Join in China: football in China

England scores on social

  • 23rd June, 2018

It's been a promising start in the World Cup for England, on and off the pitch. 

The Three Lions scooped 3 points in an opening fixture against Tunisia that was lapped up by Chinese viewers, who of course took to social media to express their views. The game was watched by an average of 13.7 million in China, rising to 18.3 million which news platform Supchina points out is more than the number watching the Royal Wedding in the UK recently. If England progress to meet either Brazil or Germany in the quarterfinals the viewing figures could easily top 100 million.

On social media, online mentions ranged from "really handsome captain" to describe the scorer of the two goals Harry Kane, to reactions to David Beckham's now seemingly optimistic prediction at an event in China that England will meet Argentina in the Final (hmm, didn't he play against them once?).

Both really-handsome-captain Harry Kane and David Beckham are no strangers to Chinese social media themselves. Kane, who has 180,000 followers on microblogging platform Sina Weibo, a little more than manager Gareth Southgate's Twitter following, posted a picture of his goal celebration followed by an update expressing gratitude for fans' celebratory videos in England. 

But Kane is dwarfed by Beckham, who has more than 6 million Weibo followers and another illustrious name from England's recent past, Wayne Rooney, who has 3 million followers.  

Becks and Rooney didn't soar on social through their England exploits alone: the Premier League remains the most popular foreign league in China. Indeed several Premier League clubs, and also Championship clubs, are actually owned by Chinese companies.

In the unlikely event that football does come home on 15 July, there will be magnificent opportunities to reach and engage Chinese consumers, from tourism to retail.

But otherwise, consider these opportunities:

  • If you're in the football industry or have sport expertise, think about potential youth development, training and coaching collaborations. China's football plans are hugely ambitious - the nation is targeting not only World Cup qualification and hosting one day, but also winning the tournament
  • If you're a football club or a player, do get on Chinese social media. Manchester United are the most popular European club on Sina Weibo, but the reality is that any club can consider engaging football fans online, such is their love of the game.
  • There are opportunities in sportswear, food (beer and football as mentioned last week is a popular match), and technology. eSports, for example, are enormously popular in China where there are 170 million players and fans, and the football business is increasingly getting involved.

Do talk to us if you're interesting in exploring football opportunities in China - but don't ask us for our World Cup winners prediction. It's too close to call!