Making Its Presence Felt
Despite china’s team not qualifying, local business and fans spent more than $1.4 billion on the world cup
in the pouring rain and before a cheering crowd of nearly 80,000 spectators gathered in Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium. Hugo Lloris, goalkeeper and Captain of France National Football Team, lifted the FIFA World Cup trophy on July 15. After an exciting game, the Russian World Cup ended with a decisive victory for “Les Bleus,” to the great joy of French supporters worldwide.
Since the 21st World Cup kicked off on June 14, the world’s attention has been focused on the fortunes of the 32 participating teams. China, to the great disappointment of its fans was not among the final group. Nevertheless, that does not mean the country turned its back on the competition. Although China didn’t field any player, its presence was everywhere to be seen, in almost every aspect of the World Cup.
Headed to Russia
Due to Russia’s geographical proximity and the visa-free policy for foreign visitors with a FAN ID and a valid ticket, tens of thousands of Chinese football fans headed to Russia.
According to statistics from Russia’s Ministry of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media, more than 60,000 Chinese fans received FAN IDS to attend the World Cup, putting the Chinese fan numbers second only to the Russians.
Besides football, many tourists decided to indulge in a bit of sightseeing. According to a report by Ctrip, a major online travel agency in China, about 100,000 Chinese tourists traveled to Russia during the tournament, generating more than 3 billion yuan ($450 million) in revenues. At the same time, travel agencies had developed more than 1,300 tourism products targeting Russian market via the Ctrip platform to meet the booming demand.
“In terms of air transport capacity, there were about 20 direct flights every day from China to Russia that could carry about 4,000 people during the World Cup period. This
did not include the large number of passengers going there by transfer. Chinese fans and tourists thus became one of the main foreign contingents at Russia’s World Cup,” said Xiao Yinyuan, head of the International Tourism Department at Ctrip.
In order to better welcome Chinese tourists, as far back as April 2017, some souvenir shops in downtown Moscow started to offer mobile payment services through Alipay [a Chinese mobile payment platform]. Today, more than 4,000 stores in Moscow have adopted this system, including in airports, grocery stores, beauty shops, pharmacies and convenience stores. In July 2017, the Moscow Public Transit Authority also joined the trend, allowing Chinese tourists to pay for bus or metro tickets with Alipay.
Present through sponsorship
During the games, the names and slogans of several Chinese companies were clearly visible on the sidelines of the football pitch. These big, eye-catching Chinese characters were all evidence that China was not only a spectator, but also an active participant in football’s premier event.
Among the 17 official partners, sponsors and national supporters of the 2018 World Cup, seven were Chinese companies, namely Wanda, Hisense, Vivo, Mengniu, Yadea, Diking and Luci. Covering three levels of sponsorship, these companies set a new record in terms of Chinese companies’ exposure abroad.
According to statistics published by Zenith, a market research company, in total, Chinese companies spent $835 million in advertising during the competition, more than double what U.S. companies spent and much more than the $64 million spent by Russia, the host country.
“More and more Chinese companies have started sponsoring world-class sports events. This shows the strength of China’s economic development and the importance it attaches to soft power,” said Zhao Xianglin, Deputy General Manager of Wanda Sports Holdings.
Made in China
Throughout the competition, the sign “Made in China” was everywhere to be seen.
The Weiguang Group, based in Dongguan in south China’s Guangdong Province, once again won the bid to manufacture marketing products for the 2018 World Cup, after that of 2010 in South Africa and 2014 in Brazil.
According to Zhou Guo, Deputy General Manager of Weiguang, the cooperation with the World Cup has allowed the company to upgrade its design and marketing capabilities. It also shows that the brand is more and more recognized internationally, which helps opening foreign markets.
And there’s more: Zabivaka, the official 2018 World Cup mascot, also has Chinese roots. Hangzhou-based brand management company Kayford was certified by FIFA as the sole company allowed to produce and sell World Cup mascots outside of Russia. This is the second time the company has achieved this feat, the first time being at the 2014 World Cup. The company produces a wide range of mascot-themed products with the help of 1688.com, a business-to-business e-commerce platform of Chinese group Alibaba, China’s biggest online commerce company.
Telstar 18, the first official World Cup ball featuring a near field communication chip, was manufactured by a Chinese company - Shuoke Plastic & Metal Production Co. Ltd., also based in Dongguan. In addition, World Cup stadiums were equipped with Chinese-made elevators, air conditioners, LED screens and surveillance equipment. In the food stakes, 100,000 crayfish from Hubei Province were even shipped to Russia, to the delight of hungry football fans.
In the future, China’s presence may be felt on the pitch itself. In January 2017, the FIFA Council unanimously decided in favor of expanding the FIFA World Cup to a 48-team competition as of the 2026 edition. Accordingly, the number of teams for each continental zone is also under review. There is talk of an increase in the number of spots for Africa (from 5 to 9) and Asia (from 4.5 to 8). These changes are seen as very good news for China, and all its fans who are hoping to see their team in the World Cup finals.
More and more chinese companies have started sponsoring worldclass sports events. This shows the strength of china’s economic development and the importance it attaches to soft power. ZHAO XIANGLIN Deputy General Manager of Wanda Sports Holdings
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A Chinese football fan waves the Chinese national flag in Samara Arena on June 17
Zabivaka, the official 2018 World Cup mascot, is made in China
At the Spartak Stadium in Moscow, a boy tastes ice cream made by Mengniu, a Chinese brand that sponsors Russia World Cup