Chinese Sport Industry Crossover Summit


Lanxiong Sports, a leading sports business content provider in China, held the first ever Sports Industry Crossover Summit on May 18th. About 1,000 attendees attended 6 themed forums and the award ceremony, with tycoons “chitchatting” about sports industry.

As China’s sports industry is booming, government and businessmen’s attention has all been fixed on this promising area in recent years. Han Mu, a former senior reporter at a prestigious Chinese business magazine and digital media platform sensed this trend at an early stage and co-founded Lanxiong Sports on July, 2015.

In the keynote speech Han delivered on the summit, he announced the most exhilarating news that, after focusing on sports business news reporting for almost a year, Lanxiong Sports has officially started a one-hundred-million yuan foundation jointly with Chinese Media Capital (CMC) and UT Ventures, to support and guide startup companies in sports industry.

“During last year’s winter of capital, investing in startups became a risky decision to make.” Han said, “But we’d like to join hands with our devoted investors to help newcomers.”

Mr. Han also released the Chinese Sport Startups White Paper that Lanxiong Sports compiled. The editing group investigated 80 startup companies and 257 cases of 17.4-billion-yuan-worth investment, and exemplified 6 major types of startup programs in sports industry.

“Two years ago, these numbers seemed unreal at all.” Mr. Han said.

Capital is always the most intuitive when changes happen, as evidenced by the active investments of the major players. In the “New Big 5” forum, leaders from 5 major companies, CMC, LeSports, Wanda Sports, Ali Sports and Tencent Sports, sat down together and commented on last year’s harvest.

“With the escalation of the whole industry, investment in top sport events will sure be more popular, domestically and globally.” Xu Zhihao, CMC's managing director said in the forum.

CMC and its Chinese counterparts themselves are the examples of this trend in the past years. Besides, Tencent finalised its 5-year contract to become the National Basketball Association’s exclusive online partner in China on January, 2015.

Wanda Group acquired Infront Sports & Media at €1.05 billion on February, 2015.

Ti'ao Dongli (China Sports Media Ltd.), backed by CMC, shocked the whole country’s sports world by closing a deal of 8-billion-yuan for the rights to broadcast the Chinese Super League (CSL) for the next five years.

Besides acquiring multiple sports games, these major players desire to achieve more. “Fundamentally, we are hoping to build a life for Chinese middle class, to cultivate a new system.” Yu Hang, current Chief Operating Officer of LeSports said.

Researches show that with the income of average Chinese increasing, people tend to spend more on sports. Now that China is the world’s second largest economy, the transition has already started.

A big sign of the transition is the combination of sports and entertainment. The famous movie director, Chan Ho-San (director of American dreams in China, Dearest), shared his thoughts of this movie. He will also be making a movie featuring the most accomplished Chinese tennis player, Li Na, shared his thoughts of this movie.

“What impressed me most on Li Na is her attitude toward the young generation, the individualism that’s rarely seen in Chinese players.” Chan said.

Sports movies have never been a blockbuster in Chinese movie industry, which together generated 44 billion yuan revenue in 2015. Chan admitted that he was getting more invitations to direct sports movies, but not as much as people wanted it to be.

“I used to think movies were crazy enough, now I realised that sports are even crazier.” Chan joked, “More jobs are coming to me, but still not that much. But if the audience likes it, we sure will do more.”

Sports industry can’t survive without its audience. It also can’t live without money. Money is a catalyst that pushes sports industry to move forward.

In the investors’ section, Wang Qian, partner of Zhenfund, called sports industry “an exciting investment”. “Sports are attractive in terms of physical aesthetics. More so, people like to get involved and interact in it.” Wang said, “What’s more important is its product attributes. People have to buy devices and apparels. Lastly, sports and health lie in the nature of human beings”

However, investors are not giving away their money. “Projects worth investing are not easy to find,” Liu Qin, managing director and partner of Morningside Ventures said, “what this industry lacks is people, people who can make a balance between feasible business model and consumers’ demand.”

In the next section, the former NBA center, Yao Ming shared his thoughts of “IP”, Intellectual Properties, the most popular word in sports world, which means cultural and sports products that can be developed in multiple ways.

Yao said, “To make an IP sustainable, we should really pay attention to the script like in the movies, to build its influence.”

Yao is currently pushing the Chinese Basketball Association to commercialise, and one of the most important parts is broadcast rights. Li Yidong, who made his name by paying 8 billion to CSL, jokingly estimated the price of CBA’s broadcast rights as “at least twice of NBA”. Under the current contract between NBA and Tencent, Tencent pays a possible $100 million to NBA.

Everyone is activated with the acceleration of sports industry. People in the media world are no exceptions. Their roles and responsibilities are transforming. And more importantly, their mind of career path starts changing.

In the forum of “people in sports media”, Yang Yi, a well-known basketball commentator said he already started his own company and the latest round on fund-raising should be closed by the end of the month.

Though guests in the section were all experienced journalists, they admitted that they had no idea what the media world would be like in 5 years under the current situation. Su Qun, Chief Editor of Basketball Pioneers, used an analogy, “I think the sports industry is like a sunrise. You know the sun will rise sometime, but all you can do is sit on top of the mountain and wait for it.”

But not everyone is willing to sit around and do nothing, at least not entrepreneurs. With more young and ambitious entrepreneurs engaging in sports industry, the atmosphere has been more heated than ever.

“I believe a fair competition is that we fight with all we’ve got fair and square.” Liang Feng, CEO of Running App, the JoyRun, shared his thoughts about competition among the startups in the forum of “startups and entrepreneur”.

Talking about the obstacles they’ve had, Xu Weite, founder of work-out App, hotbody, said that the most difficult part is keeping people’s mind together. “Keeping your attitude is tricky. To lead and manage a team is a real challenge.” Xu said.

In the summit’s award ceremony, Yao Ming, Li Ruigang and 8 other candidates were named Business Leaders of the Year. CMC, Zhenfund and 8 other investment agencies were named Investment Agencies of the Year. Keep and Kunlun Fight along with 8 other startup projects were named Startups of the Year.

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