German giants Bayern Munich FC have held off all their European rivals in building a digital media presence in China, according to a new survey of the world’s leading clubs which ranks the club top of the table.
European football clubs’ attempts to forge a brand identity in the lucrative Chinese market have resulted in a deluge of sponsorship deals, TV right sales and pre-season tours.
The influx of activity has made it difficult to gauge who has been most successful given the numerous parameters for measurement, however a new survey by Shanghai-based consultancy Mailman, has named Bayern Munich as the most successful in building a digital media presence.
The fifth annual Red Card report placed the Bundesliga giants ahead of Manchester United, who recently signed a deal with Sina Sports for exclusive MUTV rights in China. Liverpool's Chinese dealings contributed to its third place ranking.
English clubs outperformed the majority of their European counterparts with Arsenal, Spurs, Manchester City and Chelsea all making the top 10. This is unsurprising given the lengths English clubs have gone to in order to build a presence in Asia. Investment giant China Media Capital purchased a 13 per cent share in Manchester City’s owners, City Football Group.
The three big Spanish clubs- Real Madrid, Barcelona and Athletico Madrid- and Paris St Germain rounded off the top 10 list.
Mailman chief executive Andrew Collins told BBC Sport that "China is different to the rest of Asia and clubs have found it hard to see financial returns here in the past.
Collins said that this dynamic is beginning to change now as a result of “the Chinese government's mandate to promote international sport, particularly football, and get the population more active".
Red Card co-author, David Hornby, points out that the number of follows on social media platforms like Weibio (China’s answer to Twitter) was not the most accurate way to measure digital media presence - it if were Manchester United and Manchester City would lead the way by some margin.
"Engagement is the most accurate measurement of popularity in China," says Hornby.
"The size of your Weibo following is often in no way representative of how engaged your fans are - and that is what clubs are really interested in."
The survey used nine different "performance metrics” to measure engagement and rank the clubs. This involved analysing Weibo, messaging service WeChat and each club's official website, online shops and video offerings.