Skip to main content

Football and social media drives change in China

Monday 27 February 2017

Professor of Sports Analytics at the University of Salford and expert on China, Simon Chadwick, comments on new research from Mailman on the power of social media in the country.

Professor Chadwick said: “Mailman’s latest research tells us something about the power of social media in China, particularly when football is involved. After Özil and Ronaldo, Manchester United’s Anthony Martial and Wayne Rooney are identified as being among the most influential footballers online. This is hardly surprising given that United is identified in Mailman’s research as being the most influential team online in China.

“China has the world’s biggest internet user-base (nearly 700 million people), with most of them active social media users. Of this number, almost 600 million people access social media using a mobile device. As such, the country is arguably the most dynamic, sophisticated social media environment in the world, aided by the growth of China’s middle class and rising levels of income generally.

“Among the most important motives among the Chinese for using such platforms are free expression, identity creation and peer attention, with all three likely to hold the key to China’s social media consumption of football clubs and its stars.

“Such is the symbiosis between football and social media in China that identity creation also feeds into peer attention, another factor underpinning the country’s love affair with its online worlds. It is very common in China for people to stare at one another, something that social media readily facilitates. Equally, people in China are highly status conscious, something which is now being fed by its peoples’ increasingly conspicuous consumption habits.

“Being seen online to be a Real Madrid or Juventus fan plays very strongly into this narrative, by emphasising one’s credentials as being someone with status and prestige.

“China loves social media and is growing to love football too. With this in mind players and clubs need to be aware that when someone posts a message on We Chat or Sina, there is likely to be significant meaning behind it.”

Find out more

Sam Wood

0161 295 5361