The Suning Commerce Group, one of China’s largest electronics retailers, has been taking steps to diversify its sports business in recent years. Notably, the retailer has shown an interest in soccer.
The company’s involvement in sport began early in 2013, when it invested $250 million in the video website PPTV.com. This move has helped it position itself as a major digital broadcaster of sports events in the country.
As expected, the Suning backed PPTV Sports has inked an exclusive multimedia deal at for a 250 million euro fee, to broadcast the Spanish Soccer League (La Liga) matches live across several platforms for the next five seasons.
Last year, PPTV acquired the rights to broadcast 10 live English Premier League games, including six pay-per-view matches every week for the 2014-15 season. For this they paid $11 million to Super Sports, the exclusive Premier League broadcast rights-holder for the Chinese mainland.
In February 2015, Premier League giants Liverpool FC struck a one-year partnership deal with PPTV on media content. They have extended the partnership, which will see the Shanghai-based company become the TV and STB partner of the Reds in China from January 1st 2016.
The latest news is that Suning announced, on December 17th, the takeover of CSL side Jiangsu Sainty FC at ¥523 million yuan. There is a reason for this move. Earlier in March, Suning became the major sponsor of the club and its online commerce platform, Suning.com, became the club’s shirt sponsor.
As Sun Weimin, vice president of the company, said, sports products and sports culture consumption will become one of Suning’s major businesses in the future. Suning would give full play to its resources to seek co-operation with Sainty in areas of club operation, fan engagement and the training of teenage players.
This is the first time for a Chinese e-commerce company to have absolute control of a CSL club. One of its rivals, Alibaba has acquired a 40% stake in Guangzhou Evergrande. The other company, JD has no immediate plans for club purchase or operation, though it is an official partner of the CSL.
Analysts believe that the commercial giant has overwhelming advantages. For example, it has a great online platform and over 1600 offline stores. This will be beneficial to an all-round club operation involving online ticketing, shirt retailing and offline fan interactions.
In terms of their next move, reports say that the company may bring in famous foreign players while improving the quality of local players. Suning is trying its best to realize its soccer dream.
Source: China News, Xinhua and Yutang Sports
Proofread by John Devlin.