Football sponsorship delivers in China

28 February 2013

SHANGHAI: Brands that align themselves with top European football clubs could fast-track their way to success in China, a new report has argued.

Mailman Group, a social media agency, analysed the social media accounts of 14 leading European teams, considering five different factors, including total follower numbers, official presence, engagement rate, localization and popularity.

It found that brands signing on with these clubs would gain access to 15.6 million fans on social media in China, 30% of whom are women.

"If I was an FMCG brand, I would be thinking of building on a male sporting audience," Andrew Collins, CEO of Mailman Group, told Campaign Asia-Pacific.

"The clubs give any brand in China a cool factor that's hard to buy," he added.

Fifty-seven per cent of clubs have an official account on both Sina Weibo and Tencent, but the number of followers and levels of engagement vary widely. 

Manchester City, for example, has the highest number of fans on social media at 4.35m but it ranks last in terms of engagement. Manchester United, by contrast, has only 400,000 social media fans, but generates the highest engagement levels, with over 200 comments and forwards per post.

In addition, a significant proportion of fans – 40% – say they follow a club because of a particular player rather than professing any long-term loyalty to the club itself.

Collins noted that Manchester United's high engagement levels had been a factor in the club securing at least two commercial partnership deals in the past 12 months in China, with beverage maker Wahaha Group and China Construction Bank.

Clubs could achieve much more, according to Collins, who pointed out "sixteen per cent aren't localising their content or even translating it into Mandarin".

Data sourced from Campaign Asia-Pacific/Mailman Group; additional content by Warc staff