Staff Writer
Nov 11, 2022

United for success: How Chinese brands can leverage sports to win internationally

SPORTFIVE’s Echo Li expounds on how Chinese brands can use 'the beautiful game' to raise their global profile.

United for success: How Chinese brands can leverage sports to win internationally
Sport brings people together like little else. Its in-built fandom, global interest, and borderless nature present a unique opportunity for brands to boost visibility among new consumers, integrate into emerging markets and communicate directly to their target audience. Marketers have long known this, but they also know it is not that straightforward. 
“Sports marketing is not only simply sponsorship,” says Echo Li, managing director of Greater China & senior vice president of global partnerships at SPORTFIVE, the market-leading global sports agency.
“We place individual brands at the heart of passionate connections between fans and leading sports properties and are committed to building credible and authentic partnerships that deliver real value for many of the world's leading brands.”
A case in point is Hisense's latest cooperation with FIFA through the FIFA Foundation's Football 4 Schools charity programme in South Africa, which SPORTFIVE engineered as creative activation agency for the Chinese consumer brand’s FIFA World Cup global campaign.
Hisense joined the programme, which was established in 2019, with a kick-off event featuring FIFA Legend Yaya Toure that also saw an educational workshop and interactive sessions for children and coaches.
Through engaging games, the children learned practical and environmentally friendly knowledge and tips from the personalised session, while Hisense donated high-tech equipment and filmed a CSR video focusing on how climate change has affected local South African children's daily life and their football dreams.
“We are honoured to have facilitated Hisense in crafting this exciting digital campaign, ‘Disappearing Pitch’ in South Africa. The campaign will not only raise public awareness on climate change in South Africa but also call for actions to create a more sustainable world via football and youth education, empowered by Hisense,” Echo says.
“This is intended to bring joy, help children with the joy of football, and create a happier and more sustainable future for the future,” she added.
SPORTFIVE was instrumental in Hisense’s Dream Pitch campaign, which invited children in Tembisa to draw their dream football pitches
SPORTFIVE and Hisense’s fruitful partnership goes back to the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, with the agency engaged by Hisense after it made history as the Chinese consumer electronics brand to sponsor the tournament.     
“We were engaged to activate numerous advertising rights during the event in Russia, intending to support Hisense's global expansion via football marketing,” Echo said. 
Then, as now, SPORTFIVE’s role was holistic, Echo says: “We manage integrated sports marketing activations, including ports marketing strategy consulting, digital media platform creative activation, digital content production, event management, and comprehensive project management services.”
As Hisense’s creative activation agency for the 2018 World Cup campaign, SPORTFIVE developed a series of creative marketing cases across 18 international markets, gaining experience in cross-border project collaboration, overseas media buying, and supplier control. This included extensive video content featuring football legends such as Robert Pires and Luis Figo for Hisense’s #SeetheIncredible campaign and the brand’s first-ever global customer conference in Moscow — culminating in an unforgettable VIP hospitality experience at the 2018 World Cup final.
Hisense’s #SeetheIncredible campaign 
Between World Cups, SPORTFIVE also facilitated Hisense's multi-year partnership with esports organisation Fnatic, beginning in October 2020, before deepening their cooperation ahead of the Qatar 2022 tournament, including a collaboration with Jelle's Marble Run.
It is a game plan that other brands can replicate in both traditional sports and the booming e-sports market. “Sports sponsorship starts with brand-oriented thinking,” Echo says. “With many years of experience in building commercial relationships between leading global rights holders and brands, SPORTFIVE selects resources with a brand-led mindset, and we can develop a value fit and win-win empowerment to accomplish a collaboration model between brands and sports IP.”
With SPORTFIVE's help, Hisense and Esports club Fnatic reached a multi-year partnership
SPORTFIVE China has facilitated hundreds global and regional sports sponsorship and consulting activation deals alone. 
Previous case studies include helping Chinese brands Jinro, China UnionPay, and Coocaa connect with fans across Southeast Asia as sponsors of the AFF Suzuki Cup 2020 and assisting Oppo in becoming official smartphone of the same event — the brand's debut in the regional sporting arena. Oppo’s aim to inspire fans to enjoy football and ‘play with heart’ on and off the pitch is a prime example of using a brand's culture and values to drive engagement. 
SPORTFIVE also supported Oppo in becoming the first Chinese brand to partner with the UEFA Champions League as a global partner, proof positive of SPORTFIVE’s ability to harness the power of sports to support Chinese brands in their globalisation journey.
Oppo becomes UEFA Champions League global sponsor
For the European regional market, SPORTFIVE China aided TikTok in partnering with German football giants Borussia Dortmund, using the club's popularity to target fans and further Byte Dance’s international strategy, with the eight-time Bundesliga champions swiftly amassing 1.5 million likes.
“We assist companies in matching the most effective sports marketing resources to their real demands and budgets, and we execute accurate positioning, analysis, and strategic sorting of possible brand consumers and markets,” Echo says.
“It is key to leverage the sports resources and sponsorship rights for sponsors to create a highly participatory campaign for fans and users, while also monitoring the on-pitch actions to adjust our creative activation for brands.”
SPORTFIVE helped TikTok debut in the European markets through a regional partnership with BVB
This specialist knowledge is not something that brands can do themselves, while SPORTFIVE has more than 50 years’ experience, analysis, and insight. The core of SPORTFIVE China’s USP is that they are uniquely placed to bridge the gap between the East and the West — not just by helping Chinese brands launch in global markets, but also advising international brands on how to enter the China market.
That can mean anything from targeted social media campaigns and localised partnerships to selecting the right brand ambassador to appeal to local audiences.
Take internationally renowned restaurant chain Subway, who SPORTFIVE helped sign up Chinese basketball star Guo Ailun as their first Chinese brand ambassador. The news garnered close to 100 million impressions in the first two weeks setting the scene for meaningful initiatives and activations with Chinese consumers to follow.
When it comes to sports marketing opportunities, nothing comes close to the global power of the FIFA World Cup — as SPORTFIVE and its partners well know. 
Russia 2018 saw Hublot appoint SPORTFIVE as its creative activation agency in the China market culminating in the #IWasThere campaign on Weibo and WeChat, while Oppo partnered with Brazilian superstar Neymar to successfully launch the Find X model in China and 25 international markets during the tournament.
Hublot 2018 World Cup China social campaign
The World Cup is only getting bigger. Google has stated that YouTube searches for the Qatar 2022 tournament have surpassed 2018 by 80 percent, while the search engine giant predicted that viewing figures could soar by some 30 percent to around 300 million people.
For brands like Hisense, that presents an opportunity. Their #PerfectMatch campaign, promoted across social media channels, offers the chance for customers to win Qatar 2022 tickets and premium products, proving that it can be a win-win.
When it comes to sports marketing, victory for brands is simple. “Success,” Echo says, “is an increase in brand fans and market exposure and awareness, as well as increased brand market share and revenue.”

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