Mark Tanner
Mark Tanner
30 April 2014 0 Comments

Earlier this month, the New Republic magazine published a stunning account of the inaugral season of the unlikely Chongqing Dockers American Football team. It had the Skinny office in hysterics.

The 8,000-word piece was one of those online epics that was not only entertaining and inspirational, but also weaved in many of the traits shaping the younger generation of China’s consumers.  As it turned out, we weren’t the only ones who enjoyed it. Someone down at Sony Pictures took a shine to the story and has penned a deal that will probably see it made into a movie.

The film is likely to hold appeal with the world’s two largest movie markets, China and the USA.  For Chinese audiences, it should provide a comical reflection of contemporary Chinese youth who find themselves caught up with Western influences, throwing in some heart-wrenching inspiration that Chinese can connect with on a personal level.

For the USA, the tale has the formulaic cast of villains, the cheerleader love story and the University of Michigan hero, with the dramatic backdrop of Chongqing.  But just the bizarre concept of America’s national pastime in the Middle Kingdom should strike a chord. Hopefully it will paint every-day Chinese in a more realistic light than a token Asian actor who does Kung Fu, or the sometimes one-sided view by American press.

American Football is unlikely to reach the heights of NBA in China, but a movie like this will certainly help the cause.  Like many Western organisations in China, some would say that the NFL initially rushed into China a little too ambitiously. But the shift to a more realistic grassroots approach is making some headway.  There are now an estimated three million ‘avid’ fans of the game in China and 1.4 million watched the Super Bowl live online in 2013, 35% more than 2012. Swaying Chinese to follow a completely foreign sport was never going to be easy, but a combination of the long game, coupled with breaks like the Chongqing Dockers movie will position it well to tap into the hundreds of millions of potential fans.

Unfortunately not all of us will have a blockbuster to help promote our wares, but hopefully some of the news and views below should provide some assistance.  We hope you enjoy this week’s Skinny.

Consumers, Chinese Consumers

My Hilarious, Heartbreaking, Triumphant Season With the American Football League of China: Long, but laugh-out-loud, tear jerking article about the inspirational journey of the Chongqing Dockers football side. Representative of many characteristics of the young generation of modern China.

Where China’s Future will Happen: The change happening in China’s cities is a thing of awe. By 2030, one-eighth of humanity will live in them. Six years ago there were no bullet trains linking them, now the network is larger than Europe’s and is set to expand by two thirds by 2020. But China’s urban growth hasn’t come without its problems.

China’s New Path Indicates Crucial Role of Consumers: China’s retail sales grew 12.2% year on year, well above GDP growth. Communication appliances and furniture led spending increases, both up 18%, followed by vehicles, rising 14%, and household appliances and traditional Chinese and western medicines, growing 13% each.

The Chinese Digital Consumer in a Multichannel World: Chinese consumers prefer to get most of their shopping recommendations from word-of-mouth methods such as social media, according to new research from the Boston Consulting Group. Consumers visit an average of ten Web pages over the course of their research into products and services, however it varies per product type.

9 Ways Chinese Consumers Are Completely Changing: A good reminder of how Chinese consumers are evolving: 1) They’re becoming more obsessed with technology; 2) Work-life balance is turning into a must; 3) They want to be inspired; 4) They’re going shopping at night; 5) They expect company transparency; 6) Chinese brands are gaining prestige; 7) They’re going niche; 8) They’re becoming foodies; and 9) They’re doing almost everything on their mobiles.

‘The China Market’ Becomes ‘The China Global Demographic’: With over a hundred million overseas travellers, 250,000 studying at universities in the USA and 100,000 studying in Europe, tending to Chinese outside of the mainland also is key for China marketing strategies.

Online: Internet & Social Media

Chinese Internet Giants Need to Give Shoppers “Total Retail” Experience: A PWC survey found 93% of Chinese consumers follow brands on social media versus 49% in the USA. 86% bought products through social media compared with just 29% in the USA.

Why China is 10 Years Ahead in Social Commerce: 75% of online Chinese consumers post ratings and reviews at least monthly. Less than 20% do the same in the West.

Premium Food & Beverage

China’s Arsenic-Laced Soil Harming Food, Health, Survey Shows: A 9-year Government survey into the state of China’s soil has found 16% of the 6.3 million square metres of land tested breached safety guidelines, laced with pollutants including mercury, arsenic and the radioactive cadmium.

Xi’s Corruption Crackdown Hits China’s Restaurants: China’s restaurant industry grew ‘just’ 9% in 2013 to ¥2.56 trillion ($411 billion), its lowest growth in more than two decades. Mid and high range restaurants fared worst. The Government’s budget for overseas work trips, government-use of vehicles and official receptions is down 10.3% this year.

Banking, Property

$13 Million New York Real-Estate Deal Done Entirely Over WeChat: The agent sent an inquirer photos of the apartment via WeChat, and setup a chat group between herself, the buyer, and their attorneys.

Overseas Chinese Tourists

Good News for Gucci and Prada: Italy Eases Chinese Tourist Visa Restrictions: Chinese travellers can now apply at the Italian Consulate closest to their residence, not their household registration (hukou). About 45 countries and regions introduced visa exemption or visa-on-arrival policies for Chinese travelers in 2013. Italy is said to be the top country for Chinese luxury spending, although France gets more visitors. Italian wine producers recently announced more marketing for China.

Babies Little Emperors

Made In The USA: Childless Chinese Turn To American Surrogates: A new export opportunity for the USA – surrogate mothering, guaranteeing a US passport, education and clean air if needed. One particular agency only had their first mainland China client in 2009. They now account for 47% of clients.

High End Fashion

Abercrombie & Fitch to Open 100 Stores in China: A&F’s new flagship Shanghai store features the same ambiance as A&F stores in the USA, with store models, classic lighting, heart-pumping music, and the smell of Fierce cologne. Their launch certainly created some buzz, with young girls all over Shanghai sending WeChat and Weibo pictures of A&F boys with abs.

Cars and Auto

VW Has Agreed Budget Car Concept, Design: Volkswagen is good to go with manufacture of budget cars in China, expected to sell between ¥52,000 ($8,300) and ¥69,000 ($11,000).

Hongqi L5 Limousine Debuts on the Beijing Auto Show: China’s answer to the Rolls and Bentley, the V12 Hongqi L5, launched for official duties a year ago when the French president visited China, is now available for civilians to purchase – going for a song at ¥4.9 mill ($800,000).

Chinese Consumers Reluctant about Electric Vehicles: A survey of six countries found Chinese consumers have the lowest awareness and positive opinion about electric vehicles, with just 16% viewing them favourably.

That’s The Skinny for the week!  We’d love to discuss how we could help with your marketing, online initiatives or research to take advantage of China’s opportunities.  Just email us at or call us at +86 21 6256 9082 so we can learn more about your objectives and let you know how we can help.