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Sports Marketing on Weibo: something we should know

Sunday, 30 Jul 2017 11:40   |   By Yutang Sports

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Weibo is one of the largest social media platforms in China with a wider showcase for users where you can search and read all users’ content without following him or her. By the end of 2016, Weibo’s MAU increased by 77 million to 313 million in total, with 90% of it coming from Weibo‘s app for mobile platforms. As a result, a large number of companies and organizations are inclined to choose this channel to conduct their marketing strategies, including their sports marketing strategies. 

Most marketers on Weibo tend to believe that companies should personalize their brands, in order to form a tighter connection with their target consumers. However, some examples may have proved that it is not the only way to activate their sports marketing strategies. 

Chinese instant noodle brand Master Kong have been doing a good job since Rio 2016 by supplying products and services to teams and athletes and letting them comment on Weibo. 

As Master Kong was not an official sponsor of Rio 2016 or any sports teams, they set up a noodle hub offering Chinese noodles and other dishes, only a 15-minute drive away from the Olympic Village. Moreover, Master Kong’s star product, the instant noodle, was supplied to China’s women’s volleyball team during their Rio trip. 

This sponsorship was unveiled to the public through a video posted on the team’s head coach Lang Ping’s Weibo account (with 7.4 million followers) and was quickly widely shared by other users. In the video, Lang was seen eating Master Kong’s instant noodles and sharing her and the team’s daily life in Rio. At the time I write this article, this video has been forwarded over 40,000 times and has received over 50,000 comments and 350,000 likes. 

Another of Master Kong’s marketing campaigns focused on Team China’s women’s volleyball star, Zhu Ting. Because of her superb performances at Rio 2016, Zhu built a huge fan base in China and has now been signed up by Turkish Women's Volleyball League giants VakifBank Istanbul. By the time Zhu departed to Turkey, Master Kong hired a chef who specializes in noodles and other Chinese dishes to accompany her to Turkey to look after her nutritional diet so far from home.  

Zhu, elated by this surprise, expressed her gratitude to Master Kong many times on her Weibo account with each of them attracting over 1,000 comments and 10,000 likes. 

Both domestic and international companies, sports leagues and clubs (especially  overseas clubs) see Weibo as a crucial platform for their marketing strategies in China. Having operated their Weibo account for over 6 years, the NBA has been the biggest player in Weibo marketing among sports leagues.

Each season, fans can receive daily NBA’s highlight programs, original NBA latest-news programs and other interactive content on NBA’s official Weibo account. Pre and post-game reports are also released on their account with complete game content and providing their fans with an unique overall understanding and viewing experience of the NBA. On the other hand, the NBA sees Weibo as a platform to promote the game broadcasts on CCTV, Tencent and BesTV. Currently, the NBA’s official account has attracted more than 334.2 million followers. 

Indeed, with various marketing ideas springing up, Weibo has played an important role in developing and implementing sports marketing strategies for many companies and organizations. However, there are signs that a decrease in Weibo’s importance in sports marketing is occurring.

Currently, most of Weibo newcomers come from small cities and towns in China. As a result, Weibo remains as the critical channel for those companies or organizations that see those small cities and towns as their major market. However, for those expecting to develop their markets in major cities, Weibo is turning less and less important than before. 

Furthermore, Weibo has begun to deliver different content to different users by calculating what they are interested in reading based on big data. This might result in a decrease in Weibo’s value for sports marketing, believing that marketing-related content is far less welcomed than others. 

As a result, to consider Weibo as the most important or even the only channel for sports marketers is likely no longer a good way to go. Instead, thinking about how to combine Weibo with other social media platforms and integrate them all together might be a better way for companies and organizations to maximize the effects of their sports marketing activities via social media.

Proofread by Raymond Fitzpatrick

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