22 May 2019
The soccer ball used in this year's World Cup, the “Telstar 18”, was made by a Chinese company based in Dongguan in Guangdong province. Photo: AFP
The soccer ball used in this year's World Cup, the “Telstar 18”, was made by a Chinese company based in Dongguan in Guangdong province. Photo: AFP

How Chinese companies and products conquered the World Cup

China’s national football team didn’t make it to the 2018 World Cup in Russia, but many Chinese companies, products, and even seafood did – and with flying colors.

Unlike the 2010 and 2014 World Cup in South Africa and Brazil, this year’s tournament saw an influx of Chinese commercial sponsors, Chinese-made merchandise and even Chinese food.

There are five new features and trends about the way Chinese companies participated in the international sporting event in Russia.

First, a total of seven Chinese enterprises were named official sponsors of the tournament this year, the most numerous ever in the history of the World Cup.

That put Wanda Group on the same list of top official sponsors as other globally iconic brands such as Adidas, Nike, Coca-Cola and McDonald’s.

Vivo, Mengniu Dairy and Hisense were also named second-tier sponsors of the tournament.

Meanwhile, electric bike producer Yadea, tech company LUCI and executive menswear maker DIKING were all signed by FIFA as official regional supporters in Asia.

Second, Chinese companies outspent both their US and Russian counterparts in terms of ad spending by a huge margin and became the largest advertiser in this year’s World Cup.

According to the latest data released by the market research firm Zenith, ad spending by commercial sponsors in the 2018 World Cup Final reached US$2.4 billion, with Chinese companies accounting for US$835 million, as compared to just US$400 million by US firms, and a mere US$64 million by the Russians.

Third, a manufacturer based in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, was granted by FIFA the exclusive license for producing the 2018 World Cup official mascot merchandise.

In order to deliver tens of millions of units within a short period of time, the company immediately lined up, with the help of big data and the internet, more than 30 other manufacturers in 10 provinces across the mainland in order to execute the task.

By establishing a combined virtual factory with these 30+ subcontractors, the company managed to deliver the finished products on time.

The company also achieved stunning efficiency by being able to shorten the production period from the initial estimate of two months to just 15 days.

Fourth, even the soccer ball used in the World Cup this year, the “Telstar 18”, was made by a Chinese company, Shuo Ke Plastic Hardware Products Co. Ltd., based in Dongguan in Guangdong province.

To make sure the soccer ball, which is fitted with a built-in NFC microchip, could meet the highest quality standards, Shuo Ke developed the first automated soccer ball assembly line in the mainland, which took only 10 workers to operate and monitor, and which could turn out 1,000 units per day.

And fifth, apart from manufactured goods, Chinese agricultural produce and seafood were also a common sight across Russia during the World Cup.

According to media reports, a shipment of 100,000 Chinese crayfish left the city of Wuhan in the Hubei province on May 31, and arrived in Moscow by rail on June 28, just in time to serve soccer fans and visitors from around the world during the tournament.

The crayfish from China were able to meet the highly rigorous safety standards for imported foods enforced by the Russian authorities, and ended up on dinner tables in restaurants across the country.

It is expected that more and more Chinese agricultural produce and food will be served during major international sporting events in the days ahead.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 21

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal contributor

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