Olympic heroes pre­par­ing for mar­ket­ing boost

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS - By CHEN XIANGFENG in Nan­jing, Jiangsu chenx­i­angfeng@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

De­spite a medal-laden cou­ple of decades for the sport, in­clud­ing Olympic glory in Rio last year, China’s women’s vol­ley­ball stars still lag be­hind their bas­ket­ball and soc­cer coun­ter­parts in terms of earn­ings and ex­po­sure.

It’s some­thing of a co­nun­drum, es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing the team’s huge fan­base. A whop­ping 930 mil­lion view­ers watched it claim gold in Rio against Ser­bia on lead­ing Chi­nese on­line por­tal Ten­cent alone, while last week at the FIVB Grand Prix Fi­nals in Nan­jing rau­cous fans packed a sold-out arena to roar on their na­tional heroes.

Aware that the sport is not max­i­miz­ing its mar­ket­ing po­ten­tial, China’s Vol­ley­ball Ad­min­is­tra­tive Cen­ter has signed a ground­break­ing new deal with Ten­cent Sports to boost the team’s pro­file.

“It’s the first time an in­ter­net com­pany has taken over the mar­ket­ing de­vel­op­ment of a na­tional team,” said Wang Yongzhi, gen­eral man­ager of Ten­cent Sports Agent Cen­ter.

“We will dig deeper to re­al­ize the value of women’s vol­ley­ball.”

Tra­di­tion­ally, com­pe­ti­tions have been pro­moted with straight­for­ward news and high­lights pack­ages. How­ever, fu­ture ef­forts will also fo­cus on de­vel­op­ing more pro­fes­sional player agency and de­vel­op­ing their per­sonal in­tel­lec­tual prop­er­ties (IPs).

“The young gen­er­a­tion of play­ers is per­fect for so­cial me­dia. They tend to be pho­to­genic and some of the star play­ers’ IPs have huge value,” Wang said.

For­mer head coach Lang Ping, who mas­ter­minded the

poses with the mas­cot of lead­ing por­tal com­pany Ten­cent at last week’s sign­ing cer­e­mony in Nan­jing to an­nounce a new part­ner­ship. As part of the deal, Ten­cent Sports has been en­trusted with boost­ing the play­ers’ mar­ket­ing value.

Fi­nals flop per­plexes An

vic­tory in Rio, agrees.

“Com­pared with play­ers of my gen­er­a­tion, th­ese play­ers boast strong per­son­al­i­ties and more en­ergy,” she said.

“I hope they con­tinue to work hard and play a big role in spread­ing the pos­i­tive spirit in our so­ci­ety.”

China’s Vol­ley­ball Ad­min­is­tra­tive Cen­ter, the sport’s state-run gov­ern­ing body, has largely ig­nored mar­ket­ing de­vel­op­ment in the past.

How­ever, it’s now fully on board with the makeover, as Li Quan­qiang, chief of the cen­ter, ex­plained: “It’s a kind of a re­form of Chi­nese vol­ley­ball. We held lengthy dis­cus­sions be­fore reach­ing a deal to col­lab­o­rate with Ten­cent.

“I also re­ported to the State Gen­eral Ad­min­is­tra­tion of Sport that co­op­er­a­tion with an in­ter­net com­pany is an essen­tial part of the re­form process to make our or­ga­ni­za­tion more mar­ket ori­ented.”

Chi­nese soc­cer has also un­der­gone a se­ries of re­forms in re­cent years while in bas­ket­ball, for­mer NBA star Yao Ming was ap­pointed pres­i­dent of Chi­nese Bas­ket­ball As­so­ci­a­tion and has taken charge of the sport’s de­vel­op­ment.

“From the five world and Olympic ti­tles in the 1980s to the golds at the 2004 Athens Games and last year’s Rio Olympics, the women’s vol­ley­ball spirit has passed through a num­ber of gen­er­a­tions,” added Li.

“Women’s vol­ley­ball has a strong fan­base across dif­fer­ent ages. Now more young peo­ple love and fol­low women’s vol­ley­ball.

“The co-op­er­a­tion with Ten­cent, with its multi-chan­nel cov­er­age, will ex­pose the sport to more peo­ple and en­hance vol­ley­ball’s value.

“I’m sure more peo­ple will get in­volved in the sport and keep women’s vol­ley­ball com­pet­i­tive in the world.”

Li also dis­missed concerns com­mer­cial ac­tiv­i­ties could de­tract from per­for­mances in train­ing and com­pe­ti­tion.

“We have a rule in the deal that train­ing and com­pe­ti­tion come first. It’s true that play­ers will be in­vited to more com­mer­cial ac­tiv­i­ties, but only in their free time.

“We can’t af­ford a sit­u­a­tion where play­ers make more money but their per­for­mances worsen on the court. We’re look­ing for a win-win sit­u­a­tion.” What are the rea­sons be­hind the strate­gic co­op­er­a­tion be­tween Ten­cent and women’s vol­ley­ball? Why is Ten­cent in­volved in the sports agent busi­ness? the fiercest in the world. In sports, you have to own the ex­clu­sive sources if you want to run ahead of other com­peti­tors. Once you take part in the agent busi­ness, you will have the ad­van­tage of own­ing the mar­ket­ing rights of a team or an ath­lete and the right to de­velop their IPs. Can you ex­plain more about your sports agent busi­ness? What are its pri­or­i­ties?

The co-op­er­a­tion with Ten­cent, with its multi-chan­nel cov­er­age, will ex­pose the sport to more peo­ple and en­hance vol­ley­ball’s value.” Li Quan­qiang, di­rec­tor, China’s Vol­ley­ball Ad­min­is­tra­tive Cen­ter

There are three core rea­sons. Firstly, we have co­op­er­ated with China’s vol­ley­ball in some ways over the past ten years. We trust each other. Se­condly, Ten­cent is a huge plat­form. As the first por­tal com­pany to get in­volved in the sports agent busi­ness, we want to give con­fi­dence to vol­ley­ball’s gov­ern­ing body in China and as­sure it we can trans­form its busi­ness, mak­ing it more pro­fes­sional. Fi­nally, our busi­ness team boasts se­nior ex­perts who have ex­pe­ri­ence in sports me­dia cov­er­age as well as mar­ket­ing man­age­ment and de­vel­op­ment.

The sports in­dus­try is de­vel­op­ing rapidly. If Ten­cent only fo­cused on sports me­dia, our room for de­vel­op­ment is lim­ited. Also the com­pe­ti­tion among Chi­nese in­ter­net com­pa­nies is

We are es­tab­lish­ing a new mode to de­velop the busi­ness, high­light­ing an ath­lete’s im­age pack­ag­ing. We will first pin­point an ath­lete’s com­mer­cial value, so­cial value and brand value. Af­ter eval­u­at­ing each part, we will then de­cide on the best way to man­age the busi­ness.

The tra­di­tional sports agent busi­ness in China usu­ally takes place be­hind closed doors. A de­ci­sion is made with­out strict eval­u­a­tion and pro­fes­sional ne­go­ti­a­tion, and the price is not trans­par­ent. In­stead, we will have a pre­cise eval­u­a­tion of an ath­lete’s mar­ket­ing value. The eval­u­a­tion will not be open to the pub­lic, but we will have our clients know where and how the money is spent. The pri­or­ity will be sign­ing star play­ers or teams like the women’s vol­ley­ball team. We have signed top swim­mer Sun Yang and women’s vol­ley­ball icons Zhu Ting and Lang Ping. We plan to move into other sports and are tar­get­ing many of China’s ma­jor teams over the next year.

China’s women’s vol­ley­ball team

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