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How Brands Can Tap into China’s Vast Sports Marketing Potential


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The sports marketing industry in China stands at a crossroads. China needs a competitive and successful sports marketing industry to enable its major sports to realise their full potential. While great strides have been made, there is much more still to be done. China has at least 300 million sports fans. Eighty per cent of the Chinese population watches sport on TV. The country has a vast new middle class of more than 150 million, with spending power and great interest in international and domestic brands. Put those facts together and the equation is clear.

The potential for sponsorship as a cost-effective marketing platform is simply enormous. The most popular sports, basketball and football, can reach across China’s regions and cultures like nothing else can. For far-sighted sponsors the rewards could be great indeed. There has not been a tradition of sports sponsorships or TV rights fees in the People’s Republic. says an expert from consulting multinational PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), but the Olympics have dramatically changed the approach to sponsorship. The commercialisation of sport signals a shift away from government control to private management of popular sports.

Interest in sport is significant. The sports viewership of China’s national sports channel CCTV5 equates to 50 per cent of the nationwide total. Over 50 per cent of sports-related TV advertising goes through this channel. The sports industry is also relatively insulated from financial crises with major sporting events already secured. These include the 2009 Harbin Winter Universiade, the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, the 2011 Summer Universiade in Shenzhen and a possible bid for the 2018 Winter Olympics from Harbin, a 5-million-strong city in the north eastern province of Heilongjiang. China’s relatively weak sports infrastructure is being rapidly improved by the investment brought about by recent and future international events. In the build up to the Beijing Olympic Games, China’s sports marketing industry grew fast. International sports marketing agencies opened offices and worked with Chinese sports federations to usher in a new level of professionalism in sponsorship. This saw related revenues jump nearly 70 per cent in 2008, according to PwC. The quid pro quo is a predicted drop of some 30 per cent in the sports market in 2009.

To read the rest of this article by Phillipe Blatter and Ma Guoli, please visit BusinessForum China at BusinessForum China is a magazine and website dedicated to China business news and analysis, regarding the China economy and the China market .


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