2nd January 2017
In Focus: How Brazil can break into China – Gustavo Spanholi
In the third and final entry of his UCFB In Focus series, Brazilian Gustavo Spanholi, a lecturer in Football Business and Sport Management, takes a look at how Brazil can fit into the Chinese football market and affect it on and off the field.
Gustavo’s blog has been split into three sections, which will be published week-by-week over the Christmas period, looking at what Brazil knows about China, where it can fit into the market, and finally, how it can affect goings on and off the field.
I have previously talked about Asia, and in particular China’s, enormous potential for the football industry and how Brazil can prepare and engage in it.
However, I agree that the entry barriers are extremely high: a time zone more than ten hours ahead of Brazil; a language that uses a character set incomprehensible to Brazilians; a nation with an age-old culture, sometimes mysterious, multifaceted and without great connections with that of Brazil; and a territory even bigger than Brazil’s with gigantic metropolis and regional differences… the list is quite extensive.
But did you know that the barriers are the same for most of the world, including a good part of other football nations?
That said, European powerhouses and even Asian and Oceanic neighbours have been finding ways to establish themselves in the region and develop new and interesting businesses in line with their strategies. It is not easy, but it is a work that, with persistence and understanding of each step, is possible to accomplish. In other words: planning. Something so missing in Brazilian day-to-day life.
To begin with, the same internet that unites the world of western football more and more is also allied in this mission. But how does that help China if the likes of Google, Facebook and similar are all banned?
The Chinese have their own social networks, sometimes mirrored in what we know here. There is Twitter and WhatsApp etc. There is a whole world of them. Remember that in the ancient Chinese history they consider themselves the civilisation? There are agencies specialising in realising this translation from the western world into the Chinese universe, developing specific social media strategies for football and returning to the contractors lots of data and statistics to get on with the job.
This ‘midfield’, along with sport organisation services, which are similar to what we find in the US and Europe, has been instrumental in planning European team tours and ROI calculations for sponsors joining the cast in Asia. In addition, we are finding a large number of Chinese executives, young and very talented in their international relations, who have graduated from the best schools in the United Kingdom, United States and Australia. I myself had the privilege of being a classmate of several Chinese students, and was impressed by their entrepreneurship and business sense, sport or not.
In addition, the big data industry goes hand in hand with this segment and not only complements it, but feeds a tsunami that will break the sport’s ‘universal truths’ soon enough. On the Anglo-Saxon – Asian axis of football, data scientists are already fixed members of technical committees, from the MLS to the Chinese Super League, through to the Premier League and Bundesliga. Offices specialising in data outside the four lines are also increasing rapidly. What does this mean? It means the level of mapping sporting performance and potential for business is already so great, that the risks will decrease and criteria will change. Good news for investors, who will have much better returns. Terrible for those who don’t put so much effort in its work or sell without being able to deliver.
Of course, one of the primary businesses in football that benefits from it all is broadcasting. With the frightening level of measurement and possible correlations, not only the territorial values of the sale of rights increase, but the discussions about the delivering of the transmissions are high. Access to mobile devices in the Chinese market is easy and Chinese broadcasters already see television and digital as one thing.
Is the Chinese market difficult to enter? It is. But Brazil has a big point in favour of which I haven’t spoken about yet. Brazil is fluent in the language of football, and it is universal. Some of the biggest deals in world football have involved Brazilian players moving to China, such as Alex Teixeira from Shakhtar Donetsk to Jiangsu Suning for 50 million euros.
The Chinese appetite impressed not only me but even experienced European scouts, as one confided to me. Why can’t Brazil be in the center of more feats like these, especially off the field? If Brazil want it, they have all the ingredients necessary for it to succeed.