Despite failing to qualify for the recent FIFA World Cup finals in Russia, China was among the top ten nations in terms of fan presence at the tournament, highlighting the country’s growing passion for the game. With a population of 1.3 billion, the Chinese market presents a wealth of opportunities for football clubs and leagues.
The DFL’s focus on technology and innovation has already placed the Bundesliga among the top leagues favoured by Chinese football fans: The Bundesliga’s ‘Football As It’s Meant to Be’ hashtag was shared more than 400 million times in China last year, surpassing the use of similar hashtags used by England’s Premier League and Spain’s La Liga competitions. However, with competition in the Chinese market intensifying, how does the DFL hope to maintain the Bundesliga’s place at the top of this table?
Jinri Toutiao, a content aggregator owned by Chinese technology start-up Bytedance where users can generate feeds based on their interests and likes, may hold the key to unlocking the full potential of the Chinese market. The DFL has recently launched a Bundesliga channel on the platform that will provide Bundesliga fans in the region greater access to German football. In return, the DFL gains access to Jinri Toutiao’s 700 million users, helping to further strengthen its growing international fanbase.
The DFL has also announced plans to open a new Beijing office to support its efforts to target the Chinese football market. This initiative, which will be added to the DFL’s global network of operations in Singapore, the United States and India, is part of a new long-term strategy aimed at boosting activities in China. Led by Bundesliga International’s Senior Audio Visual Rights Manager, Patrick Stueber, the office will work closely with PP Sports, a Bundesliga media partner, and its parent company Suning Commerce Group, leveraging the company’s market expertise to produce and distribute content that appeals to Chinese fans.
Localised content will play a big role in the DFL’s efforts by engaging and entertaining fans with information and videos that are targeted at them. Using WSC Sport’s artificial intelligence technology, for example, the highlights can be generated based on parameters such as goals, teams, players or nationalities. According to Robert Klein, CEO of Bundesliga International, the focus on creating localised content has “helped forge strong rapport with Chinese fans, with their appreciation of pure, authentic football epitomised by our ‘Football As It’s Meant To Be’ hashtag, an asset that’s shared and celebrated by our fans across the world.”
According to Klein, the DFL’s success in China is a result of the tireless efforts of numerous DFL stakeholders, including DFL Digital Sports and the DFL’s Chinese partners. However, the DFL’s focus on technology and innovation is what is really paying off in the Chinese market, with fans increasingly showing their support through social media activity. The Bundesliga already boasts more than 2.6 million followers on the Chinese social media platform Weibo but has high hopes of boosting this base by offering Chinese football fans more than other leagues can.
“The launch of our Jinri Toutiao platform and this latest evidence further strengthens the Bundesliga’s position as football’s online market leader in China,” Klein said. “We’re excited to build on this success and increase our Chinese fan base further over the coming seasons.”