Mastercard signs up as first global sponsor of League of Legends esport

Three-year deal is the first for the Riot Games title.

The League of Legends 2017 World Championship

The League of Legends 2017 World Championship

Mastercard has thrown its weight behind one of the largest esport titles in the world with a multi-year sponsorship of League of Legends.

The three-year deal represents the first global sponsorship for the Riot Games-owned League of Legends franchise.

Other big-name brand sponsors include Mercedes-Benz, Doritos, Acer, L’Oréal, Gillette and Adidas, but they are involved in League of Legends tournaments and teams at a regional level only.

The Mastercard agreement involves three of League of Legends’ annual global tournaments – the Mid-Season Invitational, the All-Star Event and the World Championship.

Mastercard and League of Legends have not disclosed how much the deal is worth. Huge sums are currently being poured into esports and it reportedly costs $10 million to buy a team franchise in the League of Legends Championship Series.

Mastercard chief marketing and communications officer Raja Rajamannar said: “Esports is a phenomenon that continues to grow in popularity, with fans that can rival those at any major sporting event in their enthusiasm and energy.”

The brand will act as payment services partner at League of Legends global esports events and the deal adds to Mastercard’s heavy investment in sports, including its Champions League sponsorship.

There are currently more than 860 professional players on 113 professional League of Legends esports teams competing across 14 leagues around the world.

League of Legends is the most-played PC game in the world, with more than 100 million monthly active players. As of March 2018, viewership of the regular League of Legends season averaged 90 million live hours each week.

Naz Aletaha, head of esports partnerships at Riot Games, said: “Mastercard is among the first of world-class brands to take such a big step into esports at the global level and we’re proud to have them support League of Legends esports events alongside their other premier sports and entertainment sponsorships.”

As part of the agreement, Mastercard will invite fans to events to take part in experiences as part of its “Priceless” marketing activity.

The first live event will take place at the World Championship later in the autumn in South Korea.

Source:; 20 Sep 2018

Facebook just secured Premier League rights for the next four years

Facebook won the rights to stream all 380 Premier League soccer matches per season from 2019 to 2022 in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam, in a deal worth about £200 million ($264 million).

This is likely Facebook’s highest profile sports streaming deal to date — the platform has previously streamed Major League Baseball (MLB) games and World Surf League (WSL) competitions among other sporting events — because the Premier League is the world’s most watched sports league.

Facebook’s acquisition of the Premier League rights represents how digital platforms are contributing to cord cutting by increasingly curating premium sports content that has historically only been available on linear TV.

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Source:; 6 Jul 2018

Twitter unveils new APAC sports streaming deals

From football to table tennis, deals encompass new partnerships and extensions of existing ones.

Twitter announced nine new Asia-Pacific sports video content collaborations, bolstering the existing deals the platform has in the region.

Speaking at Sportel Asia in Singapore, Aneesh Madani, Twitter APAC head of sports, revealed the partnerships, which include highlights, clips and other content from the following broadcasters:

– Astro Malaysia
– Fox Sports Asia
– Eleven Sports
– International Table Tennis Foundation
– BallBall
– Asian Tour
– TV One
– NetTV
– SportsFix TV

The deal with Astro Malaysia includes content from the FIFA World Cup, taking place in Russia in June. “Alongside our broadcast all 64 matches of the World Cup, Twitter will help amplify the most exciting moments from Astro’s coverage, and immerse fans in the ‘world game’,” said CK Lee, Astro VP of sports content.

The package covers content from a range sports including football, racing, tennis, golf and martial arts.

Each partner will also use Twitter’s in-stream sponsorship platform to allow advertisers to reach target audiences and publishers to monetise their video content.

Madani said: “Digital video consumption in Asia Pacific is growing rapidly. Introducing these new in-stream video sponsorship deals for sports to advertisers in Asia Pacific will strengthen the success of our partners in the region, and give fans an easy way to keep up with the sports they care about most.”

Twitter already has APAC video content deals with One Championship, the NBA and WNBA.

Source:; 15 Mar 2018

F1’s commercial boss on transforming the ‘under-managed’ business

Sean Bratches admits there have been times that he hasn’t known whether to “laugh or cry” as he tries to get under the skin of the brand for the first time.

