Study: Barcelona overtake Real Madrid as China’s most popular club online

Study: Barcelona overtake Real Madrid as China’s most popular club online
Spanish soccer giants Barcelona have overtaken LaLiga rivals Real Madrid to become China’s most popular soccer club online, according to Mailman’s 2020 Red Card report.

Barcelona moved from fifth last year to first in Mailman’s 2020 rankings due in part to their impressive growth on Chinese social media. The club’s followers on Chinese social media platform Weibo grew 104 per cent year on year, from eight million to 16.3 million. Barca’s engagement on Weibo was also up 45 per cent on their 2018 efforts.

The club also found success on short form video platform Douyin, with Lionel Messi’s penalty pass to Louis Suarez ranking as its fourth most watched video last year as it racked up 64 million views and 2.3 million engagements.

Barca Board Member, Didac Lee, said: “[The award is] a testament to the effort, teamwork and innovation of all of those involved with FC Barcelona in China.

“Our challenge is to create content for China that is bespoke to the ever-evolving digital landscape, culture and habits of this market and we’re proud to be recognised for outstanding fan growth and engagement.”

Chelsea, who sit third in Mailman’s overall standings, are the most popular club from England, with two more Premier League outfits in the top five – Manchester City are fourth and Manchester United are joint fifth alongside Juventus. City rose from ninth place in 2019’s standings to overtake rivals United this year, while Liverpool sit seventh, a drop of one place for the Reds.

The Premier League itself is the most popular competition with China’s digital community, ahead of the LaLiga which overtook the Bundesliga to claim second place. The German top-tier sits third, recording its lowest ever ranking.

Premier League Chief Executive, Richard Masters, said: “To receive this Red Card award for the second year running is a great honour and testament to the Premier League and our clubs’ loyal fanbase in China.

“We witnessed their passionate support during last year’s successful Premier League Asia Trophy in Nanjing and Shanghai, something that has been reflected by the growing popularity of our digital coverage in the country.”

According to Mailman, Cristiano Ronaldo is the most popular player with China’s digital soccer fans, ahead of Neymar and Lionel Messi respectively. It is the second consecutive year that Ronaldo has topped the poll, being one of the few players to see increased engagement and followers on Weibo despite a decrease in soccer-related user activity on the platform. Neymar scores well as the most followed player on rival platform Douyin.

The Portuguese said: “I am very pleased with this award. I know that I have a huge part of fans in China and it means a lot to be on top of the table for the second year in a row.”

Attention from Chinese fans continues to offer commercial opportunity for European soccer clubs, with an estimated US$67.7 million of digital sponsorship revenue still on the table, according to Mailman.

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