Manchester United most popular online team in China: Report

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China’s football landscape has attracted global attention in the last 12 months and is now the number one international market for European clubs and leagues. New commercial opportunities continue to arise from the digital, media and sponsorship ecosystems.

In the Red Card 2017 sixth annual report, there are some interesting findings. It is brings to the fore the most influential European football clubs online in China.  2017 report measures the performance of over 50 European clubs across 8 different digital metrics.

It  is the first report to announce the most influential player online in China. And its is no surprise that topping the list is Portugal’s superstar Cristiano Ronaldo. The Real Madrid star is the  most influential player online in China, with 10x higher 4 engagement than any other player.

The players were measured according to their Weibo followers, engagement and output. For players, it is increasingly important to grow their own brand on social media during their careers to ensure that they can leverage their popularity in the future.

The aim of this report is to educate teams and organisations on how to improve their China digital strategy.

Interestingly the team that is most popular in China online is English Premier League club  Manchester United. According to Jamie Reigle, commercial director of Manchester united, was quoted as saying: “China is Manchester United’s most influential markets and we have long history of fan engagement with our Chinese followers. Recent changes in the Chinese digital landscape have enabled a revolution in how we connect and communicate with our fans in the country. Our partnership with Sina Sports has delivered MUTV and customised content, while WeChat has altered how we relate with our supporters”.

Manchester United is the most influential team online in China, with the 1 highest number of followers of any football club. The Bundesliga has the strongest digital presence of any European football 2 league in China, also the only league to launch a live stream.

What is noteworthy is that Mobile live streaming has emerged as the most effective platform to engage 3 & monetize a Chinese fan base

Live streaming has been the biggest digital trend in China this year. Over 200 live stream platforms have been launched aiming to gain market share of the 300+ million users. Chinese live stream apps, incorporating virtual money, have innovated far quicker than in the West.

How the leagues perform online in China impacts the rights fees. European leagues were assessed on their Weibo followers and engagement, WeChat performance, live streams

Weibo is the number one social network for brand awareness and viral content. In 2016, it grew by over 70 million monthly active users.  In 2016 the platform fully launched Miaopai, a video channel with over 2.5 billion videos watched every day, and Yizhibo, its live stream network, with around 1.5 million daily active viewers.

FC Bayern is the most engaged club on Weibo for the second year in a row.

Manchester United is the most followed club on Weibo with over 8.8 million fans

The report states that the  Chinese market is the most lucrative for European football leagues. As the broadcast landscape becomes increasingly competitive, sports networks are paying record fees to acquire broadcast rights.

One of the startling story in the said report is that the German Bundesliga, is the only European league that has a full digital presence including a Chinese language website and has launched live stream content.

The sole reason for this for that fact that  Bundesliga has been quick to react to online trends in China, creating content pieces around these hot topics.