Social media promotion is important, but even a social media “expert” would tell you putting your twitter (or weibo in China) name on your clothing is going too far. However, Villarreal became the first football club in the world to put their weibo name on their kit when they faced off against Barcelona on Saturday (it may have been an attempt to top local rival Valencia, who earlier this year put their twitter name on their kits). The “yellow submarines” marched out onto the pitch with Sina Weibo (in Chinese) across their chest with villarrealcf, their direct link on weibo, under it.
The move was an incredibly smart one by the Spanish club, promoting their Sina weibo account in this way was a sure way to get a lot of looks from all over China, especially as it gives one of the most popular sports sites in China, Sina, a reason to promote the decision. It was also a studied choice of opponents, Villarreal was going up against one of the world’s most popular clubs in a match that was sure to be on national television across China.
This isn’t an isolated incident for the Spanish club, who have quietly but aggressively been pursuing the Chinese market over the past few years. It began with the yellow submarines signing a five-year kit deal with Chinese brand Xtep that has led to summer tours in China and an Xtep commercial that is regularly played on Chinese tv (though their kits aren’t available in China). Further, they recently brought young Chinese star Feng Renliang to the club.
What originally looked like a desire to sign Feng now seems more just a chance for the youngster to train with the club’s first team in an attempt to further build a relationship that was solidified in a deal with Dalian Wanda that would see the Spanish side invite Chinese youngsters to the club and give them the chance to train with the first team in an attempt to help improve the Chinese national team.
Chinese side Shanghai Shenhua is currently in Spain preparing for the upcoming Chinese Super League season and attended the Villarreal-Barca game over the weekend. As part of their preparations, Shenhua will play a friendly against Villarreal on February 9.
Villarreal’s attempt to break into the Chinese market seems to be a well planned, measured process, beginning with an attempt to introduce themselves to domestic fans and a willingness to help. Unlike other clubs, it doesn’t appear to be just a short-sighted
dollar yuan grab strategy based on a desire to sell more shirts. Perhaps the Sina Weibo sponsoring should become a longterm feature of Villarreal’s kit, it brought them good luck as they were able to earn an important point against Barca.