Formula One commercial boss Sean Bratches admits he underestimated the scale of the job when he joined, saying he didn’t realise before he joined that F1 was essentially a “one-man operation” and the company was mainly made up of attorneys and accountants, with no marketing or commercial operation and little understanding of what the fans wanted.

Speaking at Advertising Week Europe yesterday (20 March), Bratches said he has faced a huge job to set up a commercial operation and move its revenues away from being mostly focused on TV rights and race-hosting fees to creating a better experience for fans and sponsors. Yet that opportunity is one of the primary reasons why Liberty Media bought F1 for £8bn just over a year ago.

“Liberty Media acquired F1 for three primary reasons. Firstly, this is a fantastic brand, a global brand, with a pretty good balance sheet. Secondly, in the world we live in with tech continuing to disintermediate the consumer experience the thesis is that live sports is going to be [one of] the last bastion of platforms, brands, genres that can aggregate large audiences at a given point in time.

“And thirdly they felt it was an under-managed business. The 21st century leadership opportunity to grow the business is pretty significant.”

Bratches was one of the first people to join the business after the Liberty Media deal. He previously spent 27 years working at ESPN, latterly as executive vice-president of sales and marketing.

He said his first job was working on the basics – understanding who F1 is as a brand and how it is perceived by the fans. And so even before the deal closed he detailed how he went on a “covert mission” to Wieden+Kennedy in London to undertake F1’s first global brand study.

That research involved speaking to fans across four continents. For example, F1 identified 10 avid fans on each continent and spoke to them for seven hours about their thoughts of the brand, as well as talking to casual fans and panels.

From that, he explained, came a “trove of data” that has helped F1 better understand the fans and what the sport means to them that turned the sport on its head.

“[On the old] F1 website there was a pithy statement about what F1 is that ended with ‘Pursuit: speed’. What we found out is that what attracts people to F1 is not the speed, it’s the racing.

“They wanted that picked up on TV so we created a sporting and tech group headed by F1 legend Ross Brawn who is charged with working with the circuits where we race to create overtaking capabilities. And broadcast partners are really central to this from a strategic standpoint.”

Becoming a media and entertainment brand

F1 now sees its broadcast partners in a different light and is keen to work with them not just on revenue but on marketing and raising awareness of the brand. In future, Bratches said he expects 30% of races in a particular country to be free-to-air with the rest on pay TV to “create a marketing and revenue platform”.

F1 is also, for the first time, launching its own over-the-top service, F1 TV. That offers the sport the opportunity to “reimagine its product” with more cameras around the circuit, particularly where overtaking is happening, to put the focus on the racing.

And Bratches, who was speaking to Oystercatchers CEO Suki Thompson, is keen to make F1 “a little less predictive”. Since the 2015 season, only three teams have won a Grand Prix, while in the Premier League the bottom three teams have either beaten or drawn with the top six teams 29% of the time.

“As a Swansea fan you know you are probably not going to win the Premier League but if you go and play Manchester City or Arsenal you know you have a chance to win because it happens. That doesn’t happen today in F1. We want to make it a bit less predictive,” he explains.

There will also be more events for fans to get involved in beyond the races. There will be new fan zones and F1 is introducing fan festivals in four host cities – Berlin, Marseille, Miami and Shanghai – that will take place in the week of the Grand Prix but run from Wednesday right through to Sunday.

“We want to really engage fans through food courts, static car shows, Pirelli show tyres, sponsor activations, merchandise sales. And three of the four will have live show car runs with F1 cars ripping up and down the streets of the city.

“In the broadest sense we are trying to reposition F1 from a motorsport company to a media and entertainment brand.”

That includes looking at sponsorship opportunities. F1 had just five under previous owner Bernie Ecclestone, and Bratches compared that to a Premier League football team like Manchester United, which has 96.

“When you juxtapose us with other similarly situated sports entities or leagues, we are way under-punching our weight class.”

Bratches admitted that half the time since he joined he hasn’t known whether to “laugh or cry”. For example, he found it astounding F1 had never run a global marketing campaign.

Its first, created by Wieden+Kennedy and launched last week, focuses on engineered insanity, which Bratches described as “two polarised concepts working in harmony in this sport like no other”. It builds on F1’s new philosophy of putting fans first and features F1 supporters, with social films supporting the main ad telling their story of F1 and what it means to them.

