All posts by Mark Dreyer

Why you’re a Man Utd fan (even if you don’t know it)

I wrote last week about why Manchester United almost certainly doesn’t have 108 million fans in China. That’s because the club doesn’t have fans, it has “followers” – exactly the word that made me suspicious in the first place. I might follow people on Twitter or Weibo, but it certainly doesn’t make me a fan.

Not surprisingly, the club is sticking to the script. Man Utd has confirmed to me that the figure was taken from what it calls a “robust survey” commissioned by the club and conducted between June and August 2011 by “leading marketing research agency” Kantarsport.

Leading agency? Well, they are part of WPP, so it figures that they know what they are doing. Robust survey? That’s a matter for debate. The club asked more than 53,000 people in 39 countries – approximately half the number of countries in which United have sponsorship deals, by the way – and came up with a total fanbase of 659 million.

Continue reading Why you’re a Man Utd fan (even if you don’t know it)

Japanese paint? Seriously?

OK so this Manchester United thing is getting a little silly now. The club announced today that they have signed a three-year deal with Japanese paint manufacturer Kansai, who become (drum roll please) United’s first official paint partner. Yes, paint.

I think this quote from Man Utd commercial director Richard Arnold says it all: “Kansai is the perfect company to partner with Manchester United.”

Continue reading Japanese paint? Seriously?

Olympic showdown for Asus and Lenovo?

The IOC says it’s looking for a new sponsor after Taiwanese computer company Acer pulled out as a member of the TOP Olympic sponsorship programme. Asus or Lenovo, anyone?

Gerhard Heiberg, the head of the IOC’s marketing team, said Acer would not necessarily be replaced by another computer company, but you have to think the most obvious replacements are like-for-like ones, with Lenovo and Acer also ticking the Asian box left empty by Acer’s departure.

One reason why that may not happen, though, is a fear of sponsorship overlap, with other companies encroaching on the “computer” category, something that Heiberg added may lead to changes as a result.

Continue reading Olympic showdown for Asus and Lenovo?

Manchester United’s fishy China numbers

The world’s most valuable sports franchise just got a little richer yesterday after signing deals with two Chinese companies, drinks maker Wahaha and China Construction Bank.

The deals themselves look straightforward enough: Wahaha becomes Manchester United’s first official soft drink sponsor, while CCB will produce the official Man Utd-branded credit card in China. But it was something from the club’s official press release that struck me, specifically the part where United’s commercial director Richard Arnold claims the club has a following of 108 million in China.

108 million fans? Now hold on a minute… Continue reading Manchester United’s fishy China numbers

When a loss is really a win

I don’t mean to patronize Wu Di (吴迪), but his first round loss to Croatia’s Ivan Dodig at the Australian Open is still something to be celebrated.

The 21-year-old from Wuhan became the first Chinese man to play in the main draw of a Grand Slam tournament in the professional era. He had qualified via a wildcard playoff in Nanjing last year, and despite an early break at the start of the match and a solid second set, he went down 5-7, 6-4, 3-6, 3-6.

No one – not the fans, not the bookmakers, not even Wu himself – expected the youngster to overcome the world number 74 in Melbourne. That much was clear from Wu’s post-match comments, when he conceded that Dodig is a much better player.

Continue reading When a loss is really a win

China 1, Japan love

China and Japan may be duking it out for territorial bragging rights in the East China Sea, but on the tennis court it is very much advantage China.

The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) announced this week that, from 2014, a new tournament in Wuhan will replace the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo, which will celebrate a bittersweet 30th – and last – anniversary this year.

This is shaping up to be a huge tournament, with at least seven of the year-end ranked top 10 players due to appear in Li Na’s hometown, competing for more than $2 million in prize money.

Continue reading China 1, Japan love

Tokyo’s Olympic bid on track

12 years after China’s Olympic coming out party, Tokyo is aiming to be the next Asian city to host a Summer Olympics as one of three candidate cities for 2020. And the signs are looking good.

On September 7 in Buenos Aires, IOC President Jacques Rogge will declare victory for one of Tokyo, Istanbul and Madrid, and, if the bookmakers are to be believed, Tokyo is the favorite, noticeably ahead of Istanbul and significantly ahead of Madrid.

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Could China see a sports lockout?

The National Hockey League seems to have resolved its lockout – finally – but it will likely find that few people in North America care, let alone further afield. It left me wondering, though, whether a similar lockout could happen in China, or anywhere in Asia.

On the surface, a lockout of any league seems such an asinine proposition: the bottom line is that if there are no games, then there’s no revenue, and that’s bad for everyone (though you could argue that for clubs who lose money, it stops the rot for a time).

And the whole thing causes so much ill will among fans and media, not to mention all those who depend on the sport for their livelihood, such as arena workers and local restaurants, that it sets the sport back years.

Continue reading Could China see a sports lockout?

Beckham is coming to play in China

Well, he might be. OK, so he probably won’t be. In fact, he almost certainly will choose to play elsewhere. But that doesn’t make for a good headline, especially where the UK tabloids are concerned.

The problem with the tabloids is that they have absolutely no obligation to tell the truth when it comes to this sort of thing. Throw in the odd “insiders say” or “a source close to the couple” and you can make up whatever you want and stick it on the back page. Which is exactly what the tabloids do.

Continue reading Beckham is coming to play in China