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China Digest | China invests in its basketball legacy

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

China invests in its basketball legacy

With momentum starting to build for next year’s basketball World Cup in China, world governing body Fiba has revealed plans to open a new basketball academy in Beijing. The facility will be the first of its kind in the world and will offer sports marketing and event operation courses in addition to on-court coaching. Infront China has also worked with Fiba on the tournament’s licensing program and has hired Hong Kong firm PPW, who previously worked on the 2018 Fifa World Cup and the 2008 Olympic Games, to develop merchandising products, including apparel, headwear, toys, souvenirs, homeware and books, while Beijing company BSCD is the licensing agent in China for precious metals, stamps and commemorative coins. Elsewhere, Fiba has signed a global partnership with Chinese consumer electronics company TCL, which covers all Fiba competitions until the end of 2019, and will give the brand on-court visibility at next year’s tournament, while TCL will also present an award to the best player of each game.

Klay Thompson launches charity project in Guiyang

In other basketball news, Golden State Warriors star Klay Thompson, who signed a 10-year $80m extension with Chinese sportswear manufacturer Anta last year, has launched an educational charity project in Guiyang in the south of the country. However, the feelgood factor surrounding Thompson’s latest visit was tempered somewhat, when former CBA player Lyu Xiaoming brutally fouled Thompson’s friend in a street game in the city of Taiyuan, prompting an angry tirade from the NBA star that went viral.

World Cup sponsors Hisense could face fine in wake of new partnership

Chinese electronics firm Hisense, currently enjoying global exposure as a Fifa World Cup sponsor, recently partnered with Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com for a special promotion for the platform’s “702 Super Brand Day” on July 2. Hisense also unveiled three World Cup-branded products to mark the event: a TV, an air conditioning unit and a fridge. But there is some concern that the pitchside banner ad that promotes Hisense as “China’s No 1 TV brand” during select World Cup matches might contravene China’s advertising law, which forbids companies from using words such as “biggest” or “best” in their campaigns. Hisense used the same claim at the 2016 European Championships in France, but China’s regulations have since tightened. If found guilty, they could face a fine of up to 1 million RMB (US$154,000).

China gears up for the 2022 Winter Olympics

Chinese skiing resorts are gearing up for the 2022 Winter Olympics, with the Games also launching a large sustainability drive. Speaking on the sidelines of the 13th China Ski Industry Forum in Chongli, which will host some of the skiing events in 2022, industry expert Bao Ankang said the successful bid for the Games in 2015 had generated a surge in winter sport investment, while the Games themselves in 2022 would mark the start of new demand, predicting that China’s winter sports industry would grow rapidly for “at least six to eight years” afterwards. Meanwhile, Du Wei, deputy director of the Beijing-Zhangjiakou Winter Olympics research institute, said Beijing would gain more ‘soft power’ compared to when it hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics, but stressed that co-host Zhangjiakou should focus on its local specialties to impress Olympics guests instead of attempting to become more like the capital.

Chinese partnership drives plans to professionalise ping pong

The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) has laid out its plans to professionalise the sport through a partnership that’s the brainchild of Chinese businessman Frank Ji, founder of sports marketing agency Sportsmaster. Meanwhile, the ITTF has agreed a three-year partnership with Chinese sportswear manufacturer Li-Ning, which will see the firm outfit umpires and referees in official tournaments. Li-Ning has previously sponsored several of the Chinese Olympic teams, including table tennis, shooting and diving.

Chinese owner faces losing AC Milan after FFP investigation

Chinese-owned AC Milan has been banned from next season’s Uefa Europa League due to its “uncertain finances”, after a Financial Fair Play (FFP) investigation concluded that the club could not provide sufficient evidence of its financial stability, with massive loans to US hedge fund Elliott Management due to be repaid in October this year. That puts an end to another much-needed source of revenue for the club, amid reports two potential bids for the club from the US have been turned down by owner Li Yonghong. The Chinese businessman is thought to be trying to shore up the club’s finances through additional funding to avoid having to offload the club at a reduced rate in the future. But a new, smaller loan to Elliott is due next week, which, if unpaid, could mean Li will lose control of the club. The future remains far from certain.

Also this week:

  • Chinese private equity firm Orient Hontai Capital concludes its deal to acquire a majority stake in Spanish media group Imagina, parent company of the Mediapro agency.
  • China’s island province of Hainan replaces Brazil as host for the World StandUp Paddle and Paddleboard Championship.
  • The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) gives the green light to Beijing’s venue masterplan for the 2022 winter Paralympic Games.
  • Chinese diary firm – and Real Madrid sponsor – Yili ranks behind just Nestle and Coca-Cola in Brand Finance’s most valuable food brands, while World Cup sponsor Mengniu rises seven places to 13th.

And some 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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