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Online information providers looking to enhance relationships with fans

By Fan Feifei | China Daily | Updated: 2019-09-10 10:05
Former NBA player Shaquille O'Neal (second from left) visits Hupu, a sports commentary and news platform in Shanghai. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Chinese soccer-themed information and social media apps have accelerated their monetization efforts through advertising and e-commerce platforms as well as by taking part in the operation of offline soccer events.

"As the largest online soccer information platform in China, our advantage lies in how to boost our relationship with fans and interact with them more effectively," said Chen Cong, CEO of Dongqiudi.

Founded in 2013, Dongqiudi provides users with the latest news, live scores, match details, videos, highlights and statistics of soccer competitions. It has collaborated with Chinese retailer Suning on media copyright and offline events for soccer fans.

Apart from offering online information, Dongqiudi has participated in offline soccer events, such as Beijing's London derby - Chelsea vs Arsenal at the Bird's Nest in 2017. It carried out strategic cooperation with Inter Sports, which was in charge of the operation, marketing and promotion of the event. Meanwhile, its e-commerce platform was one of the ticket sales channels.

Chen said Dongqiudi has already made a profit, and advertising and e-commerce platforms, which mainly sell T-shirts authorized by soccer clubs, shoes and related sports goods, have become major sources of revenue.

During the 2018 World Cup in Russia, the number of daily active users reached about 11 million, with each user opening the app eight to 12 times a day on average, according to Chen. The registered users of the app have surpassed 40 million, and the users aged from 18 to 35 accounted for 66.15 percent.

In December 2018, Dongqiudi partnered with Southampton Football Club in China, and they will further strengthen cooperation in content provision, fan interactions, fan products development and design, and e-commerce, to provide better experience and content service for fans.

"In the mobile internet era, sports marketing is no longer just the display of advertisements in a stadium or on TV; how to interact with fans through mobile internet and ensure the maximization of brand equity should be the new direction for us," Chen said.

The company finished its series-C round of funding from Suning, Sequoia Capital and Tianxing Capital in 2016. It has launched an overseas version of the app named All Football.

"We hope to bring our successful experience in China to the overseas markets, gathering soccer fans around the world."

Hupu, another sports commentary and news platform, announced in June that it had raised 1.26 billion yuan ($176.79 million) from Beijing Bytedance Technology Co Ltd in advance of its planned initial public offering.

The deal, which will give Bytedance a 30-percent stake in Hupu, valued the company at 7.7 billion yuan. Hupu's founder and chairman Cheng Hang remains the company's controlling shareholder.

The two companies have collaborated in the past, prior to the investment. After Bytedance became an official global partner of the National Basketball Association last year, the two companies coproduced real-time NBA game videos and news.

With more than 30 million registered users, Hupu monetizes its businesses through advertising, sports events marketing and management, as well as e-commerce and gaming cooperation.

Founded in 2004, Hupu owns a sports site, and a retail website Shihuo for trending sports products, with the daily active users reaching about 6 million. The platform attracts young and middle-aged men, who are willing to pay for several types of sports products.

Hupu has long been working on going public. It first submitted its portfolio for IPO in 2015, but the market regulator rejected it in 2017.This year, it made another attempt.

"The products sold through our e-commerce platform have expanded from sports gear to consumer electronics and fashion products," said Cheng, adding the sales revenue from the platform reached 2 billion yuan in 2017, and the revenue from advertisements took up half of the whole revenue.

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