Soc­cer frenzy draws crowds, spon­sors

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By EM­MAGON­ZA­LEZ em­magon­za­lez@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

Huang Huan, a young pro­fes­sional in her thir­ties, does not con­sider her­self to be a soc­cer fan.

Yet, she spent 580 yuan ($93.4) on a sin­gle ticket — a small for­tune for the av­er­age Chi­nese— towatchGer­many’s Bay­ern Mu­nich and Spain’s Va­len­cia CF play at Bei­jing’s Olympic sta­dium re­cently.

Huang is one of the mil­lions of Chi­nese who were caught up in a sum­mer soc­cer frenzy.

“Euro­pean soc­cer is the talk of the town,” she said, ex­plain­ing the ex­pen­di­ture.

Soc­cer has grown into a so­cial phe­nom­e­non in China thatis­nowreach­ing­far­be­yond the bounds of mere sport.

It has be­come the ul­ti­mate mon­ey­mak­ing ma­chine.

Eight teams from Europe’s soc­cer elite trav­eled to China dur­ing July and Au­gust, to play in four dif­fer­ent tour­na­ments to cash in on the grow­ing ap­petite for the sport here.

While reap­ing the huge fi­nan­cial ben­e­fits of in­creas­ingly com­pet­i­tive leagues back home, the ad­di­tion of new mar­kets and spon­sors else­where is also mak­ing a huge dif­fer­ence to the bot­tom lines of some of Europe’s big­gest names.

The latest fig­ures from UK-based con­sul­tancy firm Deloitte sug­gest that by the end of the 2016-17 sea­son, the Euro­pean soc­cer mar­ket is ex­pected to worth 25 bil­lion eu­ros ($27.38 bil­lion), up from 20 bil­lion eu­ros in 201314, boosted by a grow­ing in­ter­est in the sport in Asia and the United States.

Ac­cord­ing to Bay­ern Mu­nich ex­ec­u­tive board­mem­ber Jorg Wacker: “China has be­come our new fo­cus mar­ket and our re­search shows that wenowhave 90 mil­lion po­ten­tial fans in the coun­try.”

The Bun­desliga cham­pi­ons raked in more than $10 mil­lion from their re­cent nine­day China trip, ac­cord­ing to Ger­man news­pa­per Bild.

Italy’s In­ter Mi­lan, another gi­ant of the Euro­pean game, mean­while, sold a to­tal of 92,000 tick­ets for the three matches it played in China.

Mario Oliveto, a sports mar­ket­ing ex­pert and for­mer ex­ec­u­tive at Adi­das AG, said the suc­cess of these sum­mer tour­na­ments re­lies on their ca­pac­ity to win hearts and con­sol­i­date long-term spon­sor­ship deals with Chi­nese com­pa­nies.

“Broad­cast rights, spon­sor­ship and mer­chan­dis­ing agree­ments are the keys, while ticket sales are a more lim­ited source of rev­enue, given the time of year.”

An­drew Collins, a Shang­haidig­i­tal en­tre­pre­neur with Mail­man Group, who spe­cial­izes in help­ing Euro­pean soc­cer teams es­tab­lish an online pres­ence in China, said the sum­mer tours were all about cre­at­ing longterm spon­sor­ship agree­ments be­tween the teams and Chi­nese com­pa­nies.

Chi­nese spon­sors, he said, in­clud­ing the Chi­nese telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions com­pany Qbao Corp, are play­ing a more ac­tive role in the global sports in­dus­try.

“We are see­ing an in­creas­ing num­ber of Chi­nese spon­sors be­com­ing more in­flu­en­tial.

“Rayo Val­le­cano (a team cur­rently play­ing in La Liga, Spain’s top-flight di­vi­sion) just hired a Chi­nese player, Zhang Cheng­dong, and that’s clearly part of a spon­sor­ship deal,” said Collins.

“Thati­sas­e­ri­ousway­totryto build the brand and get ex­po­sure in theChi­ne­se­mar­ket.”

Qbao se­cured a three-year spon­sor­ship deal with Rayo Val­le­cano last year.

The 25-year-old winger Zhang will spend the com­ing sea­son on loan at theMadrid­based club, from his Chi­nese club Bei­jing Guo’an, be­com­ing the first Chi­nese player to play in La Liga.

Although no fi­nan­cial de­tails were dis­closed, Span­ish media re­ported that Qbao paid 600,000 eu­ros in spon­sor­ing rights, sub­ject to two con­di­tions: The team’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in a China tour and the ad­di­tion of a Chi­nese player. Zhang’s sign­ing was con­firmed dur­ing the tour.

In­ter al­soused­its tour to celebrate a 20-year spon­sor­ship deal with Pirelli SpA, the world’s fifth-largest tire man­u­fac­turer, by invit­ing dis­trib­u­tors and deal­ers from Guang­dong province and SouthAsia tomeet the play­ers.

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