The history of the Super Bowl and football in China goes back to the Reagan presidential era when the first football game was broadcast on 9 March 1986.
The response was electric. Usually, bustling streets in places like Beijing and Shanghai were empty, as hundreds gathered around department store televisions to watch The Chicago Bears annihilate The New England Patriots. Even though few understood the game, it was estimated that over 300 million tuned in, which is impressive considering only 240 million watched in the U.S.
And The Love Goes On
Since then, the love of football has only grown in China. A survey conducted by Kantar CSM China, reveals that interest in the NFL has grown to 19 million people – more than 1,087% in the last five years. The NFL even got one of the top Chinese pop stars, Kris Wu, to perform in 2018 – the first-ever Asian artist.
The truth is, Asians are huge sports fans in general, with enormous amounts of money being poured into areas like soccer. Although American football is not yet a top sport in the country, the NFL is well aware that Asia and China, in particular, is a largely untapped market that could generate enormous revenue for the football industry.
This is why they are set on developing an audience and a market in China. Currently, there is only one professional league, but amateur leagues are receiving a flood of new members wanting to sign up.
A Chinese Perspective
In response to the population’s growing love of football, China has poured resources into getting coaches for the youth and investing in state-of-the-art training facilities.
The next step would be for the NFL to draft a player of Asian origin. Not only would that increase audience interest in a massive way, but having children see players who look similar or are relatable in some way would be encouraging and definitely place American football on a firm foothold in the country.
There are three clever marketing strategies that they could also use: employ an Asian player that may not be the best footballer but is very popular amongst the population, have China host an NFL match or, include them in the preseason schedule like some other countries are.
A Digital Perspective
2019 saw seven million Chinese viewers tune into the NFL across both TV and digital platforms.
Over 60% of the digital viewing is courtesy of Tencent, the largest streaming platform in the country. They have an exclusive deal with the NFL when it comes to live-streaming, and the reason is that Tencent has built up a strong American football fanbase in China. They show NFL games weekly; that includes Thursday night, Sunday night, and Monday night.
Many young people like to watch football on their mobile devices, and this number is increasing yearly. The convenience means your love of the game doesn’t need to end, even if you are on the subway, waiting to go home, or even at the office.
Lucky And Lucrative
With a population of 1.4 billion, China could potentially be an extremely lucrative sport betting market. Though there are strict laws and regulations regarding gambling in China, places like Hong Kong and Macau allow citizens to bet freely.
That being said, betting on the Super Bowl is possible with international online sportsbooks that are available in the country – you just need to find them. What is even more appealing is that most of these sites will allow you to place a bet on any mobile device – making it convenient and safe.
As for the future of American football in China, if the NFL wishes to globalize the game and bring in even better earnings, China should be aggressively pursued as a partner. Not only is their population worth taking note of, but they make up 16% of the global GDP (Gross Domestic Product).