Real Madrid have been voted the top football club online in China in the 2019 edition of Mailman’s Red Card report. The publication, which ranks clubs, leagues and players according to 8 digital metrics, also found the Premier League to have the best online presence in the country and ranked Cristiano Ronaldo as the best performing player.
Champions League winners Real Madrid came first largely thanks to their 13th Champions League success which delivered 50 million reads on Weibo. The Spanish club was also the most followed team on the increasingly important Douyin and Toutiao platforms.
In a sign of an increasing divide between the biggest and smallest clubs, the top 15 teams had on average 8.5 times more followers than the next 15 clubs with 90 per cent of the total Weibo engagement. The top 3 clubs Real Madrid, FC Bayern Munich and Manchester United, delivered almost 50 per cent of total WeChat reads in the country.
The report said the Fifa World Cup in Russia had helped to increase the power of players as media brands in the country. The report said 97 per cent of annual follower growth in player accounts was generated after the tournament, leaving players with 30 per cent more combined followers than their clubs.
Cristiano Ronaldo was voted the best player online in China, reward for a digital strategy that saw him producing original content for Chinese audiences. His transfer to Juventus helped the club climb 6 places to fourth in the Red Card rankings.
Three players – Messi, Ronaldo and Neymar – accounted for 75 per cent of total engagements of all players online in China.
Finally, the Premier League was announced as the number one league online for the first time in the report. The report said the decision to launch an official Chinese app, and become the first league to launch on Douyin and Toutiao were instrumental in its success.
The report said European clubs’ digital strategy has shifted from focusing on Weibo, WeChat and a website as these channels became increasingly outdated. It said that club websites had become redundant as user behaviours adjust and new platforms emerged to serve a mobile-centric audience. The WeChat platform was driving the transition from apps and websites with its Mini Program growth. Many clubs have recognised the difficulty in driving users to owned channels and have therefore invested in these newly established platforms.
“Douyin has become a major player in driving brand awareness in China, whilst Dongqiudi, Toutiao and owned platforms such as WeChat Mini Programs have become a prerequisite for all European clubs with ambitions to succeed in China,” the report said.
The top 15 clubs in the Red Card 2019 report correlate closely with those listed in the Deloitte Football Money League 2018, released today causing the report to conclude that a club’s financial power and level of available investment has a direct impact on their popularity online in China.
There is also evidence that digital prowess in the region is helping to drive commercial growth and sponsorship revenues at the leading clubs. Whiskey brand Chivas Regal recently signed a partnership with Manchester United on the back of the club’s popularity in China.
The Mailman digital report is available to download here