Chinese football fans are heavily influenced by clubs sponsors and marketing

New report finds Chinese football fans are heavily influenced by sponsorship and marketing.

Two-thirds (65%) of Chinese football fans intend to buy products from a football club’s official sponsor, according to a new report.

The Red Card+ Report, which surveyed more than 30,000 Chinese football fans to reveal their motivations for following the European leagues, found Chinese fans are heavily influenced by a clubs sponsorship and marketing.

More than half (58%) consider sponsor brands to be highly influential due to their partnerships with the clubs, indicating the value these brand associations can have on Chinese fans, which represent one of the biggest opportunities in the global sports industry.

The report, which is the largest ever survey of Chinese sports fans, was conducted by Shanghai-based sports marketing agency Mailman in collaboration with football news app Sike, in a bid to provide the clubs and leagues with insights into the most market.

Tom Elsden, senior client manager at Mailman, said Chinese fans attitudes to sponsors and marketing is a reflection of the changing culture in China.

“In the West we are exposed to marketing and sponsors advertising every single day, and we have been seeing this for the last 30 years, at least. Here in China, sponsorship is a relatively new concept and clearly it is working with the fans and it something we expect to see further growth and investment in. That is a great opportunity for football clubs and for sponsors.”

The report also revealed a number of cultural differences in football fans, with 76% of Chinese fans following their favourite player over the club itself, unlike in western cultures where a fans’ allegiance is chosen for them, by geography or family tradition. With Chinese fans free to select a club many (72%) choose to also follow a second club.

“We knew China was an icon market, that the players really dictated which clubs fans followed but we never had any figures around that, until now. We would encourage clubs to put more of their star players online and develop their presence and then use them as a driver to help grow the clubs overall popularity in China,” said Elsden.

More than half (54%) of fans are happy to pay to watch matches, however, the majority (92%) watch games at home. This behaviour is partially due to the time difference, which means games kick off after 10pm, but also because many have a preference for watching football alone on mobile devices.

Chinese fans strongly favour the club’s official social media channels over traditional news sites, with 71% getting their news from official Weibo and WeChat accounts, which they view as more trustworthy.

The Red Card+ Report is a follow-up to the annual Red Card Report which analyses and determines the influence of European football teams across China's social media channels.

Andrew Collins, chief executive of Mailman, said the report provided the most comprehensive analysis of the modern Chinese European football fan.

“The analysis in this report gives more insight than ever before into what really makes these fans tick with the data to back it up. The survey delivered some results that we expected and others that have improved our understanding of the people who are driving the rapidly developing football market in China.”

Danielle Long

Danielle Long is APAC Correspondent for The Drum with a remit to cover news from China, Australia and New Zealand. Danielle has 15 years experience as a marketing journalist and has worked on publications in the UK and Australia. She has interviewed some of the world’s leading marketing, advertising and creative brains and has written about almost every standout brand and marketing campaign from the last 15 years.

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