Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – China may not send a party to Qatar, but Chinese businesses will have the highest bills as sponsors at the 2022 World Cup.
Chinese brands are the biggest sponsors of this month’s tournament — spending even more money than US companies including iconic names like Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Budweiser.
According to Global Data, a London-based data analysis and consulting firm, Chinese sponsors raised $1.395 billion for the contest that ran from November 20 to December 18. , surpassing the $1.1 billion spent by US companies.
According to data broken down on an annual basis, Chinese funding is worth $207 million per year, compared with Qatari and US contracts worth $134 million and $129 million, respectively.
The dominance of Chinese companies in the competition reflects brands’ aspirations to expand recognition abroad to a level that matches their growing size and reach.
The rise of Chinese sponsors also goes hand in hand with President Xi Jinping’s dream of turning China, the only country to participate in the World Cup in 2002, into a football power through his plans. ambitious plans and goals, such as increasing the number of schools with soccer fields tenfold by 2025.
While the four Chinese sponsors of the 2022 tournament – Wanda Group, Vivo, Mengniu Dairy and Hisense – have relatively low profiles outside of their home countries, they are big businesses with billions of dollars in revenue. and thousands of employees.
Wanda Group, an expanding industry group founded in 1988, and Mengniu, one of China’s largest dairy manufacturers, have been on the Fortune 500 list many times.
Martin Roll, a Singapore-based branding expert and consultant, told Al Jazeera: “The World Cup suits Chinese companies both outside and inside China because football has a large Chinese audience. Country tracking.
“That strongly signals that these Chinese brands are playing on a global scale and showing that to the Chinese audience plays an important role. Being a World Cup sponsor and marketing partner is only available to a select few brands that can afford it, so just being a part of it, is testament to the brands’ aspirations China.”
Paul Temporal, a branding expert at Oxford University’s Saïd Business School, said Chinese companies hope the association with the beautiful game can help them remove negative perceptions of “made in China” label.
“Sports sponsorship allows Chinese brands to connect with global audiences who share a shared love of sporting experiences in an emotional context. Football transcends all cultural boundaries and offers a huge global reach,” Temporal told Al Jazeera.
“Chinese brands have learned from their Western counterparts that, while it is expensive to access the world’s best events, sports sponsorships deliver lasting results for both brand owners and owners. and country. Brands that go global are brand ambassadors for China and if successful in terms of global market share, can have a positive impact on the national brand image.”
China’s largest sponsor in Qatar to date is the Wanda Group, one of seven FIFA Official Partners — the highest level of sponsorship — along with Coca-Cola, Adidas, Hyundai, Kia, Qatar Airways, QatarEnergy and Visa.
The Beijing-based group, which invests in real estate, entertainment, media, manufacturing and financial services, has committed $850 million as part of a 15-year all-inclusive agreement. World Cup events until 2030, according to Global Data.
Vivo, a consumer electronics company based in the southern city of Dongguan, is spending around $450 million as part of a six-year contract that includes the 2017 Confederations Cup and the 2018 World Cup.
Mengniu, with headquarters in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, and Hisense, an electronics manufacturer based in Qingdao, have committed to spend about $60 million and $35 million respectively.
“Many Chinese companies have grown globally by acquiring foreign brands. Lenovo and Haier have taken this approach besides building their own brands,” Carlos Torelli, a professor of marketing at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, told Al Jazeera, referring to the machine brands. China’s popular personal and consumer electronics.
“That makes it easier to penetrate the global market with an established brand. However, many other Chinese brands are trying to build their own brands, and events like the World Cup are the perfect ones to attract large audiences. Participation in these events can facilitate future market expansion.”
While solar panel maker Yingli Solar became China’s first World Cup sponsor at the 2010 tournament in South Africa, Chinese companies started make their presence known in a big way at the 2018 competition in Russia.
After leading brands, including Sony, Emirates and Johnson & Johnson, quit FIFA in 2014 and 2015 due to allegations of corruption in the bidding process for tournaments in Russia and Qatar, Chinese companies have fill the funding gap.
Shortly after the Wanda Group signed a major funding deal in 2016, company founder Wang Jianlin said the controversies were an “opportunity” for Chinese companies that might never have had a chance before. tournament support “even if we wanted to”.
No less than seven Chinese companies sponsored the 2018 competition, spending an estimated $835 million – far more than US and Russian brands.
Chinese companies maintained a strong showing at the 2021 Copa América, South America’s biggest football tournament, accounting for three of the four official sponsors.
Kuaishou, TCL Technology and Sinovac found themselves shouldering the bulk of the funding duties after several major sponsors, including Mastercard and Diageo, withdrew amid controversy over health risks posed by COVID-19 caused to the player.
Ahead of Qatar 2022, Chinese brands have once again shown they are more hesitant to engage in human rights debates than their corporate counterparts elsewhere.
Unlike Budweiser, Adidas, Coca-Cola and McDonald’s, Chinese sponsors have not expressed support for Human Rights Watch’s campaign calling on FIFA and Qatar to compensate migrant workers. residents and their families for the deaths and injuries that occurred during the preparations for the World Cup.
The Qatari government says it has made “significant progress” on labor reforms and it continues to work with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to “ensure that these reforms have far-reaching effects.” “. Qatari officials have also deny allegations of corruption in their World Cup bid.
“Many global brands are careful not to get into a political debate about their support, so they may be more hesitant to join as sponsors,” Roll said.
However, Nigel Currie, director of sports marketing and sponsorship company NC Partnership, said major global sponsors ultimately chose to stick with the league due to the major business opportunities involved.
“There is controversy surrounding the hosting of the World Cup in Qatar. However, will Coca-Cola back out and risk Pepsi jumping in?” Currie told Al Jazeera.
“Will Visa give up their position and allow Mastercard back? The motor vehicle category is highly competitive and any global car company wants to take over Hyundai Kia. The same argument can be made for a number of other product categories. The simple fact is that World Cup deals are conducted during a number of World Cups and are designed to exclude competitors and provide big brands with exclusive and elite opportunities to access the market. billion people around the world.”
Josh Gardner, CEO and co-founder of China-focused consulting firm Kung Fu Data, said he expects Chinese brands to continue to stand out internationally as they “seek to build build a stronghold outside the homeland”.
“This is no different from the parallel trend of Chinese brands signing sponsorship deals with Hollywood,” Gardner told Al Jazeera, pointing to product placements related to Vivo, the instant messaging app Tencent. QQ and Jingdong e-commerce company.
“Remember the many Marvel and DC movies that feature brands like Vivo and QQ and stick the Jingdong logo on fictional skyscrapers on the big screen.”