The New England Patriots have become the leading National Football League side on digital media in China.
The Super Bowl champions now have more than 500,000 followers on the country’s leading digital platform Weibo having added 400,000 in the last 12 months.
In doing so, the Patriots have become the first NFL team to reach the half-million milestone in China and are currently growing quicker than many European football clubs including Manchester United and FC Barcelona as well as the majority of NBA clubs. The closest NFL team to the Patriots on Weibo is the Pittsburgh Steelers with 271,000 followers.
Digital agency Mailman attributed the growth to a dedicated and localised approach in the region. The team produced a China-specific studio show as well as the Tom Brady China Show – a monthly content series featuring 6-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady.
Fred Kirsch, publisher and vice-president of content with the Patriots said: “China represents a strategic and important market for the Patriots and we’re delighted to see our commitment delivering positive results and a growing core fan base. To surpass 500,000 fans on Weibo is a great milestone and we intend to build on this foundation as we move forward with more local China projects this year.”
Unlike its nearest competitor, the NBA, the NFL has been slow to target China. It has yet to host a pre-season or official match in the country although this looks likely to change. Last month, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell labelled China a ‘priority market’.
The Patriots’ following in China still has some way to go to catch that of the leading European football clubs. When Mailman’s most recent Red Card digital report was published in January, Manchester United had 9, 318, 276 followers on Weibo while the next nearest club, Manchester City, had 8, 312, 536.