Creating a 21st century leadership team

F1 now has a commercial division with 10 distinct areas of focus, including strategy, digital events, hospitality, marketing, sponsorship, media rights and communications. And while Bratches said the group is “staffed from the head”, it needs to start “filling out the body”.

“We had a unique opportunity to bring in the leadership teams of this commercial division and it is a fantastic edit of talent. The unique thing in this role is that no culture existed prior to me arriving so I have been able to create my own culture, which is somewhat unique particularly for a 67-year-old company,” he explained.

That culture, he added, is about cultivating leaders that “make other people better”, sharing rather than taking credit, a code of ethical and moral behaviour and “communicating, communicating, communicating”. The offices reflect this, with F1’s London HQ designed to replicate a garage and sponsors including Pirelli and Heineken “provisioning” the team with features including a bar.

“I try to roll a grenade in every room I walk into to get things going. When I got here a year ago there was nothing in the pipe and I am really proud in terms of what we have accomplished. I think we’ll turn the sport on its head but there continues to be a lot to do,” he explained.

Source:; 21 Mar 2018

F1 unveils first global marketing campaign

With the new Formula One season starting next weekend, the racing brand is hoping to shift brand perceptions and build a new identity centred around its fans.

As it gears up for the 2018 Grand Prix season opener on 25 March, Formula One has launched its first ever global marketing campaign with the aim of challenging the sport’s perceptions by showing “what F1 really feels like” through the eyes of its fans.

The multi-platform campaign, created by Wieden+Kennedy London, kicks off in Melbourne on 16 March with new imagery and a new tagline: ‘Engineered Insanity’.

With a big outdoor push – including in-airport and in-city posters and hand-painted murals – the campaign will roll out across key Grand Prix destinations in China, France, Germany and the USA as the season unfolds.

It will also run on a number of digital and social platforms, with Formula One releasing a 60-second film featuring six superfans across its own social channels today. It hopes the film will “shine a spotlight on the innovation, endurance and elemental nature of the sport” by putting fans at the “visceral heart of the action” – i.e. what it’s like to be behind the wheel.

“If we think about the audience we want to reach, and getting to a new audience, it’s about creating content that’s going to resonate and engage with them on their level,” Formula One’s marketing director, Ellie Norman, tells Marketing Week.

“So there will be lots of animated gifs, short video formats that we’ll be pushing out to give people a feel for the campaign, and then they can hopefully discover the longer format on our pages and social channels or website.”

In the short-term, Formula One will be tracking engagement, video views, reach and re-sharing. Longer term, Norman says that will be measured against its core brand statements: increase interest, better knowledge and deeper engagement with F1 as a sport.

It fits in with Formula One’s long-term strategy to shift brand perception and build a new identity centred around its fans.

Speaking to Marketing Week at Mobile World Congress last month, Norman said: “Previously, we definitely had a logo but we didn’t have an identity. What we did have was a series of perceptions that we are working hard to change.

“For us this is a real step-change from the sport as it was in the past, which fans definitely felt wasn’t there to serve them. Every decision we are making is about how it serves the fan, so if it doesn’t serve the fan, it doesn’t serve Formula One.”

Last month Formula One announced its biggest investment in digital to date with the launch of F1 TV, an over-the-top live subscription service that will allow fans to watch ad-free live streams of each race, while on-board cameras will show live content from the driver’s point of view.

Over the next year, Formula One also plans on creating further fan-centred activations at the races, at fan festivals and across its social platforms.

Source:; 16 Mar 2018

F1 makes biggest ever investment in digital as it looks to serve fans better

F1’s marketing boss admits it hasn’t served fans as well as it could have in the past, but hopes a new TV app will bring them closer to the brand.

Formula One is making its biggest investment in digital to date with the launch of an over-the-top live subscription service, as it looks to change brand perceptions and serve its fans better.

F1 TV will launch across 40 markets – including Germany, France and the USA but not in the UK – next month, in time for the upcoming Formula One season. It will allow fans to watch ad-free live streams of each race, while on-board cameras will show live content from the driver’s point of view.

