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China Digest | Vivo dials up new IPL sponsorship deal; CSL TV payments are delayed; Zhou Qi signs four-year deal with NBA’s Rockets; and more

Weekly round-up of sports business news from the Chinese sports industry.

Vivo dials up new IPL sponsorship deal

Vivo, until recently a brand that few had ever heard of, is now putting itself on the global sports sponsorship map at quite a pace.

Just weeks after becoming the latest Chinese firm to sign on with Fifa, joining the likes of Alibaba, Hisense and Wanda, the mobile handset manufacturer is shelling out $341m (€300m) to retain its title sponsorship rights for the Indian Premier League Twenty20 cricket competition.

With other Chinese phone brands including Oppo, Xiaomi and Gionee creating something of a bubble in the Indian cricket landscape as they each go after the ‘other’ billion consumers, Vivo is paying a staggering 554 per cent increase on its previous two-year deal.

Earlier this year, Vivo penned a five-year title sponsorship deal with India’s Pro Kabaddi League for $46.5m.

Delay in CSL TV payments from CSM

While Chinese firms are continuing to spend abroad, the domestic market is looking a little more uncertain.

Chinese Super League (CSL) clubs were reportedly told this week that their latest TV revenue payments would be delayed as China Sports Media (CSM), who paid 8bn RMB (€1.06bn/$1.20bn) for five years starting from the 2016 season, seeks to renegotiate the terms of that deal.

IMAGE: CSM is looking to renegotiate its Chinese Super League deal (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

CSM was widely seen to have overpaid at the time – with the first two years costing 1bn RMB each, and the three subsequent years each costing 2bn RMB – but they soon turned a profit, selling the first two seasons onto LeSports for 2.7bn RMB.

Rival broadcaster PPTV picked up the slack after LeSports fell into financial difficulties, but LeSports’ fate has clearly depressed the overall market.

More recently, CSM has blamed the CSL’s new transfer rules that have drastically slowed the influx of foreign stars, thereby greatly reducing the marketability of the league.

CSM has a point, but it’s a can of worms: if the League agrees to reduce the rights fee, can it then demand an increase each time a new foreign player arrives?

PwC brought in to give financial advice to football clubs

Meanwhile, with CSM casting around the Big Four for an adviser to help build their case, the Chinese Football Association (CFA) has hired PwC to review the finances of all CSL and League One clubs.

With the business services firm beating out its more experienced rivals to win the contract, it has been tasked with teaching clubs how to operate more prudently as well as monitoring their balance sheets.

Under new rules brought in last month, clubs that run at a loss – thought to be all 32 clubs under review – are now subject to a slate of new fees that will be applied to player transfers.

Baoding chairman in tears over match-fixing claims

The CFA also has its hands full as the shadow of match-fixing has reared its ugly head once again.

In perhaps the most unusual post-match press conference of the season, Meng Yongli, chairman of Baoding Rongda FC, tearfully accused the officials of deciding the result after an injury-time penalty allowed Wuhan to snatch a point in a 2-2 draw.

Meng then announced his club would immediately withdraw from the League, a decision he now looks to have withdrawn.

Meanwhile, five former players of Hong Kong ­Premier League side Pegasus have been charged by the city’s Independent Commission Against Corruption with offering and accepting bribes of around $7,700 while attempting to fix three reserve games.

Tencent secures Tour de France deal

Chinese web giant Tencent has been busy this week, snapping up online rights to the ongoing Tour de France, another example in a long line of properties previously held by LeSports, but now reassigned elsewhere.

In other news, the firm has scored with its Honour of Kings (pictured) franchise, which is now the world’s top-earning mobile game, grossing as much as $876m in the first quarter, or approximately half of the company’s total online gaming revenue.

But the game has become so popular that Tencent is now limiting access to some of its younger users, with those under 12 restricted to one hour of play per day – and no logins later than 9pm – while those between 12 and 18 can play for up to two hours per day.

Rockets hope to soar in China thanks to Zhou signing

The Houston Rockets are maintaining their status as ‘China’s team’ both on and off the court.

Sportswear firm Li-Ning has become an official partner of the Rockets, announcing plans to cooperate on training and youth camps in both China and Houston.

Meanwhile, Chinese centre Zhou Qi has signed a four-year deal with Houston, after they selected him with the 43rd pick in last year’s draft.

No one is – or should be – expecting the 7’2” Zhou to become the next Yao Ming, but he has a decent chance of having a solid career and should become just the sixth Chinese player to play in the NBA.

Following on from last week’s digest, which reported how the NFL’s long-planned China game would still happen “further down the road”, executive VP of international Mark Waller says the League is now targeting 2019.

As before, the Los Angeles Rama will be designated as the home team, though it’s unclear if the San Francisco 49ers will still be their opponents.

Also this week…

Further reading…

The China Digest is written by Mark Dreyer, who runs the China Sports Insider website, which features sports business news and analysis related to China’s fast-growing sports industry. He has worked for Sky Sports, Fox Sports, AP Sports and many others, and has covered major sporting events on five continents, including three Olympic Games. He has been based in China since 2007.

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