Mak­ing Its Pres­ence Felt

De­spite china’s team not qual­i­fy­ing, lo­cal busi­ness and fans spent more than $1.4 bil­lion on the world cup

ChinAfrica - - KEYWORDS - By Li Jing

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

ca

* Com­ments to

li­jing@chi­nafrica.cn

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

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