile’s own 2019 China Mobile Cyber Competition (CMCC), starting this July. The competition will feature League of Legends and Hearthstone, with a total of RMB 1 million ($146K) in prize money. Read more on esports observer (English) and Sina (Chinese)

Walmart to Invest $1.2 Billion in China
US retail company Walmart will inject more than a billion dollars into its China business due to competition from local rivals and online retailers. Walmart plans to invest around 8 billion yuan ($1.2 billion) in distribution centers in China over the next two decades. Read more on CNN (English) and Sina (Chinese)


From the Top

This week I spoke to a Manchester United Spokesperson where we discuss the opening of the Club’s Preview Center in Beijing and the launch of a dedicated Chinese-language App.

  1. The Experience Centres are the first-of-a-kind in China. What does the club hope to achieve from these?
    We're always seeking to find the best and most innovative ways to engage with our family of fans in China. These experience centres are part of our mission to allow us to connect with our millions of followers in the country, so they can see, touch and feel what Manchester United is about, despite being half the world away from Old Trafford. Through these centres, we hope to promote the club, and also football, sports and healthy living in the country, which is consistent with China’s social goals. We engage with our Chinese fans both physically and digitally. The centres combine the two, being a physical space with an incredible digital and interactive component, while we’ve just launched a Chinese language app as our statement for online engagement.
  2. Why is it necessary to deliver entertainment to fans in China with facilities like the Experience Center?
    We have a massive fan base in China, and these fans are very committed. Just imagine the many people that wake up across the country to watch United play in the middle of the night, or those that make the pilgrimage to Old Trafford. We also see that commitment via the high engagement on our social media channels, because the fans there can’t get enough in terms of touchpoints with the club. So we believe it's fitting that we give them the best. That’s why we’ve partnered with Harves Entertainment to bring these state-of-the-art centres to the country. The current one in Beijing is just a ‘preview' centre as the full experiences are scheduled to open in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenyang in 2020. However, even preview centres offers a unique experience for fans where they can see the Trinity statue, Players tunnel, and Players’ changing room all in one space. They’re all exact replicas of what we have in Manchester and this is the only place in the world where you can find these symbolic pieces all in one place. The full experiences will build on that with a stunning interactive experience that will inspire a new generation of United fans as well as existing fans who visit.
  3. How important is it for the club to have a dedicated Chinese App and what benefits will this bring in China?
    China is a digital-first country and our massive fan base there deserve an experience in their own language, with tailored stories and content specific to them . Given its sheer size but also its unique culture, we are building a strong and direct connection with our fans there, and we can achieve this via our own app with more localized content than ever before.


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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

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