Olympic heroes preparing for marketing boost
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