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Chinese brands tap soccer to shine in Europe



Chinese brands tap soccer to shine in Europe

AS Euro 2024 nears its grand finale in Germany on Sunday, it is not just soccer players who are involved in pitched battles of the sporting kind — advertisers, sponsors, marketing whizzes and brands, including several Chinese labels, are all vying to create maximum impact. The strong presence of Chinese companies among the major sponsors is expected to resonate with consumers in Europe.

According to UEFA’s official website, there are 13 global partners for this year’s tournament and, remarkably, five of them are Chinese companies: BYD, Vivo, Hisense, Alipay and AliExpress.

This marks a historical record, as Chinese firms now occupy over a third of the sponsorship slots. This represents significant growth from 2016 when Hisense was the sole Chinese sponsor. Vivo and Alipay have been involved since 2020, highlighting the increasing international competitiveness and influence of Chinese enterprises.

The participation of these five Chinese companies in this year’s tournament signifies a new milestone in the history of Chinese sponsorship of major international sporting events, experts said.

Chinese companies are eager to expand their international presence and bank on such events to boost their brands among local consumers.

“For Chinese companies with global strategies, sports marketing is a vital accelerator for enhancing brand influence and international development,” said Jiang Han, a senior researcher at the Beijing-based think tank Pangoal Institution.

Chinese companies’ participation goes beyond monetary investments, as they also provide valuable products, services, content and technologies to support the tournament.

BYD, for instance, is offering green transportation solutions with its electric vehicles, serving as the official car for the tournament. Vivo, as the official smartphone partner, is supplying flagship smartphones to event staff. Alipay is facilitating convenient payment solutions for fans and staff as the official payment platform, while AliExpress is providing exclusive discounts and interactive games for fans, enhancing their experience with the chance to win match tickets.

Zhou Yongduan, general manager of overseas product development at Vivo, said, “Our partnership with UEFA allows us to enhance the user experience by enabling everyone to enjoy the beautiful game and capture their most cherished memories.”

“The exciting game brings people all around the world together… we want to fuel that passion by enabling users to become storytellers of this unforgettable journey,” Zhou said. “We’ll continue to develop the cutting-edge technologies that advance mobile photography and ensure that everyone can be a storyteller of their own experiences, with one single tap.”

A soccer player of Portugal takes a selfie with a Vivo smartphone after the match between Portugal and the Czech Republic on June 18 in Leipzig, Germany. CHINA DAILYThis is the latest major football tournament where Vivo is a key partner. In the past, it played a key role at the FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia, the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar and the Euro 2020 that took place across Europe. The Chinese smartphone brand also partnered with FIFA, the game’s global governing body, to promote its devices at the 2017 Confederations Cup.

In Germany, the heart of the European auto industry, Chinese automaker BYD has replaced Volkswagen as the official auto partner of Euro 2024. This is the first time in the tournament’s history that the organizer has partnered with a new energy vehicle brand and a Chinese automaker.

Michael Shu, managing director of BYD Europe, said, “BYD is thrilled to partner with UEFA and proud to be the first e-mobility partner for this prestigious sports event, which will enable us to showcase our latest advancements in electric vehicles to a far-reaching audience. Significantly, the partnership underlines BYD’s brand commitment to reducing carbon emissions for a greener future, for which UEFA will provide an influential voice.”

Guy-Laurent Epstein, marketing director of UEFA, said: “We are excited to welcome BYD, a pioneering brand with a 29-year pedigree in advanced battery technologies with a reputation for global innovation in new energy vehicles and the world’s biggest electric car company, as a partner for UEFA 2024.

“The partnership aligns perfectly with UEFA’s vision of promoting a greener and more sustainable European championship by merging the excitement of football and UEFA’s commitment to environmental responsibility.”

During the tournament, BYD showcased its latest electric vehicle models and cutting-edge technologies at select venues, demonstrating the brand’s commitment to greener and more intelligent vehicle solutions to customers and millions of football enthusiasts.

In addition, BYD has a vibrant presence at the official fan zones, inviting fans to enjoy live match broadcasts and captivating entertainment to further elevate the football celebration experience through sustainable and engaging activities.

The British online marketplace Auto Trader reported a 69 percent increase in views of BYD models to 26,000 over the opening weekend of the tournament.

The move aligns with BYD’s broader efforts to expand its international presence. The company had successfully expanded its new energy vehicle footprint to six continents, over 70 countries and regions, and more than 400 cities as of January.

Since its entry into the European passenger vehicle market in 2022, BYD has made great strides in expanding its presence by establishing a network of 230 stores in 19 European countries, with five innovative NEV models launched. Looking ahead, BYD said it will introduce more new models in Europe, further enriching its product portfolio. BYD’s sub-brand, Denza, is also poised to make its European launch, marking another milestone in BYD’s global expansion, the company said.

Zhan Junhao, founder of Huace Brand Positioning Consulting, said that providing technical support for the European soccer championship allows Chinese companies to showcase their technological prowess and innovation capabilities. This integration with such a high-profile event not only enhances their brand image, but deepens their involvement in the European market, creating more business opportunities.

Euro 2024-involved Chinese companies have all strategically positioned themselves in the European market. For instance, Hisense has identified Europe as a key market. BYD is constructing an electric vehicle manufacturing plant in Hungary, targeting the European market. Alipay has also been establishing its presence across Europe for many years.

The significant investments by Chinese companies to sponsor Euro 2024 are driven by the tremendous exposure such events offer. UEFA has projected that this year’s tournament will attract over 5 billion viewers globally, presenting an enormous opportunity for corporate sponsors to build their brands.

For instance, as the first e-commerce sponsor of Euro 2024, AliExpress saw an 80 percent increase in football product sales in May compared to the previous year, with Spain and France leading in sales. Additionally, the volume of packages sent from Cainiao’s cross-border warehouses to Europe increased by over 300 percent.

Jiang from the Beijing-based think tank Pangoal Institution said that with China’s rapid economic development and rising international status, Chinese companies are seeking more international opportunities. Sponsoring top global sports events not only helps them expand in overseas markets, but also brings valuable international experience and resources, enhancing their global operational capabilities.

But some experts sounded a note of caution, saying more efforts are needed to optimize Chinese companies’ services and products in Europe, if they really want to leverage sports marketing to nurture a stable source of business opportunities.

Doreen Wang, Kantar Greater China CEO and global chair of Kantar BrandZ, said many Chinese brands have turned increasingly professional and actively expanded into foreign markets.

As the Chinese economy gradually matures, the local brands will naturally seek to “find new spaces abroad” so they can keep growing. Brands’ moves conform to China’s commitment to achieving a transformation from a “made in China “economy to a “created in China “economy, she said. – China Daily/ANN

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