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WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell: marketing sports would be very important in China

By Zhang Tingting Wednesday, 27 Apr 2016 18:00


During the 2016 SportAccod Convention, Yutang Sports had the opportunity to interview Sir Martin Sorrell, founder and CEO of the world’s leading communication giants WPP Group.

YT= Yutang Sports

S=Sir Martin Sorrell

YT: Thank you. Your speech was very inspirational. I guess you must know a lot about Chinese sport industries?

S: A little bit. On our board we got two people who know,Hugo Shong and Ruigang Li. Ruigang li was Chairman of Shanghai Media Group,and now he owns the China Media Capital. He made the investment in Manchester City. He also bought the football league (CSL) rights in China.

YT: Does that mean WPP are also partly involved in the development of Chinese sport industry?

S: Well, he is doing that through his companies. And of course we are interested of what he is doing in china, besides you have Jianlin Wang at Wanda, and Jack Ma and everybody else. We are fascinated by what they are doing in China.

YT: Do you have any plan to go to Chinese sport market yourself?

S: We are already doing things in China. You are our third biggest market after the US and UK. We have 16,000 people in China. We are in 80 cities. So we’re doing a lot in china already.  But China is getting more and more interested in sports. As someone told me, China is doing a lot in rugby now, and in soccer and obviously Olympic sports. They’ve had a summer Olympic and will a winter Olympic. The chances are high that they would have a FIFA World Cup, Which would be a fantastic event. So I’m sure that will happen.

YT: Chinese sports industry is less commercialized than that in western countries, how do you see it?

S: I don’t know much about the sport industries. But if we take soccer for example, obviously it has been one of those not regulated. I’m chairman of the mayor’s committee in Shanghai, and I was talking to him about it at the last meeting. And it is quite clear to me that Chinese government, both at federal level and state level, is much intended on cleaning up soccer, eliminating corruption and referees (corruption) etc. And the Chinese soccer leagues would become very important. I’ve seen films of kids training in the soccer camps. Like I said China will host a World Cup as they’ve hosted successful Olympic Games and will host a successful Winter Olympic Games.   

YT: You said, this morning, international sport federations are having problems and they need to improve. But could china stay out of the situation that international sports are having? 

S: They will have to do the same. China has made the environment, because the environment is so high on the political-end agenda, because the president understands that. It’s a fundamental plank of the thirteenth five-year plan. Defining the purpose of the sport, making it transparent and accountable is something, I think, the Chinese understand. If you think about what the Chinese government is trying to do within the industry, with the SOE who has not necessarily defined their purposes, has not necessarily been transparent and accountable. The administration really wants the SOE’s to change. That’s why you see a number of major Chinese entrepreneurs developing their business in china and beyond, like Jack Ma and Jianlin Wang at Wanda. I think the government thinks the SOE’s are moving too slowly, and the same thing applies to sport. You have to define the purpose, you have to be transparent and you have to be accountable.

YT: Even when China’s sport is not so marketized?

S:That’s coming. Like I said, as China Media Capital bought the rights to the football league (in China), it is being changed. The same thing would apply. You’ve seen the tremendous drive around the summer Olympic Games, and you will see (it) around the Winter Olympics. I’m 100% sure that China would host a World Cup. And that would change it again, the empathies on sports in China. Given that 1.4 billion people have to have sports in China, marketing sports would be very important. And I think Chinese, in many areas, would lead the way because the country is the biggest nation in the planet.

YT: Can you make some predictions on the Chinese sport industries? And will it reach the same level as America has in sports industry?

S: That would very difficult for the Chinese to reach that now.  The Chinese GDP is around 11 trillion and the American is 16-17 trillion. So you could see china, depending on its growths rate, being as big as America in a few years’ time. The sport industry is in lower lever of development. But Chinese have really interesting habit of learning and listening. I think the Chinese will catch up quickly to where America is. On size base, the sports industry has to be very important in China given the scale of it. 

Sir Martin Sorrell

Sir Martin Sorrell is the founder and CEO of WPP Group.

WPP Group is a British multinational advertising and public relations company with its main management office in London, England, and its executive office in Dublin, Ireland. It is the world's largest advertising company by revenues, and employs around 190,000 people in 3,000 offices across 112 countries. It owns a number of advertising, public relations and market research networks, including IMRB Millward BrownGreyBurson-MarstellerHill & KnowltonJWTOgilvy & MatherTNSYoung & Rubicam and Cohn & Wolfe.



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