BEIJING China (Xinhua) --
Although China failed to qualify for the 2018
World Cup in Russia, the national team’s absence from football’s
blue riband event hasn’t undermined the country’s impact on and
presence in the competition.
In 1978, Chinese
audiences were able to watch the FIFA World Cup on TV for the
At this summer’s
World Cup 40 years later, Chinese fans purchased more than
40,000 tickets and four Chinese companies sponsored the
competition, accounting for one-third of the World Cup’s top and
acquaintance to today’s involvement, the World Cup has witnessed
the ups and downs of Chinese football as well as the “Chinese
path” and development miracle following the policy of reform and
opening up. Many Chinese enterprises are seeking to use their
involvement with the World Cup to push for greater development
with a more confident mind, greater initiative and a more
In 1994, WeiGuang
International Company, located in Dongguan, Guangdong province,
began its World Cup journey. At that time, the then-two-year-old
manufacturing company received an official FIFA license to build
accessories based on the World Cup trophy. As China continued to
open up in the 1990s, many companies from the Guangdong’s Pearl
River Delta like WeiGuang were embracing the global market and
forming a key component of China’s export-oriented economy.
However, many of
these companies suffered from shortcomings, such as poor IPR
awareness and a lack of R&D ability. The FIFA World Cup has
helped many of them overcome these hurdles. According to Jian
Kaiping, manager of WeiGuang, over the past 24 years, although
the FIFA World Cup has only accounted for 10 percent of its
total business, the high standard and demand of this world-class
sporting event has helped the company enhance its R&D and sales
“To seek perfection
and refine our techniques, we have constantly communicated with
FIFA, from design to manufacturing techniques and the selection
of materials to marketing strategies,” Jian noted.
Under FIFA’s strict
demands, WeiGuang has grown from a contract manufacturer to an
independent brand enterprise. With the 2008 financial crisis,
WeiGuang’s traditional distribution channel disappeared
overnight, but the company rallied to become a global supplier
of luxury parts and accessories thanks to the strong design and
manufacturing abilities that had grown from its involvement with
the FIFA World Cup.
In 2010, WeiGuang
officially became a FIFA World Cup licensee, and not merely a
contact manufacturer anymore. Before the opening ceremony of the
2018 World Cup, WeiGuang’s FIFA World Cup trophy was once again
a popular item on its production line, with 30,000 orders from
overseas, and more expected domestically.
“This is not usual,
but has emerged with the growth of Chinese football and people’s
deeper awareness of the FIFA World Cup,” Jian said.
In October 2001,
China’s national football team qualified for the FIFA World Cup
for the first time. Two months later, China was admitted to the
WTO, and this historical coincidence had considerable
At the 2002 FIFA
World Cup, the Chinese football team did not live up to
expectations, losing all three of their group stage games
without scoring a single goal. Since then, the team hasn’t
managed to qualify for any subsequent editions of the World Cup.
A similar story happened to Chinese enterprises in the World
In 2010, Chinese
companies’ production of the traditional African “Vuvuzela” horn
was something of a business miracle in World Cup history.
However, Chinese manufacturers and workers were only able to
earn less than five percent of the horns’ retail price. Just as
world football was on the cusp of a technical revolution,
China’s enterprises and its manufacturing industry were in
urgent need of transition and upgrade.
Shuoke Plastic and
Metal Manufacturing Company from Dongguan, Guangdong province,
was a traditional labor-intensive manufacturing company. In
2015, together with other intellectualized manufacturing
companies, they developed the first automated production line to
produce footballs. Traditionally, such a production line needed
hundreds of workers to cut, print, spray code, glue and fold,
but in an automated production line, just 20 workers are able to
produce 1,500 footballs within a single day.
workshop, there hangs a huge five-star red flag. “We represent
today’s ‘Made in China’,” said Shuoke director Wang Chong. “We
cannot make copycat and knock-off productions anymore, but
excellent and high quality goods instead. We must produce a
football that wins the praise of everyone in the world.”
Just as in the
previous World Cup in Brazil in 2014, this year, the official
match ball of the FIFA World Cup is manufactured in China.
Additionally, commemorative World Cup coins have also been
warmly received by global consumers. Their Chinese manufacturers
have met FIFA’s strict standards and regulations to provide high
quality products within a short period of time. Receiving FIFA’s
seal of approval is testimony to the growth of the Chinese
economy and the resilience of China’s manufacturing industry.
In 2003, a Chinese
air conditioning firm paid 1.5 million U.S. dollars to invite
Brazilian superstar Ronaldo to endorse its products,
representing the first step in international sports marketing
for a Chinese enterprise.
15 years on, today
Chinese enterprises’ annual investments in sporting events
marketing amount to more than 1 billion dollars. At the 2018
World Cup, four Chinese companies - Wanda, Hisense, Mengniu
Diary and VIVO - feature prominently in official advertising and
These four firms
account for one-third of the top and second-tier sponsors at
this World Cup. Additionally, three other Chinese companies have
become regional partners. Chinese companies have invested a
total of 835 million dollars in the field of advertising at the
2018 World Cup.
According to FIFA’s
chief business officer, Chinese enterprises have gradually
realized that they should move to the overseas market, since
their domestic market has become saturated.
senior director, Liu Yuxuan noted the importance to get Chinese
brands well known overseas. “We are the world fifth largest
smart phone manufacturer, and sponsoring the World Cup is in
line with our brand positioning. By sponsoring this top-level
sporting event, we hope that Chinese enterprises and brands can
be known across the rest of the world.”
On July 15, the
winner of the 2018 FIFA World Cup will be decided, and then a
new round of World Cup qualification will begin again, this time
for Qatar in 2022. And as football reform has deepened in China,
perhaps people have reason to believe that Chinese football can
follow the example of the country’s manufacturing industry, in
adapting, improving, and eventually becoming a mainstay of the
FIFA World Cup.