Speaking to Marketing Week at Mobile World Congress on Tuesday (27 February), Formula One’s marketing director, Ellie Norman, said 2018 is about “launching the brand” – and F1 TV will play a pivotal role in opening up the business to new digital opportunities.

“Previously, we definitely had a logo but we didn’t have an identity,” Norman said. “What we did have was a series of perceptions that we are working hard to change.”

Norman, who joined Formula One last August, said her main focus this year is building Formula One an identity with fans “at the heart”.

“For us this is a real step-change from the sport as it was in the past, which fans definitely felt wasn’t there to serve them,” Norman said.

“Every decision we are making is about how it serves the fan, so if it doesn’t serve the fan, it doesn’t serve Formula One.”

The app will launch without any advertising, but Norman said Formula One is open to conversations “if there is a relevance there” to improve the customer experience.

Alongside F1 TV, Norman said ‘fan festivals’ will also be key to bringing people closer to the sport.

Following a successful launch in London last summer, another four events are lined up this year in Shanghai, Marseilles, Berlin and Miami.

“It’s an opportunity for us to take some of those core elements of Formula One but to take them into city centres; to an audience that has never engaged with, or been to a Formula One race before,” Norman explained. “The ambition is to increase that number to 15 in 2019.”

Source:; 28 Feb 2018

Formula One puts the grid girl practice to tire-screeching halt

Singtel Grid Girl

FormulaOne (F1) has revealed that it will end its practice of using walk-on grid girls in its races. The move will take effect during the 2018 FIA Formula 1 World Championship season, and also apply to F1’s other motorsports series taking place during Grands Prix weekends.

Confirming the move in a press statement, Sean Bratches, managing director, commercial operations at F1 explained that the organisation did not believe the practice is “appropriate or relevant” to old and new F1 fans across the world. He added that while the practice of employing grid girls has been a staple of Formula 1 Grands Prix for decades,

The move also follows a review of areas the organisation felt need updating to be more in tune with its vision for the sport. The statement added that F1 considers the time spent by teams and drivers on the grid before a race as one of celebration. This allows guests and various performers to add to the “glamour and spectacle” of the Grand Prix, enabling promoters and partners to showcase their countries and products. The new F1 season begins on 25 March 2018 with the 2018 Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.

While lauded by woman sports groups such as Women’s Sports Trust, the move received mixed reactions from netizens, majority criticising F1 for putting the grid girls out of a job. The organisation was also criticised for bowing to societal pressure.

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Closer to home, the use of grid girls in the Grand Prix was a common occurrence back when Singtel was a title sponsor for the F1 race. The selection process was one garnering media attention, going as far as producing an entire pageant-style competition in 2009 to name top 21 girls who will lead the pack on race day.

According to a 2009 press statement from Singtel, the active sporty girls aged between 18 and 26 were also selected to Singtel Grid Girls on Tour programme running that year on Mediacorp’s Channel 5. This was on top of grid girl duties. After Singapore Airlines took over the title sponsor role, grid girl duties fell on existing SIA cabin crew for representation at the F1.

Most recently, Singapore GP and Singapore Tourism Board (STB) revealed they will continue to host the FIA Formula 1 World Championship for four more years from 2018 to 2021. In Malaysia however, F1 did not get its contract renewed, a move confirmed by Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz. This was primarily due to high costs of hosting the race without justifiable returns to the country, as well as a drop in ticket sales and TV viewing figures, according to several local media reports.

The move also follows recent steps F1 has taken to refresh its brand image. In November 2017, F1 revealed a new logo as the first step in its rebranding along with a new mission statement. While the management at F1 was positive about the new logo, fans however, did not share the same sentiment. Months later, F1 was met with trademark trouble after its latest logo was said to contain striking similarities to one used by 3M for its Futuro product line of compression tights.

Source:; 1 Feb 2018

Twitter introduces sponsored Moments to help connect publishers with brands

Twitter introduced an In-Stream Sponsorship featured sponsored by Moments for advertisers and publishers to engage their audience with relevant content.

Advertisers can sponsor Moments from premium content partners. Sponsored Moments include interstitial Tweets from the brand as well as a branded cover.

According to Twitter: “The goal with sponsored Moments, as with all In-Stream Sponsorships, is tight alignment between advertiser messaging and partner content.

