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Chinese companies wasting millions of Euro with wrong marketing at UEFA EURO 2024

Chinese companies wasting millions of Euro with wrong marketing at UEFA EURO 2024

Dear reader,

For football fans around the world and especially in Europe the long-awaited European football cup tournament has started. Chinese companies are visible as sponsors and advertising companies in a big way. However, they got it all wrong based on a lack of intercultural understanding.

Chinese characters popping up on the LED boards on the side of Championship football games have become a common sight for years, advertising Chinese (illegal) online sport betting apps, often without any translation. For the EURO 2024 this has been intensified with Alibaba as one of the main sponsors and BYD, Vivo and Hisense present in the stadiums. Altogether five of the championship’s 13 sponsors come from China.

The messages they are showing however might be the right ones for a Chinese audience, but not for Europeans. Alibaba for example is showing a video with smartphones showing Chinese language content of transactions, ending with an English-speaking celebrity I can’t identify. They also have messages like “28 apps” or “Accepted by merchants in 88 countries” in a situation where 90% of the viewers will have no idea what exactly Alibaba is offering or what “merchants” are and why should I care about 88 countries.

According to Bloomberg, Alibaba needs to attract 70% more active users on AliExpress during the tournament period June 14 - July 14 to raise the likelihood that its marketing spending on the 2024 UEFA European Football Championship can aid its e-commerce expansion overseas. Given the clumsy marketing, that seems very unlikely.

BYD shows on the boards a message in German “No 1 Hersteller von NEV”. Germans do not know the abbreviation NEV, it should be “Elektrofahrzeugen” or at least “EVs”. Furthermore, for Europeans the main argument is rather to be the best than to be the biggest. “10 million flies cannot err – eat shit!” is a typical German saying rejecting the idea that the most common is automatically the most desirable.

Hisense uses mostly Chinese language messages aimed at the home market, creating another miracle what that company name may stand for.

This event and the huge amounts of money spent on the marketing would have been good opportunities for the Chinese companies to enter the mind and hearts of European customers. Alas, not spending 1% of the money paid to UEFA to engage some intercultural communication experts is creating confusion instead of sympathy.

Such problems are often visible also in tourism and destination marketing, both by Chinese destinations towards international visitors (for example in the horrible stands at ITB Berlin or WTM London every year) as well as by many destinations towards Chinese visitors.

There are many experts understanding both cultures, able to help with the localisation of messages and images, COTRI being among those offering such services. However, in many cases the lack of exposure to other cultures by the decision makers prevent them from understanding the challenge in the first place.

P.S. The German Economics Minister is visiting China, Germany's main trading partner, for the first time in his life next week, almost two years after taking office. Maybe that will help to widen his perspective a bit.

As always, all best wishes for all readers from Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt and the entire COTRI INTELLIGENCE team!