From Chelsea FC to Bayern Munich, global brands eye post-Covid recovery in China’s sports market

From Chelsea FC to Bayern Munich, global brands eye post-Covid recovery in China’s sports market

From Chelsea FC to Bayern Munich, global brands eye post-Covid recovery in China’s sports market

Major international sports brands are setting their sights on the Greater Bay Area as a gateway to the Chinese market, where demand from fans and consumers is heating up after a Covid-related lull, according to executives in the industry.

Getting closer to or establishing a presence in China is strategically important for top sports clubs, Ben Wiggins, partnerships strategic lead for Asia-Pacific at Chelsea Football Club in London, said during the Greater Bay Area International Sports Business Summit in Macau on Saturday.

“We have some 50 million fans in China, a lot of which are based in the Greater Bay Area,” Wiggins said. “What we think and hope will follow is a greater level of activations in the market with new and existing partners.”

For Bayern Munich, a top-ranking German football club, China is not just home to the largest number of its international fans, but also a key arena for growth.

“We’re trying to bring here to China our initiatives, whether it’s [for] fans or partnerships,” said Matthias Brosamer, head of sports in Asia at the club. “We want to be connected with the people here in China.”

The event, themed “connecting the world through sports” and supported by Macau’s sports bureau and Trade and Investment Promotion Institute, brought together more than 300 influential decision makers from the sports business community. Together, they were tasked with charting the future course of the city’s sports sector.

Joe Tsai, owner of US basketball team Brooklyn Nets, Yao Ming, former NBA player and president of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA), Li Ning, Olympics champion and founder of his namesake sportswear company, and retired NBA star Dwyane Wade were among the headline speakers.

Tsai, also chairman of the publisher of South China Morning Post and its owner Alibaba Group, played in a basketball match kicking off the second day of the summit, joined by Taiwanese singer Will Liu and former CBA stars Zhu Fangyu, Meng Duo and Li Qun.

Macau government officials said the city, with its location in the Greater Bay Area and strong conference and tourism facilities, strives to play a vital role in facilitating sports industry connections.

Li Ning, founder of his namesake sportswear company, spoke at the summit on Friday. Photo: Handout

China’s sports market is expected to grow 5.2 per cent annually in the next three to five years, reaching 5 trillion yuan (US$695 billion) by 2035, said Harrison Liu, partner at PwC China, citing the firm’s latest industry survey.

“China’s sports industry is rapidly recovering thanks to a series of policy support measures,” Liu said. That is set to stimulate the growth of related upstream and downstream industries, a trend that is beginning to catch the eyes of more investors, he added.

The summit signals that the sport industry’s recovery is robust after the Covid years, according to Farrell Wang, vice-president and chief marketing officer at Li Ning. The sector is witnessing a resurgence of Chinese consumers taking part in sports, he said.

“The excitement surrounding sports events and the community’s engagement are making an extraordinary comeback,” Wang said. “We are excitedly optimistic about what lies ahead.”

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