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Wu impresses La Liga, lifts Espanyol popularity in China

Martin Guo

Editor-in-Chief, Kantar China Insights

TV & Movie 05.06.2019 / 18:00

Wu Lei after last match

After Chinese forward Wu Lei joins RCD Espanyol in January, the Spanish club’s awareness jumps in China. His good public image offers brands opportunity to sign him as ambassador.

Since Chinese forward Wu Lei joined Spanish club RCD Espanyol in the dying days of winter transfer window, he has managed to play in 16 games and netted three goals, including the Periquitos’ last goal of this season, which secured its seat in next season’s UEFA Europa League.

To gauge the impact of Wu’s transfer to Espanyol among Chinese football audiences, Kantar surveyed consumers through computers and WeChat and collected 1,010 valid answers. Our data showed that even with trap options, 89% of respondents can correctly answer he joined Espanyol. On the contrary, people are less familiar with his Chinese club – only 67% correctly pointed out that he was a former SIPG club player and 10% mistook him as from another Shanghai team Shanghai Shenhua.

Chinese audiences’ newfound interest has also boosted Espanyol’s social media fan base: 56% respondents said they followed Periquitos on Weibo, 47% followed them on WeChat. Also, 64% said they would discuss news about Wu with their friends or colleagues.

Comparatively speaking, female fans are more active on social media. They not only followed Espanyol, but also used Wu news as part of their daily chat topics. Male fans are more interested in following the news. They also talked about it, but not as actively as female fans.



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Now the top five European football leagues are all available in China. Except for Germany’s Bundesliga which is available only on digital platforms, English Premier League, La Liga, France Ligue 1 and Serie A are all broadcast live both on traditional TV and digital platforms. However, La Liga was not shown on nationwide sports channel, such as CCTV 5, and its national TV audience base is smaller than other foreign leagues.

Yu Songtao, Sports Research Director of CSM, said: “Our TV rating data showed that traditional TV stations (local sports TV channels showing La Liga games) significantly increased the number of Espanyol games to broadcast live. By the end of the season, the accumulative TV audience of Espanyol games accounted for 11.5% of all La Liga TV audience in China.”

As China Central TV Station is not broadcasting La Liga games, digital video platforms, such as PPTV, has become the mainstream nationwide channel for audiences to watch Spanish league matches. They’re followed by sports channels of some local TV stations.



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China is a truly “Mobile First” market in many aspects, but in sports viewing activities, big screen is still the most preferred medium. Among all surveyed audiences, in the past three months, 63% of them watched European football league matches through traditional TV, 55% through smart TV or TV sets with set-top-boxes – both are higher than watching through mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) (48%). Desktop and laptops (35%) are not far behind either. As a matter of fact, post 80s generation (people born in 1980s) are the least likely to watch through desktop or laptop. Pre 95s (38%) and Post 95s (39%) are higher than average.



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* 747 respondents answered this multiple-choice question. The current chart has been weighted. The sample size of pre-70s is not sufficient from statistical perspective. Pre-70 generation data is just for reference.

Yu added: “Mobile devices have empowered sports audiences to watch games whenever and wherever they want. But to fully enjoy sports games, sports audiences still prefer big-screens to watch sports. Through analysing audience behaviour of major sport event/programmes, CSM has found that high-quality sports audiences (more than two thirds of total sports audiences) still watch through big screens.

“Thanks to the increasing popularity of smart TV and set-top-boxes, sports fans no longer struggle with through which channel to watch, because they can easily stream digital platforms’ data onto TV screens or mirror from their smartphones,” she continued. “Instead, when they choose, the most important element is how many high-quality sports event assets each platform has.”

In our survey, we also invited respondents to suggest at most three brands that should sign Wu as their brand ambassador. Naturally, sports brands are most mentioned: Nike (194 mentions) and Adidas (162) were top 2, followed by Chinese sports brands Li-Ning (111) and Anta (56). There are also four non-sports brands in the top 10 “candidates”: Huawei, Coca Cola, Red Bull and Yili.



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* Other brands are mentioned fewer than 10 times.

Sophia Huang, account director of Kantar China and celebrity research expert, said: “For non-sports brands, their opportunities (of signing Wu) would come from leveraging his attributes of energetic, active, hard-working personalities as well as his status as a symbol of national pride. At the same time, he hasn’t endorsed many brands so far. This is a big advantage of him compared with entertainment celebrities.”

Sophia added: “At the same time, among the top 10 most mentioned brands, half of them are foreign brands but none is from Spain. The only mentioned Spanish brand other than the Espanyol club itself is Zara (2). This indicates a great celebrity endorsement opportunity for Spanish brands which want to break into the Chinese market.”

Source: CSM, Kantar

Editor's notes

* To know more information, data and analysis of sports marketing and TV ratings in Asia, please contact us.

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