NFL makes cyber play in China

Updated: 2013-07-24 10:54

By Yu Wei in San Francisco (China Daily)

  Print Mail Large Medium  Small 分享按钮 0

The National Football League is exploring greater business opportunities with China's 591 million Internet users by launching a flagship online store on, China's largest business-to-consumer website.

NFL's first official shop in China will debut in September, coinciding with the kick-off of the 2013 NFL season.

Choosing to go online rather than setting up brick-and-mortar stores in China was a no-brainer for the NFL, as hundreds of millions of Chinese netizens are purchasing more and more products online.

"Tmall is the market leader in Chinese B2C E-Commerce," said Richard Young, managing director of NFL China. "Most of our fans shop quite extensively on Tmall, so we feel it is a very good way to get our products - as well as our partners' products - to our fans."

In order to tap into the Chinese e-commerce market, the NFL has signed an exclusive agreement with Export Now, an Ohio-based company that helps companies reach Chinese consumers through e-commerce.

"We approached Export Now more than a year ago, and we did some trails with them last season," Young said. "The best thing about Export Now is that everything they said they'd do, they have done, and more. They are a solid partner that we feel very comfortable with."

Export Now, which provides distribution services, market research and regulatory compliance on things such as import and transaction tariffs, currently works with 110 (mostly US) worldwide companies.

"We are proud to be selected by the NFL," said Frank Lavin, Export Now's founder and CEO. "This is a statement about the importance of China in international sports, as well as the importance of e-commerce in brand building."

"Through Export Now, the NFL will have a flagship store on Tmall that they can use to help the growing number of football fans in China enjoy the NFL experience," Lavin said.

"China has more e-commerce sales than the US and Chinese consumers are increasingly interested in US brands," he added.

China Internet Network Information Center said last week that as of the end of June, China's netizen population - already the world's largest - had reached 591 million.

China's e-commerce market is developing rapidly as a result. Alibaba's research says that China is close to overtaking the US as the largest online spender, reaching $265 billion in 2013.

Like the NFL, many US companies well understand the potential of China's e-commerce market and are starting to use it as a relatively easy way to gain access to the Chinese market.

Microsoft Corp launched an online store on Tmall in March. In addition, the US Department of Agriculture's trade office in Shanghai conducted a food campaign on Tmall, which allowed fresh Northwest cherries and other foods such as lobster and salmon from the US to be sold to Chinese consumers.

"I wish we could have opened our online store in China much earlier," Young said.

American football is a sport that is still relatively new to the Chinese, he explained, "it takes time and we are very patient with our growth strategy".

"We know that our fan base is growing very rapidly," Young said. "We want to be among the top 10 sports in tier one cities in China by 2020. We feel like our growth right now is on track to do it."

The new store, he said, gives fans another way to get closer to the NFL.

(China Daily USA 07/24/2013 page1)