Beijing, Shanghai Kick Off Year Of The Horse With American Flair
NFL China’s official viewing party of Super Bowl XLVIII in Beijing and Shanghai had a definite American feel, except for the 7:30am start. The event featured not only the Seahawks' win, but also the commercials and halftime show live from Fox Sports, as well as free-flowing Budweiser, a supporting sponsor of the event. Kerry Hotel, the official host sponsor, seated more than 400 fans in Beijing and 500 in Shanghai. In Beijing, about 85% of the attendees were expatriates enjoying their day off of work for the Chinese New Year. One fan said, “I work with a bunch of Americans, so usually on Super Bowl Monday we’re all sneaking off to ‘meetings,’ so it’s nice to just relax and not feel guilty.” Another fan said, “It was great of them to do this for the community. I could’ve watched it at home online, but it’s not the same.” Most expatriate fans heard about the event on The Beijinger, a local magazine geared specifically to the expatriate community. However, Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter, seemed to be the popular channel for Chinese fans to learn of the event, with fans reminding each other to wake up on time for the early morning start. One Chinese fan said, “I love all American sports, and this was the best way to get the full experience.” NFL China’s Weibo account has just more than 340,000 followers, up more than 50,000 since the Home Field initiative, a series of flag-football games and game-day experiences at universities in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, which began in September. Fans in Beijing who did have complaints were those who attended last year, saying that in '13 the event hosted tailgate games, NFL cheerleaders and NFL players, such as Super Bowl XLIV winner Reggie Bush, none of which were part of 2014’s celebrations.
AN OFF-FIELD WIN: Kerry Hotel is in its second year of sponsorship of NFL China. Kerry Hotel General Manager Jeremy Aniere said the “dual partnership” has been a win-win and that the hotel’s recent shift in branding, as a high-scale, modern sports venue, is directly in line with NFL China. NFL players and cheerleaders who attended the NFL Home Field initiative, which drew nearly 100,000 people over the span of nine weeks, stayed in the hotel. Aniere said that they are looking to continue the partnership with NFL China, as well as a potential expansion to the NBA.
AROUND TOWN: NFL China’s viewing party was the largest in Beijing, but several bars and restaurants around town joined in on the fun. Two of Beijing’s most popular restaurants, Home Plate BBQ and Great Leap Brewing, both maxed out their spots. Home Plate Manager Brian Murray said that about 140 people filled the building to watch the Super Bowl, broadcast locally to ensure no Internet hiccups. China broadcasters included Shanghai G-Sports, Jinbao Sports, Guangdong TV Sports, Euro Soccer and SiTV. Murray said that “the fans had a great time” and hosting was “worth it” in all regards, including financially, and to help dictate how they will further improve the experience next year. Tim’s Texas BBQ was recommending fans to arrive by 6:15 to guarantee a spot for the 7:30 kickoff. Irish pub Paddy O’Sheas began celebrations the night before, playing halftime shows from the past 30 years leading up to kickoff.
Kristen Heimstead is a writer in Beijing.