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Monday, April 16, 2007

Soccer Behind The Great Wall Of China

I read an interesting article today in the International Herald Tribune. It didn't surprise me, because I have seen many games and highlight shows via Chinese video streams from a link on my blog roll. The article discussed the current marketing efforts of English teams in The Far East. Italian teams have also been popular in China for the last two decades.

"In some ways, China is the reverse image of the United States as a burgeoning soccer market. Unlike America, where soccer is now the most popular participation sport among children, relatively few Chinese actually play the game.

But in contrast to the United States, where soccer rarely breaks into network television, the sport is a media phenomenon in China. Television audiences for international competitions like the World Cup and the Champions' League can number in the hundreds of millions, and clubs hope to parlay those viewers into lucrative returns in the form of television rights, sponsorship deals and other media and marketing initiatives." (1)

Chinese fans seem to follow individual players rather than teams. For example, Yao Ming of the Houston Rockets, is one of the most popular athletes in the country. "Sports affiliation in China is a fashion rather than a passion," said O'Toole, the marketing consultant. 'If Yao Ming moved to the New York Knicks, you'd see the fans follow overnight.' So far, however, no Chinese soccer players of Yao's stature have emerged, though several Chinese nationals are on the rosters of Premier League teams." (2)

From personal experience, I have seen games that air locally in China during the middle of the night. There must be a large market for Chinese media to broadcast European games in these non-traditional time frames. Hong Kong has always been a mecca of soccer interest, and since the reunification, no doubt has assisted in the growth of soccer marketing in mainland China.

China has only qualified one time for the World Cup, and that was in 2002.

References

(1 and 2) European Soccer Clubs Drawn By Huge Fan Base In China. 16 April 2007, IHT.

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