could china be the real 2018 world cup winners?

With the World Cup in Russia now upon us, nations are prepped to support their team to potential World Cup glory. China finished bottom of their qualifying group, so they won’t be in it to win it. But might their brands be scoring a few awareness points along the way?

FIFA’s infamous issues over the past few years have impacted some of the major traditional sponsors renewing their contracts. This has shifted the goalposts allowing other, arguably lesser-known, brands to step-in and reach a global audience of around 3.5 billion fans.

China is expected to see the biggest increase in advertising spend as a consequence of the World Cup, with the competition generating $835m in additional ad spend. Chinese companies’ advertising spends double that of the US, around $400 million, and is far more than host nation Russia, at approximately $64 million.

Xi Jingping’s World Cup dream

In recent years China has seen a rapid growth for their football leagues with many well-known stars swapping the Premier League for the Chinese Super League. Chinese president Xi Jinping is a football fanatic and back in 2011 explained his own personal ambition for Chinese football: To qualify for the World Cup, to host the World Cup, and finally to win the World Cup. Football is now on their National Curriculum. So it seems China are serious about taking the sport on and building an army of fans.

100,000 Chinese tourists are expected to travel to Russia during the World Cup, dwarfing the 32,000 tickets sold to England supporters, with flight bookings between China and Russia up by around 400% from the same period last year.

The Chinese companies taking advantage of the 2018 World Cup

With this increasing popularity of the sport throughout China, many large companies have taken it upon themselves to use the World Cup as a platform to advertise.

Some of China’s biggest brands such as Wanda, who were the first Chinese company to sign up as a FIFA partner in 2016.

With Sony deciding not to renew their agreement with FIFA ahead of the World Cup, that paved way for Hisense to be named the official television supplier, along with Vivo who have been presented as FIFA’s official smartphone sponsor in a six-year agreement.

And Mengniu Dairy will be providing the tournament’s official yoghurt drink.

So, could the World Cup be the game changer in getting Chinese brands full exposure to more global audiences? The odds are out for the countries most likely to take the trophy this year, but how things play out for these Chinese brands is yet to be seen.