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Volume 7 No. 105
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Hangin' With ... Mailman CEO Andrew Collins

ANDREW COLLINS is the CEO of Mailman, a Shanghai-based digital marketing agency. The company has helped more than 50 sports and tourism brands -- including Liverpool and ManU, among others -- develop their digital presence in the country. In addition to its work as an agency, Mailman also is an incubator for startups, with investment in Fanstang, KAWO and Shopilist. Collins, originally from Melbourne, Australia, talked to SBD Global about what drew him to China, the Chinese government's commitment to football and how his company stands out in the Chinese market.

On creating an agency in China ...
Andrew Collins: In 2007 when I made the commitment to China there was less than 50 million people on the web, now it has over 700 million. The opportunities I saw in 2007 were just a fraction of what the country has been able to develop, so I was ultimately bitten by opportunity. We saw football and other sports as an area of rapid development. Back then the national sport was to do nothing, and now sport is very quickly becoming part of mainstream social activity.

On how Mailman stands out from its competitors in the Chinese market ...
Collins: Professional sports teams, leagues and athletes use our service because they ultimately trust us. We pride ourselves on not just delivering a great digital service, but also supporting a growth plan towards commercial success in China -- each of our clients have benefited from our network of local media, branded partners and committed team. It’s unrivalled, however it doesn’t stop, we are constantly seeing new talent and better ways for our clients to achieve their goals.

On the Chinese government's push to increase the popularity of football ...
Collins: The effect will be enormous. China drives rapid development and exponential growth in any industry it makes a commitment to, so I don’t see any difference when it comes to football. Where passion is developing, as we’ve seen in football, talent and success will follow. The government's push to increase the popularity of football has already been felt in two key areas: 1. Through the media, whose increased investment into live rights and content has driven online exposure through the roof. The demand and value of broadcasting rights has increased 10 fold in the past year, ensuring that international football is available for free online. 2. Through strategic partnerships with events, local city governments and more recently with major global football clubs (Man City) the expansion in grassroots football is just beginning. We will see huge developments in facilities across the country, organized football in schools, youth clubs and amateur leagues and most importantly, major investment into China’s university football leagues. Taking a cue from the NCAA, some of China’s major media outlets are looking to capitalize on the size of the national university football league, the highest participation of any league worldwide. The Chinese partnership with Manchester City will see far more than just the likely acquisition of a CSL [Chinese Super League] team. This is the first step on a long road to build out a nationwide network of football training centers which will have a huge impact on China’s improvement at international level. China won't just host a World Cup, they'll win it in the next 20 years. For us as a business, these changes can only be a positive. Chinese fans are the most in-demand in the world, therefore there’s going to be a growth in clubs, organizations and talent launching in this market -- we will have to be more agile and creative than ever to continue to drive growth for our clients. Ultimately competition is beneficial for the expansion of football and the sports industry as a whole.

On comparing China to other markets where companies like Mailman are common ...
Collins: The only similarity I see with other markets are the people themselves. They also have basic human needs of shelter, food and living. As the country has developed, areas of entertainment, sport, travel and recreation are now all exploding. Yet China is still at a very early stage of its participation in many of these areas. Most kids don’t do active sport, most people do not travel abroad, and most don’t spend a lot on entertainment -- yet it’s all becoming far more accessible. Patriotism is also perhaps one quality that is evident here and also evident in other developed nations -- Chinese people are very proud of their country and what they have become.

On how advances in social media have impacted Mailman ...
Collins: Social media in China has changed a lot over the past 5 years. We’ve seen networks become extinct like RenRen and Kaixin, we’ve seen WeChat become the dominant messaging tool and Weibo evolve to support a range of content and services. The most significant shift has unquestionably become WeChat, as it's evolved to become a tool in more areas of one's life here, from booking a taxi, paying for restaurants, buying a movie ticket and sharing lucky money. Keeping on top of it all can be challenging. As a company we're now exploring WeChat stores, and other forms of premium content that give our clients' fans bases more access to the club or personality.

Hangin' With runs each Friday in SBD Global.