China has set their sights on becoming the top Asian footballing nation. The Guardian reported that; “In terms of league football, the Middle Kingdom is on the march. In 2011 the Chinese Super League overtook the Japanese league in terms of average attendance”.

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Football is a huge phenomenon in China with growing support for domestic and European teams


The ministry of education in China has even introduced a compulsory footballing programme that will be in 20,000 schools by 2017.  Once this is implemented approximately eight million young people will be playing football regularly.

For more information on the growth of football in China, see our previous article.

The rise of football and the ‘Chinese Super League’ coincides with the increasing popularity of European clubs.

Chinese fans and even players will often support their local team and a foreign, more established team.

With over 1.3 billion potential fans, making an impression has become a top priority for European teams looking to capitalize on the Chinese middle class’s spending power.

Having a presence online and on social media is vital

Clubs are not only competing on the pitch in China, they are also competing online to build a reputation and grow their following. The language barrier has limited the appeal of English clubs’ websites whilst censorship restrictions have meant Chinese fans cannot follow their teams on traditional western social media.

To overcome these obstacles, many top clubs are now marketing themselves on Chinese social networks in Mandarin. The Chinese have a seemingly insatiable desire for social networking. ‘Sina Weibo’, China’s answer to ‘Twitter’ has over 500 million users, double that of its American counterpart.

The most popular teams have all understood the importance of creating official Weibo accounts and marketing themselves effectively on this platform. According to a BBC study, a ‘high proportion of fans expect to be able to use social networking to talk about their favorite club’.

With fans supporting teams often without any direct connection to the club or place, marketing effectively on social networks is even more important, as a connection must be established in other ways.

Here are the most popular football teams on Weibo:

Manchester United

Manchester United have the most followers on Weibo, significantly more than other clubs.

The club has invested heavily into marketing themselves in China. According to a report by the BBC, the brand is estimated to be worth $1.2bn (£789m) making it the most valuable footballing brand in the world.

The Premier League has strong links in China and has even ‘vowed to help improve the professional game in the country through a formal partnership with the Chinese Super League (CSL)’. In return, the CSL will provide assistance to the Premier League and its clubs with regards to promotion and marketing in China, as well as staging matches and other business initiatives.

Manchester United, as a key player in the Premier League, benefit significantly from this cross-border exchange of expertise.

The Weibo page features pictures of key players, an iconic image of Old Trafford and is translated into Mandarin. Sponsorship features heavily, as the clubs lucrative deal with Chevrolet is highlighted by a close up of the shirt design.

man u weibo

The English Premier League is so popular in China that it is used by the British tourist body to attract tourists.

This image is displayed as part of a slide show on ‘Visit Britain’s’ Weibo page.


We are the top and most visible Web & Marketing Agency for China you will find on the web. Our Services: E-Commerce, Search Engine Optimization, Advertising, Weibo, WeChat, WeChat Store & PR.


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One Comment

  1. Hi Olivier! I think this article would have been more fruitful had you provided the estimated Chinese followers for each of these 5 teams on Social Media, don’t you think?

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