Last year and for the first time in China, the Super Bowl was streamed liver over the Weibo micro-blogging service with a record-breaking of 7.5 million viewers. This is the clearest indication that American-style football has a bright future in the Chinese market.
The American football in China
For Chinese the rules of American football are not clear, kids do not play it in the country and the term “football” here mostly equals to European soccer. Still, the opportunities for American football market in China are great. Even if the NBA succeeded to create international partnership with numerous global brands in China, American football is still lacking ambassadors in the country to attract Chinese fan audience. However, the Arena Football League announced the China Arena Football which is a project to develop the sport and, thus, starting an official Chinese league. American football is more and more well-known in China as the American football’s fan base has grown over 462% in the last few years reaching 15 million people in China. This growth is expected to continue in the future.
The NFL helps to develop American football in China
In order to promote the sport, the National Football League (NFL) is focusing on the main first-tier Chinese cities such as Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou, which all are international cities. The NFL decided to broadcast NFL games on more than 20 regional channels, reaching almost 100 million unique viewers, and 5 nationwide online broadcasters including PPTV, LeTV, iQiyi, Sina Sports and QQ Sports.
Moreover, the NFL spent 3 years working with the Chinese government and the Chinese Rugby Football Association to form a Chinese league and increase the influence of American football in China. To achieve this goal, the owners of the China American Football League invested $10 million to start a new professional league and it is expected the creation of 30 teams in the next few years.
Finally, the NFL is looking for players around the world and is ready to discover talent in China. Indeed, the league has spent 2 years in Chinese universities to train future players providing them coaching expertise and equipment.
How to enter this market ?
Sell your football products through e-commerce platforms
One of the fastest and most efficient strategy to sell your products is to use e-commerce platforms to sell online. One of the best Chinese e-commerce platform is Tmall which is part of Alibaba group led by Jack Ma. This is definitely the largest B2C platform in China, it offers a wide a selection of affordable products and decent logistics and attracts value-conscious shoppers. Contrary to its competitor Taobao, the company has made arrangements to ensure that products sold on Tmall are authentic. Known as the “Amazon of China”, JD.com is also one the main B2C e-commerce platforms and is Tmall’s biggest rival. These two largest Chinese platforms control ¾ of the market. Consequently, it is important for your company to develop your business on these online platforms.
Promote your brand on Chinese social networks
China is the world largest connected country: more than 90% of Chinese people have an account on at least one Chinese social network. Wechat is the social media the most used in China and, regardless of the size of your company, it is an essential media to develop your marketing strategy in the country. With your accounts on social networks you can create a community and long-term relationship with your customers.
Internet users follow an average of eight brands and over 38% of Chinese netizens make purchasing choices based on recommendations that they find and read on social media platforms. Consequently, it is mandatory to have an active presence on social media platforms in order to increase your brand presence.
Make partnership with Chinese KOLs
In order to have a quick high visibility in China, very few methods are as effective as partnerships with Key Opinion Leaders. Since few years, they became a real part of the influencer marketing because they are numerous and powerful. KOLs are often Chinese celebrities who are experts of a specific subject. They are popular social media users and have created a viral content to develop a community around them. Working together with Key Opinion Leaders will help your company to create a significant influence. In addition, as professional players in China are still very few, Chinese players will see these athletes as their “idols”. Working with them would also allow Chinese to easily trust your brand.
The interest for American football is growing in China and as Chinese fans want to be more Americanized, this market will continue to develop. This is a market starting from scratch but this is a promising market.
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