In 2016, Chinese retail giant Suning Commerce Group acquired a controlling stake in Italian soccer giants Inter Milan, a purchase that has helped to grow the Serie A club’s profile across Asia.
Inter continued their expansion in the region at the start of the current season by signing international gaming company LeTou as their first ever Asian gaming partner.
Tal Moriah, international sales director at Inter, discusses the club’s strategy in the Asia-Pacific region, while LeTou chief executive Paul Fox explains what the Inter partnership has meant to the gaming brand.
Inter’s marketing strategy in Asia
Tal Moriah: We are focused on growing our fanbase and the Inter brand globally. Asia is clearly a key priority region for us as a club, and that is reflected in our marketing strategy for this region.
Our goal is to connect to millions of our fans in this region via localised content, social media, access to our merchandise, Inter Academies, and live matches.
In addition, we are also working with a number of brands in this region, such as LeTou, Lvmama, and Moutai, and would like to continue to grow our sponsorship portfolio and offer local and international brands access to millions of Inter fans in each country.
Asia is a huge market for us as we have over 170 million fans there. We have 97 million fans in China alone, 27 million fans in Indonesia, and over 45 million additional fans throughout the region. We would like to connect with these passionate fans daily and continue to grow our following.
China is clearly an important focus for the club, not just because they make up over half of our fanbase in Asia, but also because it’s the home country of our owners Suning. It is important that we leverage Suning’s influence in this market to reach millions of additional Chinese fans.
Every team and sports organisation is trying to grow their business in China, so we are heavily focused on this market. Our ownership most definitely provides us with a competitive advantage in this market compared to other European football teams, and to continue our growth and expand our business we have recently launched our new Inter office in Shanghai.
I split my time between China, Southeast Asia, Middle East, and the Americas, however I spend a lot of time in China because of the opportunity and the passion and love for football in this market.
Inter Milan in training during a preseason tour of China
Working with regional sponsors
TM: A great way of reaching new audiences is through the partnerships that we have with regional sponsors.
Different people have different preferences to brands, products, and services, and by partnering with the best brands we hope to connect to more people and share with them the passion, love for football, and excitement Inter has to offer.
We saw during this summer’s Fifa World Cup that Chinese sponsors are very keen to get involved with the global game and be associated with prestigious competitions and players.
With the continuous growth of interest and passion for football in China and the emphasis on health, fitness, and football by the government, I believe we will continue to see Chinese brands sponsoring football events in Europe and other locations around the world.
Our focus is not restricted solely to China though, and choosing Filipino firm LeTou as our Asian Gaming Partner showed our commitment to the region as a whole.
We felt that it was the right time to work with a relevant sponsor in this category and partnering with a top tier gaming brand such as LeTou was a great fit.
The sponsor’s perspective
Paul Fox: Partnering with a global soccer club like Inter Milan helps to build credibility among brands and shows that you are a company that can be trusted.
We saw through our sponsorship of former Premier League side Swansea City last season that being associated with a club in such a high-profile league was a great way of building brand awareness and reaching new worldwide fans.
Inter’s strong fanbase in Asia was a big attraction for LeTou and one of the reasons that we wanted to engage with the club and become their first Asian gaming partner.
Serie A continues to attract more fans, sponsors, and investment from Asia, and this season also marked Inter’s return to the Uefa Champions League for the first time since 2012.
The fact that Inter have owners based in Asia was also a big selling point, and as Tal has mentioned, the desire and hunger for the game throughout the continent is fierce.
Earlier this month Inter were the only sports brand to have a booth at the China International Import Expo, underlining their ambitious plans in the country, and it is great to work with a club that is helping to strengthen cultural, economic, and commercial relations between Europe and Asia.