The World Cup is a massive deal in China. The country’s men’s team may have considerately spared their fans the emotional rollercoaster that can be a World Cup finals by not qualifying, but you’ll still find tribes of fervent footie fans supporting Germany, Spain, Brazil, France, and many of the other major teams. Screens showing the games dominate bars and restaurants across the country and streaming platform Youku is showing all the matches for free.
The Chinese internet has been awash with World Cup-related memes since the competition kicked off in Moscow, while signs of just how seriously some fans take it here have been evident in contracts between marriage partners regarding general spousal conduct during the tournament (and how much swearing is allowed if Germany lose), and police in Jiangsu releasing a statement appealing for “calm” in the wake of some surprising early results.
A Nanjing police force Weibo post addresses Germany and Brazil fans in the wake of their shock results: “It’s only one game. Don’t get over-excited, don’t jump off a high building”
Reportedly, 100,000 Chinese fans have made the trip to Russia to watch the games in person, twice the number who made it to the 2002 tournament in Japan and South Korea, which their country actually qualified for. Alas, some might not get to see many actual games:
Some 3,500 Chinese soccer fans have fallen victim in the biggest counterfeit ticket case in #WorldCup history, as a Russian company has reportedly sold more than 10,000 fake tickets to the 2018 Russian World Cup. pic.twitter.com/1ZG4t9Oe33— People's Daily,China (@PDChina) June 19, 2018
Some 3,500 Chinese soccer fans have fallen victim in the biggest counterfeit ticket case in #WorldCup history, as a Russian company has reportedly sold more than 10,000 fake tickets to the 2018 Russian World Cup. pic.twitter.com/1ZG4t9Oe33
— People's Daily,China (@PDChina) June 19, 2018
But it’s not just fans who are travelling to Russia. Chinese brands are more present at the World Cup finals than ever before. So who are the names you keep seeing on the pitch-side hoardings?
(And no, we’re not out here trying to endorse or promote for these brands — we all know money and greed are destroying the beautiful game. This is very much so you’ve got an answer to hand when someone inevitably asks “wtf is a Wanda?” while you’re watching the action.)
A global FIFA partner (the first ever from China), Wanda (万达) has been especially visible at World Cup matches so far. Founded in 1988 in the coastal city of Dalian by entrepreneur Wang Jianlin, Wanda is one of those Chinese conglomerates that has fingers in many, many pies. It’s the world’s biggest property developer, runs its own hotel chain, and has connections with everything from health care to financial services to sports teams.
It’s also heavily involved in the entertainment sphere, owning the world’s largest cinema chain (and a share of AMC Theaters in the US) and Legendary Entertainment, along with having a strategic partnership with Sony Pictures.
Wang, easily one of the richest men in Asia, has been keen to emphasise Chinese culture and characteristics through such ventures, and famously declared that he was going to build a string of China-fied theme parks to take on Shanghai Disneyland. Last year however, the Wanda Group announced it was off-loading around $9 billion USD of theme park and hotel projects as it scaled back some of its vast operations.
Until February of this year, the company owned 20% of Atlético Madrid, though it subsequently sold 17% of this stake. Wanda continues to have a controlling investment in Chinese Super League side Dalian Yifang however.
As part of its link-up with FIFA, Wanda is working on the implementation of a development programme for young Chinese footballers, as the video above shows.
An electronics and white goods manufacturer and majority shareholder in Toshiba, Hisense (海信) has been making moves in the footballing world for the last couple of years now, having sponsored Euro 2016 and the 2017 Confederations Cup and forged a strategic partnership deal with English club Aston Villa in addition to backing the 2018 World Cup.
The group originally had a five-year deal running from 2015 to produce TVs under the Sharp name in North America, but when Foxconn bought out the Japanese electronics brand they sued Hisense in 2017 in an attempt to bring an early end to the agreement, arguing that the Chinese firm had damaged the Sharp name by producing “shoddily made” TVs. The suit was eventually dropped earlier this year.
When #2018FIFAWorldCup™ comes, let's enjoy the football and cheerful music through #HisenseULED! pic.twitter.com/nEdp7m8VIO— Hisense Sports (@HisenseSports) May 16, 2018
When #2018FIFAWorldCup™ comes, let's enjoy the football and cheerful music through #HisenseULED! pic.twitter.com/nEdp7m8VIO
— Hisense Sports (@HisenseSports) May 16, 2018
Nothing shoddy going on there.
The company grew out of the State-owned Qingdao No. 2 Radio Factory to become China’s most popular TV manufacturer. As part of being “the Official Television Supplier to the tournament”, Hisense has launched an exclusive version of the FOX Sports Go app that allows users to stream 2018 World Cup Games in 4K and HDR, use as many as 37 different camera angles, and gain access to a range of video on demand services.
Meanwhile, at CES Asia in Shanghai last week, Hisense was pushing an impressive new concept TV set that allowed you to become your own football commentator, using AI and facial recognition to track players on the pitch and give you a smart run down of their stats.
Inner Mongolia-based China Mengniu Dairy Co (蒙牛) joined the World Cup sponsorship party late last year. The company — China’s second biggest dairy firm — is reportedly spending a cool 2 billion RMB (310 million USD) on World Cup-related marketing events, as it looks to boost its international profile and to some extent continue rebuilding its image at home following China’s 2008 tainted milk scandal.
Some of that money is going into the pockets of Argentinian footballing god Lionel Messi, who signed on as an “ambassador” for the brand in February, a tie-up that has spawned a number of World Cup memes already — as we noted here:
Photo of the Day: Messi’s Milk
Vivo is the “Official Smartphone” of the World Cup (yes, there’s an official everything). It’s using the exposure to push a new NEX phone, which has a 90% plus screen-to-body ratio and a slightly odd-looking pop out camera, as shown off in this globe-trotting commercial:
Founded in the southern city of Dongguan, not far from Shenzhen and Guangzhou, Vivo is less than a decade old but has held a place as one of the top ten mobile phone manufacturers in the world since 2015. It’s increasingly eaten into Xiaomi‘s market share at home and has ramped up its expansion across Asia in the last couple of years, using NBA star Stephen Curry as a spokesperson in their ads.
Football fans had better get used to seeing Vivo at World Cup games too — the company has signed on for the 2022 tournament in Qatar as well.
FIFA has also signed on three “national sponsors” in China for the World Cup 2018. They get less exposure than the above brands out in Russia and are likely doing it more for the cachet they’ll get with the market back home rather than any grand plans of conquering the world. But you’ll still see their logos popping up now and again, as in the photo of England players celebrating against Tunisia up top here.
Diking (帝牌) is a Fujian-founded fashion brand that pledges to bring you “elegant art charm” and “heroic spirit” through their range of natty men’s suits and shirts.
Luci, rather grandly, declares that it is “committed to creating content, developing partnerships, and forming communities that drive humanity to new horizons.” Aren’t we all? What the electronics firm means by that is it’s making 4k 3D VR headsets that provide “immersion on demand”.
And finally there’s Yadea (雅迪), a bike company based mainly out of Shanghai who make some pretty funky-looking electric scooters.
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