“By working with premium publishers as part of an In-Stream Sponsorship, brands know exactly which partner they are working with, and can develop deep brand integrations within that partner’s content.”

Twitter tested its new feature with Bank of America’s sponsored Moment from Bloomberg at Davos.

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Meredith Verdone, chief marketing officer, Bank of America said: “We know that decision-makers and influencers are turning to Twitter to keep up with what’s happening at Davos. Sponsored Moments gives us a great new way to seamlessly join that conversation as it is happening. Working with Bloomberg and Twitter helps us bring high-quality, relevant content to an engaged global audience. We’re excited to debut Moments as a key part of our #WEF programming.”

Meena Thiruvengadam, global head of audience development, Bloomberg Media said: “Twitter Moments offers a unique way to curate our content around key storylines and events in a way readers can best understand the most important stories unfolding around them.”

Source:; 27 Jan 2018

F1’s commercial boss on building a brand beyond racing

F1 wants to offer sponsors more flexibility and widen its appeal through a focus on eSports and a review of the role of so-called ‘grid girls’.

When Liberty Media completed the $8bn deal to acquire Formula One at the start of 2017, one of the first things it did was recruit Murray Barnett as the sport’s first head of global sponsorship and commercial partnerships.

Under the previous ownership, F1 lacked any kind of marketing department and derived most of its revenue from TV rights and race hosting fees, with owner Bernie Ecclestone cutting sponsorship deals personally. This was an outdated model that wasn’t at all joined up with the sport’s teams or drivers, and prevented F1 from ever hitting the commercial heights of other sports like football despite its global appeal.

Each F1 race can have up to 300,000 fans attending, with 80 million people watching live at home. The sport estimates it has 150 million global fans.

Liberty knew that under Ecclestone’s 40-year reign as F1’s commercial supremo, the sport didn’t make the most of its sponsorship opportunities. And Barnett, an experienced marketer poached in March from his role as chief commercial officer at World Rugby, has been tasked with leading the evolution.

When asked by Marketing Week what the biggest changes have been so far, Barnett confidently replies: “As a brand we have become more fan centric and we’re now doing everything through the prism of a fan, or a potential fan.

“Recently there was a young fan seen on TV crying in the stands because his hero Kimi Raikkonen had crashed and been eliminated. We brought him down to hang out with Kimi and go into the pits. This kind of emotive viral marketing activity would never have happened before and it made headlines globally.”

He adds: “I don’t want to talk too much about Ecclestone’s time, but our view now is to try to approach sponsors with a ‘yes, why not?’ attitude as opposed to a ‘no, I don’t understand the question’ kind of attitude. If they want to host a fashion show during a Grand Prix, we’ll make it happen, rather than shut the idea down.

“Nowadays, you have to work a lot harder to prove sponsor value. In the old days, it was just about throwing a few hospitality tickets around or putting some signage on a car. Now brands want authentic integration into the sport and that takes more time and effort to build and deliver.”

A more joined-up approach

The sport recently launched its first eSports league

For the first time, F1 now has account executives looking after each of its individual sponsors. They also have access to a portal with up-to-date information on F1 fans so they can target the audience more effectively.

Barnett cites Heineken as an example of a sponsor that has benefited from these changes, with the beer brand standing out for its experiential activity including hosting popular pool parties during the Monza Grand Prix.

“The way I look at it is someone should be able to attend a Grand Prix and for nine hours not see one bit of racing and still leave entertained,” adds Murray. “This is what I am telling brands.”

The sport faces a unique challenge in that it has to build the profile of the umbrella brand as well the profile of the 20 tracks used in its races and the 10 teams. However, Barnett says things are becoming far more joined-up: “We see ourselves as one of 31 shareholders in F1. There’s 10 teams, 20 tracks and us over at HQ.

“When we go to see commercial partners, we say to them if we are not right for you centrally, let us give you an intro to the teams or the drivers to build a relationship with them. If one of us grows, the whole sport benefits.”

Appealing to women
But who are the fans that sponsors are keen to reach via F1? According to GlobalWebIndex, which analysed the brand engagement levels of 51,280 global F1 fans, the sport can claim to have a cross-generational appeal, with consistently high scores across different age groups.

