A new study by Shanghai research company Mailman Group shows that leading professional football clubs rely heavily on social media in China to help generate fan awareness and engagement which appeals to new sponsors from the region.
The report, which examined the two most popular social media platforms in China, micro-blog services Sina and Tencent Weibo, shows that the engagement level a club has with its with followers is far more important than the club's total number of followers.
Manchester United has been the most successful club in China having signed a bevy of sponsors including recent major deals with Wahaha and China Construction Bank. The club only has about 400,000 followers, which is less than half the average number of followers of leading professional football clubs in China. It does however have a far more engaged follower base that are more likely to interact with the club and other fans through the micro blogging sites.
The study also revealed that over two thirds of clubs were making an effort to provide a culturally aligned experience for its Chinese users by translating content into Mandarin and directly targeting Chinese fans with relevant content.
The report said that Manchester United and Barcelona had the most fan generated web pages in China which is also an indicator of the strength of the clubs' social media strategy in the region.