Seeing an opportunity to engage and ultimately monetize an enormous new fan base, the major leagues of North America and Europe are investing time and resources in China. These are wide-ranging strategies, covering everything from sponsorship acquisition and activation to strategic partnerships designed to develop sports from the bottom up, broadcast rights arrangements to staging events and opening dedicated offices in the country.
It has become common practice for Europe’s major soccer teams to travel to China for pre-season matches during the summer, while the National Hockey League (NHL) played pre-season games in Beijing last year and will again this season, and the NBA—international pioneers in China—created a dedicated NBA China offshoot a decade ago.
Consumers under age 30 in China are of particular interest to sports properties and brands due to their wide range of interests, international sports fandom and receptiveness to sponsorship.
As global and Chinese properties find a foothold in this fascinating market, a deep and rich understanding of the Chinese consumer—who they are, what they like and don’t like, how they behave, how they are changing and how they are different from fans elsewhere in the world—becomes ever more critical, in order to create, drive and maximize commercial partnerships.