How China Football Helps Company Marketing?


After 10 long years of decline, Chinese football is making a comeback. Clubs are investing millions and fans are starting to take notice, we can see one of the most popular sports in the world is increasing its popularity and influence in China. How can companies make the most out of this rising industry?

Status quo of China Football

To understand the situation of the Chinese football market, we must understand its history. As the joke goes,

  • A: what sport is agonizing?
  • B: Football.
  • A: what sports is the most agonizing?
  • B: China football!”

It’s a joke, but it is all too true. That’s the real situation of China football market. But that is vapidly changing.

  • Conca (2010 MVP from Brazil League), Anelka (striker from a French team), Drogba (one of the best strikers in the world) have already signed on to Chinese football clubs

Anelka and Drogba

  • The list of football stars will become longer and longer. Other stars like Ronaldinho, Guti, Kaka are also rumored
  • China football league ranks 15th in the world on the amount of investment, 25.59 million Euro has been spent by Chinese football clubs this year;
  • The total investment this year is estimated to hit ¥3 billion, increasing by 33.3%.

Another big improvement of the Chinese football league is it has fundamentally improved. Two ex-head of a Chinese football league has been jailed 10.5 years each for corruption, making them the most highly positioned football officials charged. This case pushes the reform of Chinese football league management with stronger supervision on corruption to improve the league to attract more fans.

Ex-heads of China football

With the rapid increase of clubs investments and a less corrupt environment, many Chinese football fans are gradually returning to watching the league. The average occupancy in 2011 reaches 17.6  thousand, similar to that of France 18.0 thousand. It has been the highest in the recent 7 years.
All the business surrounding football such as souvenirs, memorabilia  and toys are also enjoying a sharp rise in sales.

Trend of Chinese Football

Chinese football clubs have great confidence in the football market, especially after the purchase of Anelka and Drogba it has dramatically increased the popularity of Zhu Jun the head of Shanghai Shenhua Club.

Drogba and the game he endorses

Clubs in China are aggressively expanding the league both locally and internationally. Amongst the 16 teams in the league 10 of them have top notch international players.

The government also promises to have more supervision on the clubs to prevent further corruption scandals. This is a good sign that the Chinese football league is on the right track of success.

Why Chinese Football can Benefit Your Business?

As the Chinese football league becomes more solid, many companies have been using the league to increase their brand image. The manager of Lu Neng Club recently signed a contract with an U.S. power plant to advertise in the league is only the beginning for interested investors in the Chinese football market.

Big football fan community

Manutd fans in China

There are tens of millions of potential football fans in China.

They would like to pay

Billions of dollars are spent every year on football and football related goods and there are tens of millions of fans support their favorite clubs and buy their shirts, shoes and goods their football idols endorse.

Government support

Lv Cheng club from Zhe Jiang was once awarded by local Zhe Jiang government with about 300 acres of land for contributing to the Zhe Jiang football development. In a one political party country strong government support is crucial for the expansion of the Chinese football league.

Tools You can use in China Football league

There are mainly four tools for you to use:

1. Football player

We can now see a growing list of big names in Chinese football league: Conca, Anelka, Drogba and so on. They already have high popularity amongst Chinese football fans who would be eager to watch them and buy products they endorse to support them. You can feel the influence of it from Drogba’s online community:

Drogba’s Weibo, registered in August, 2012, has already got over 190 thousand fans within 2 months. And his influence further expands to other SNS platforms like TTmop, RenRen, Baidu Tieba, Douban and social media like Sina.

2. Football Club

Football club is another influential marketing tool for companies. China local clubs has lost a lot of fans during the ten year long “Dark Age”, while their European counterparts have built a huge community of fans.

Amongst all the foreign leagues, Premiership is the most popular one in China. Only Manchester United has over 20 million supporters, as Sina news introduced. (Source: Sina)

3. Football Match

The improving quality of matches are bringing more fans into the stadium.

Many fans come to Stadium to watch matche

As mentioned before, the average occupancy 2011 reaches 17.6 thousand, similar to that of France. Remember, that’s only the number of audience in the stadium, the potential is endless for TV audiences.

4. Football Box News

There is a large demographic of football fans consisting of girls, who are not real sports fans but are more interested in the hunky celebrity players. Celebrity football stars like Beckham, Kaka and C. Ronaldo have attracted numerous female fans who are willing to shell out money in support of their football idols.

China football babe

For males there are sexy football babes that are quite popular amongst male football fans. Much like the car models  in car shows in China they are sometimes just as important as the game itself.

Online Marketing in Football market

In the new era of web 2.0, online promotion is fast becoming an important factor in expanding the market. Most football fans are under the age of 35 since professional football was introduced within the last 20 year in China. And for fans under 35 years of age internet is the most popular way to reach them.

1. A website in Chinese

It is the most direct way to show your company or offline activity online. With a website in Chinese, you can promote your brand and activity as you like.

Emirates webpage for Arsenal match

Emirates webpage for Arsenal match

After creating a nice website or webpage, you need to promote it. It’s a waste of a good website without visitors. To promote a website, SEO and SEM is the most popular solution.

2. SNS promotion

Social Networking Service or Social Networking Sites (SNS) has become an important source for people to get information. Now half the Chinese internet users have a Weibo (micro blog) account. As “2012 Corporate Weibo White Paper“by Sina and CIC introduces, there are over 131,000 companies with an account on Sina Weibo. Some of them have opened very professional Weibo accounts and already developed a big community on Weibo.

164,880 posts talking about Winoly Cup sponsored by Emirates on Weibo

Other SNS sites like Douban where high educated Chinese are and RenRen (China Facebook) are also important.
The benefit of promoting your product on SNS is that you can

  1. get feedback about the customer;
  2. spread information quickly;
  3. build a community surrounding your brand;
  4. reach the precise demographic of customers;
  5. bring your company closer to Chinese customers;

People are also accepting of information from SNS faster.

3. Mobile integration

In China, with more and more people, especially youngsters, using their mobile phone to surf online, half of the pages viewed(PV) on Internet are viewed via mobile devices.

From the chart below, we can see the the number of mobile users are increasing at a higher speed than PC users in the past 2 years. From July, 2010, the increase of mobile Internet users is rising at a faster rate than that of PC users and there is no sign of slowing down. see more about mobile marketing in China

Mobile web page and application have already been used by companies and football clubs to manage their community.

Mobile app of football clubs

Future of Chinese Football League

China football has already experienced a slump but it is coming back with a vengeance. From the rise of popularity from clubs and more passion from fans, we can clearly see the trend of the world’s most popular sport, is rapidly increasing its influence in China.
For companies, the increasing influence of football means an opportunity to increase brand awareness and improve image. Companies can achieve this via football clubs, players, matches and box news. Online promotion will be one of the most crucial tools in reaching young Chinese football fans.

See  more about marketing research in China