Even Homer Simpson knows statistics can be used to prove anything. That’s particularly true in China, where data is not known for being the most reliable. Whether it’s GDP figures, box office numbers or internal accounting, numbers in China are best taken with a sack or two of salt.
I’ve already had people ask me what time David Beckham is arriving on Wednesday so they can camp out early at the airport. Whether he appeals to smitten females or potential soccer fans (or both), one thing is certain: Beckham’s visit to China will be crazy. Let’s just hope no one gets trampled….
Here’s my Sports Talk column from today’s Global Times on how he’s made a career out of proving the doubters wrong:
Hong Kong’s lucky, lucky football fans will catch a glimpse of Manchester United’s triallists, youth team players and kit men on July 29th when they play Kitchee FC at Hong Kong stadium.
Hong Kong’s reigning champions announced the news this week with Man Utd club ambassador Peter Schmeichel making all the right noises about it being a serious game and an important part of the club’s pre-season plans, so fans, he said, should snap up tickets fast.
Those tickets, which go on sale later this month, will be priced between HK$390-990 (with students and old folk eligible for a slight reduction). That’s a lot of money to see a team that won’t resemble anything like the Manchester United the fans all know.
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.
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.”
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