Why Chinese Tech Brands Flocked To The Euro 2020?
This year the Euro 2020 competitions took an unexpected turn, with Italy claiming victory over England through penalty shootouts last weekend. However, almost every time that matches were staged across Europe, we saw digital billboards of Chinese tech brands dominate the circumference of the pitch.
During the last Euro championships in 2016, there was only one Chinese sponsor, the TV producer HiSense. However, the TV maker was joined by other Chinese brands like Vivo, Alipay, and Tiktok on the billboards this year. Unfortunately, there are no signs of any US equivalents like Google, Facebook, Amazon, or Apple on the official partners’ list.
While speaking to the press, tournament organizers (UEFA) said they had no specific strategy related to Chinese collaborations, with their main aim being to engage a global fan base. That extended from the brands featured on their commercial programs to the gameplay itself, with online betting enthusiasts wagering on the matches from all over the world.
TikTok, which claims their platform is separate from their operations in China, only partnered with UEFA for this year’s tournament and threw a ton of promotional weight on their platform. That included hashtag challenges, TikTok lives, and branded augmented reality effects. UEFA also unveiled their official tournament account for the competition and was followed by around 4.2 million people.
Chinese payment platform, Alipay also brought their subsidiary blockchain firm Antchain, as both are part of the giant tech brand, Ant Group. Unfortunately, Alipay is not accessible to people without Chinese IDs in all countries. Nonetheless, AntChain announced their five-year deal with UEFA early last month, although Alipay had an independent eight-year contract in place.
Alipay is offering a trophy to the top scorer in all the Euro 2020 games, with Antichain recording all the scores. UEFA also announced that the hashtag symbol at the base of the trophy shows Antichain’s commitment to ensuring an incorruptible record for the top scorer’s achievement using blockchain technology.
But what’s in it for these Chinese brands?
According to Birmingham University sports policy lecturer ShuShu Chen, HiSense reported a significant rise in sales following their 2016 Euros sponsorship. However, it’s not a coincidence that China’s head of state, President I JinPin is popular as a huge soccer fan, and with the increasing government regulation and scrutiny on the country’s tech giants, it seems like a smart PR move to be supportive to the game.
Omdia’s senior advertising analyst, Matt Bailey also agrees that most of these Chinese firms are starting to feel pressured in the home market. That makes Europe an increasingly important market for these Chinese companies, especially considering TikTok’s explosion in 2020.
In 2014, President Xi added the sport to China’s national school curriculum, before the Chinese Super League launched in 2016. The CSL immediately started signing expensive international players, with the biggest being Chelsea’s star Oscar who plays for Shanghai SIPG. However, despite spreading around all the cash, all signs show that their pocked isn’t that deep anymore, with the CSL introducing salary caps late last year to curb money football. In any case, the Chinese have always depended on the west to get their soccer fix and they were also closely following the Euro 2020 competition. As such, the Euros presented this Chinese brand with a great opportunity to penetrate the mass-market audience.