Of the total F1 audience, 83% shop online each month, with 50% saying they tend to buy with the brands they see advertised during races. F1 fans spend an average of two hours a day on social media, with the study claiming 38% of internet users are F1 fans and one in eight of its millennial fans choosing to watch races online.

But while the opportunities to market to this group are obvious, there are still areas where F1 is lacking. One of the biggest is the sport’s gender divide, with the same study showing men are 50% more likely to watch F1 than women.

This is not helped by the sport’s outdated use of promotional models who act as ‘grid girls’. The practice effectively reduces women to eye candy and is at odds with the progress seen in other sports such as football.

F1’s sponsorship boss says it needs to become more ‘progressive’ towards women

Barnett insists F1 is reviewing the use of grid girls, but he won’t commit to axing them altogether despite mounting pressure to do just that.
“We’re 100% committed to looking into grid girls and making them a more relevant part of the competition rather than just holding a board and standing next to a car,” he says.

“We want to make them fully integrated into the programme and change the perception of what their involvement in the sport is. We haven’t quite cracked what this will look like, but we’ve recognised we need to become more progressive there.”

He cites F1’s Dare to be Different programme, which encourages women to get involved in a career in car engineering as a positive milestone. He says there’s also a fierce debate internally about whether to host a women’s only F1 competition.

He explains: “There is a fierce debate about whether we should have a separate female F1 competition or to keep it fully integrated and let women drivers take part in a mixed gender competition like some have done in the past.

“We have a lot of women in senior management positions at F1, so we’re not as bad as you think, but there’s definitely a lot of room to grow.”

Rebranding and placing faith in eSports
In August, F1 launched its first eSports programme in partnership with developer Codemasters, which creates the official F1 video games. And Barnett has high hopes for this eSports league.

“I’d say, in five or 10 years’ time, the professional gamers will be able to compete against the real-life drivers in real time – one with a controller and one in a car,” he says. “My eldest son is 10-years-old and for all the will in the world he won’t sit for three hours watching a Grand Prix live. However, he loves gaming so eSports means we can connect to this young generation in a more engaging way.”

Barnett is working closely with ad agency Wieden+Kennedy and experiential agency CSM Sport & Entertainment to rebrand F1 ahead of the new season. In November, it unveiled a new logo that it said was inspired by both Coca-Cola and Starbucks’ bids to create signage that stands out more in the digital era. It was a bold move considering the previous brand logo had been the same for 23 years.

This rebranding will be followed by a new graphic package for F1’s television production, a new web platform, a live and a non-live over-the-top TV platform and ‘new social capabilities.’ And one area Barnett says F1’s storytelling will change is in how it treats social purpose and the sport’s impact on the environment.

He explains: “We’re looking at things like carbon off-setting for F1 as an organisation, but it’s also one of the best kept secrets that F1 is actually an incredibly lean engine. We have 50% engine recovery, 1.6 litre hybrid engines, 1,000 break horsepower – people tell me this is astonishing.

“I don’t want to talk negatively about Formula E, but the power of their batteries has to come from somewhere. F1 as a sport can be sustainable and good for the environment so we need to tell that story more often.”

Ultimately, Barnett wants F1 to get to the stage where the logo “triggers an emotion that means different things to different people like Nike’s ‘Just Do It’.”

He concludes: “There’s so many opportunities if you want to sponsor football but if you want to go into motorsport, there’s only one place to be and that’s F1. We want to put the spectacle into spectacular and make this less of a corporate brand that’s more about having fun.

“It is going to take a long time for brands to change their perception of what F1 is [because of the old commercial model] and actually give us consideration, I know that. But we need to have patience and recognise that if we keep offering compelling experiences for brands then others will start to take notice soon rather than later.”

Source:; 9 Jan 2018

A checklist for hiring celebrities in China

Zero tolerance: Five things China’s government and/or public won’t accept in celebrity endorsers.

In recent years, foreign luxury brands in China have heavily relied on celebrities to enhance brand recognition and gain customer loyalty. Though this strategy can bring about repercussions when brands work with someone who does not fit their image, partnering with celebrities can at least bring a substantial amount of traffic and attention on social media. Marketers can then leverage this attention to promote products and tell brand stories.

