The Chinese national team did not qualify for the FIFA World Cup, but several Chinese companies are making sure their presence is felt at the grand football event in Russia 2018.
Chinese brands, including Wanda, Mengniu Dairy, Hisense, Vivo, Yadea, Diking and VR, will be seen at the once-in-four-year tournament as official sponsors.
These Chinese companies will share the space with a handful of global brands such including McDonald's, Visa, Coca-Cola, and Budweiser.
This is a significant leg up from the last FIFA event in 2014 in Brazil, when only one Chinese company - Yingli Solar - had made the cut.
Zhao Xinglin, vice president of Wanda Sports, has backed the importance of sports advertising to expand its brand’s presence internationally. “The essence of sports marketing is emotional...it enhances brand awareness,” Xinglin had said in an interview to Chinese portal 21 Jingji.
FIFA World Cup, the biggest international football event in the world, attracts more than 3 billion viewership and thus the top advertisers globally.
According to FIFA, 250 million of Chinese population watched the World Cup in 2014.
Wanda Group acquired a 20 per cent stake in the Spanish team Atletico de Madrid in 2015. Although the group decided to sell the stake to an Israeli conglomerate last February, they still own the naming rights to the stadium, which has made Wanda very well known in Spain. Following that success, Wanda has become one of FIFA’s long-term sponsors.
Another of the official sponsors Mengniu, one of the main Chinese dairy companies, has changed packaging of 161 products of 27 affiliated brands to promote its “The World Cup’s milk” campaign. According to sources, the company is counting on this sponsorship to take its brand global.
Russia, the host country, has invested more than USD 10 billion in organizing the event. According to Russia's former Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich, claimed the investment has yielded a boost up of about USD 14 billion to the country's GDP. The country has created close to 200,000 jobs in the last 5 years.
According to a report released by Zenith Media, advertisers are expected to spend USD 24 billion during the World Cup. Nearly 35 percent of that expenditure will be accounted by Chinese companies, which is twice as much as what American firms would spend.
China is the world’s second economy but it has a relatively low penetration in global sports. In 2014, the State Council announced a guideline to boost China’s sports industry. This was the first time the Chinese government specifically mentioned the potential economic value of the sports industry. Since then, international brands have been trying to access the Chinese sports market.
FIFA had hit a roadblock with some long-term brands associated with the event, such as Sony, dropped out after corruption scandals against the organiser.
It represents an ideal opportunity for Chinese firms to fill the gap and go international. The solar energy company Yingli Solar, which sponsored the World Cup in 2010 and 2014, doubled its sales as a result.
This year, Chinese sponsors are hoping to repeat the performance.