About two thirds (65 percent) of Chinese football fans intend to buy products from an official sponsor of a football club. At least that’s what a new study says.

The Red Card+ Report has asked more than 30,000 football fans in China about their motivation for following European leagues. One thing is clear: Chinese fans can be strongly influenced by team sponsoring and marketing measures.

More than half (58 percent) consider sponsors to be very influential in their partnerships with clubs. This shows the value these associations can have on fans in China. This creates great opportunities for the global sports business. Clubs such as FC Bayern have been working for years on the right positioning in China.

The report is the largest survey of Chinese sports fans to date. The sports marketing agency Mailman developed it together with the soccer news app Sike.

Sports sponsoring as a new concept in China

According to Tom Elsden, Senior Client Manager at Mailman, the marketing preferences of Chinese fans are a reflection of China’s changing culture.

In the West, we have been exposed to marketing and sponsors on a daily basis for 30 years. Here in China, sponsorship is a relatively new concept. It’s working for fans and we expect additional growth and investment. This is a great opportunity for football clubs and sponsors.”

The report also shows a number of cultural differences among football fans. 76 percent of Chinese fans prefer a favorite player over a favorite club. This is in contrast to Western culture, where geography or family traditions are often the reasons for choosing a club. Chinese fans are a little more relaxed about this and a large number (72 percent) even follow a second team besides their favorite.

“We know that China is an icon market, that the players really dictate which teams the fans follow. So far, there have been no figures on this. We would encourage clubs to put more of their star players online, develop their presence and then use it as a lever to spread the clubs throughout China,” said Elsden.

More than half (54 percent) of fans are willing to pay to watch games. The majority (92 percent) would prefer to see the games at home. This behavior is partly due to the time difference. On the one hand, many games do not start until after 10 p. m., and on the other hand many fans prefer to watch football alone on mobile devices.

Chinese fans prefer their club’s official social media channels over traditional news sites, with 71 percent receiving their messages from official Weibo and WeChat accounts, which they consider more trustworthy.

Red Card+ Report provides new insights

The Red Card+ Report is a supplement to the annual Red Card Report, which analyzes and determines the influence of European football teams on Chinese social media channels.

According to Andrew Collins, Mailman CEO, the report is the most comprehensive analysis of modern Chinese fans of European football.

“The analysis in this report provides more insight than ever into what really drives these fans. The survey provided some of the results we expected. Others have improved our understanding of the people driving the fast-growing football market in China.”