Making celebrities the public face of brands, nonetheless, has become an increasingly difficult task nowadays, which requires marketers to understand the political, cultural and social reality of China and vet potential brand ambassadors.

In recent months, the Chinese government has rolled out a series of measures to regulate celebrity and entertainment circles. The most recent prominent example of this is Katy Perry, who was scheduled to perform at the Shanghai Victoria Secret Fashion Show this year. However, her visa was denied because of her 2015 performance in Taipei, where she donned a dress with sunflowers on it and waved a Taiwanese flag. The sunflower was the symbol of the 2014 Sunflower Student Movement, which protested a bill that aimed to liberalize trade between China and Taiwan. However, many protesters feared further economic integration with China would encroach on Taiwan’s political independence.

The above example speaks to the necessity for luxury brands to fully understand the lifestyles, personal behaviours and relationships, as well as political attitudes of the celebrities who they want to hire. Celebrities’ massive online popularity will make their career-ending scandals go viral much more easily than others, which could bring irreversible damage to the brands that they represent.

Though there are no perfect precautionary measures that can be taken to totally avoid celebrity scandals from occurring, there are many lessons that luxury brands can learn about what the Chinese government and the public dislike based on some previous cases. The following are several issues that the Chinese government and online citizens show zero tolerance for:

1. Drugs

Drugs are totally forbidden in China. This includes marijuana, which has been legalized in many nations around the world. In 2015, the Chinese government passed a regulation that stipulates that celebrities who are involved in drug-related scandals cannot appear in TV shows, advertisements, films, etc. and brands that work with them have to drop their contracts.

The Taiwanese actor Kai Ko, who used to be the brand ambassador of the French premium cosmetics brand L’Oreal, is a prominent example of a brand ambassador running into trouble for drug use. Ko gained fame for his role in the film “You Are the Apple of My Eye.” In 2014, he was detained by Beijing police for drug use and L’Oreal issued a public statement to apologize to the public for working with Ko.

2. Political stance

It is equally important to check the political stance of celebrities before hiring them. In China, the public cannot promote Taiwanese and Tibetan independence. It is also unacceptable to criticize the country’s political system and leaders or publicly show affinity for Japan.

Lancome’s previous brand ambassador, Denise Ho from Hong Kong, was removed from her position after voicing her support for the “Occupy Central” movement, which sparked backlash on China’s social media sites last year.

3. Extramarital affairs

The Chinese online community also has zero tolerance for celebrities’ extramarital affairs. Extramarital scandals cause substantially more uproar on the Chinese internet and the unfaithful party is often harshly criticized for his or her unethical behaviour. In recent years, the Chinese populace has at times voluntarily boycotted celebrities who are involved in this type of scandal.

Montblanc‘s previous Chinese brand ambassador Lin Dan, a professional badminton player who has won two Olympic gold medals, is a prime example. He was replaced by other celebrities immediately after his extramarital affairs were exposed to the public in 2016.

4. Charity fraud

For Chinese celebrities, it is a highly valuable practice for them to participate in philanthropic activities. The government and the public like to see them give their time or money for a cause.

The Hollywood star Zhang Ziyi, who was also the brand ambassador of Giorgio Armani, came under fire for charity fraud. Zhang reportedly lied about donating money to aid people who suffered in the Wenchuan Earthquake in 2008. Zhang quickly received harsh rebuke from both the Chinese government and the public. The state-owned People’s Daily wrote an open letter to Zhang, that said that her behaviours “challenged human being’s moral limitation.” The brand immediately dropped Zhang.

5. Unethical business practices

Nowadays, many Chinese celebrities have their own businesses along with their careers as actors or singers. Therefore, luxury brands have to ensure that they are aware of the kind of businesses that their celebrity partners have been running. For example, Emporio Armani’s Chinese brand ambassador Hu Ge owns a Japanese restaurant in Shanghai. Dior’s brand ambassador Angelababy is also the founder of two venture capital firms.

Last week, the brand ambassador of the high-end watch brand Jaeger-LeCoultre, Zhao Wei, was involved in a financial fraud case. Chinese authorities discovered her and her husband’s unethical activities in the country’s capital markets.

Source: Jing Daily/; 20 Nov 2017