SHANGHAI: Manchester United has replaced Bayern Munich as the most popular football team online in China, according to a new report that each year assesses how European clubs fare in the lucrative Chinese market.
The sixth edition of the Red Card report, which is produced by digital consultancy Mailman, analysed the influence of more than 50 European teams across social media platforms WeChat and Weibo as well as websites, e-commerce and apps.
Manchester United, which has boosted its marketing activity in China and also conducted a successful tour of the country last year, took the top spot for the first time.
"Manchester United have been one of the last teams to launch on WeChat and one of the last to do a Chinese website. This ranking is a coming of age for the brand and a reflection of the increased investment they have made," said David Hornby, Sports Business Director at Mailman, in comments reported by The Drum.
"What sets Manchester United apart is how far ahead they are on WeChat, which receives 750,000 unique monthly readers, which is nearly double Liverpool and Arsenal," he added.
According to Mailman, English football clubs accounted for four of the top five in its rankings. Joining Manchester United and Bayern Munich, which was placed second, were Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City.
Mailman also named the most influential individual European players in China, with Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo coming out top, followed by Arsenal's Mesut Ozil, Real Madrid's Gareth Bale, and then Manchester United team-mates Anthony Martial and Wayne Rooney.
In terms of football leagues rather than individual clubs, the German Bundesliga remained the most influential online in China for the second consecutive year.
"The Bundesliga is not necessarily more popular than the [English] Premier League. However, their channels and owned-media are far more powerful and influential than anything the Premier League is doing," Hornby said.
"The Bundesliga [has] made a significant investment in time, energy and resources, and their digital platforms are miles ahead."
Data sourced from Mailman, The Drum; additional data by Warc staff