22 May 2019
Members of France’s World Cup squad during a training session at Istra in Russia on Monday. The French national team has a lot of supporters in China. Photo: Reuters
Members of France’s World Cup squad during a training session at Istra in Russia on Monday. The French national team has a lot of supporters in China. Photo: Reuters

Why some Chinese are rooting for France in the World Cup

There is no sure thing in the World Cup.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, arguably the top two superstars, have packed their bags after their teams — Portugal and Argentina — got eliminated in the knock-out stage.

In other contests, Spain’s defeat at the hands of host Russia didn’t come as too much of a shock, given what we witnessed earlier – defending champion Germany losing to South Korea and crashing out of the tournament at the first hurdle.

Meanwhile, Netherlands and Italy could not even get their foot in the door.

Now, does that mean England, our former colonial master, will finally get a chance after 52 years?

Hard to say, but if you ask many mainland Chinese — in particular, home appliance buyers in the country — it is likely they would say they want a different team to win the cup: France.

That is because of an offer from Zhongshan Vantage Gas Appliance Stock Co, a leading vendor of kitchen appliances and water heaters.

The Guangdong province-based firm, which makes products such as stoves, range hoods, ovens and gas water heaters, has promised customers full rebate on their purchases should France take the World Cup this year.

The campaign titled Champion Plan, which came on June 18 after France won its first match against Australia, has turned out to be a big success. 

Within an hour, the promotion led to a massive sales spurt, with product offtake on the first day up 450 percent, according to Vantage Gas. 

As France was on a roll, beating Argentina in an exciting comeback and notching a 4-3 victory after taking out Peru and scoring a draw with Denmark, the unbeaten team is a favorite team to win.

According to the odds of Hong Kong Jockey Club, France has a win at 4.1, only behind the 3.5 all-time favorite yet unpredictable Brazil.

Returning to the mainland promotional campaign, as people became aware of the special Vantage Gas offer, there has been a huge buzz about cooker hoods potentially coming for free.

To maximize the hype, Vantage is said to have extended the offer for purchases until July 3.

It was a smart piggyback on the World Cup. The company could potentially reap more rewards from the football fever than the official Chinese sponsors — dairy firm Mengniu, TV maker Hi-sense and some other entities.

Now, the talk among buyers of Vantage Gas appliances is this: will the company actually deliver the promised refunds if France, indeed, wins the cup?

The question is valid given the beating the company’s shares have taken this week. The stock was almost limit-down 10 percent yesterday in Shenzhen and is poised for another heavy loss today.

Well, the crash is probably not because of chatter regarding a potential 100 million yuan refund burden, but more to do with reports of its chief sales representative going missing for two weeks and two distributors in Beijing and Tianjin being shut down amid an investigation.

Vantage Gas may be in some trouble. Meanwhile, we can only wait and watch if its hero France rolls over to the final and regains the title after 20 years.

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EJ Insight writer

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