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Uefa refocuses digital energies in China after hesitant start

Uefa has refocused its energies on building a social media presence in China with the launch of a Champions League account on the country’s most popular messaging platform WeChat.

The federation has been relatively slow to establish a digital output in the country, relaunching a dormant Uefa Champions League account on Weibo in November last year. At one stage the organisation translated all of its social media content for use on platforms overseas before deciding to pull back on its translation services.

A statement from the federation indicated that it was now going to localise content in China again.

“The WeChat and Weibo platforms will offer users premium Uefa Champions League content, personalised for the Chinese market. Chinese football fans will be able to enjoy content such as classic Uefa Champions League moments, star player interviews and profiles, official data analysis and highlights plus much more,” it said.

SportBusiness understands the hesitancy can be explained by indecision at the governing body about whether its role is to sell media rights for other media organisations to exploit, or whether it is a commercial, direct-to-consumer business itself. The recent announcement that it will launch an OTT streaming platform indicates that it is leaning towards the latter.

Uefa already has a significant presence on western social media channels, particularly via the Champions League and Euro brands.

Fifa has been equally slow to build a digital presence in China. The global federation launched online in the country in early 2018. Digital agency Mailman’s recent Red Card report indicated that clubs, leagues, and players in particular, have been much quicker to build social media followings in the region.

China is of increasing commercial significance to Uefa, as evidenced by an eight-year global partnership with Chinese payment platform Alipay to sponsor its men’s national team football competitions from 2018 to 2026, including Uefa Euro 2020 and 2024 and the Uefa Nations League finals.