The NHL and Paris Saint-Germain Football Club partnered with DONGTU in China to deliver GIF’s behind the Chinese firewall and reach their massive sports and Internet friendly fan base. What is a GIF? Think of it as an animated image that is shared on social media channels as messages and comments for communication purposes. Dongtu deliver’s GIF’s through the country’s largest micro-content network resulting in 2.5 billion views daily. The startup features native integration with WeChat and strategic partnerships with the likes of Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu. More than 75 million views per month, 700 million daily searches and over 3,000 integrated apps make their network a potential mega-web-biz. The Sports Techie community blog chatted with Grant Long, Co-Founder of DongTu, about the sports and entertainment strategies he is executing here in the United States this week for business entities that want to enlarge their capacity to show up on both ‘search and ‘social media’ as sharable content in mainland China consumer markets. When you produce 2 billion GIFs and stickers a day, the sporting world best pay attention to his company should they wish to distribute content throughout China to mobile users over his platform between the world’s two biggest economies.
DongTu GIF Branding
I asked Grant about the company name. He said, “DONGTU is short for the Chinese name Dongtu Yuzhou (动图宇宙）which translates to “GIF Universe” and is actually the word for GIF in Chinese.” Grant’s company owns Dongtu.com and are considered to generally own the branding of this term in China, according to Long. The reason the word GIF isn’t used in Chinese is that most of the population only speaks mandarin, which is made up of a limited set of existing tones.
Dong-Tu means GIF, and is actually made from the combination of two other Mandarin terms:
YiDong (移动) – Moving
TuPian (图片) – Picture
Moving + Picture = GIF
Dongtu’s API flagship product is fast becoming a standard in China much like Giphy here in the U.S. is for GIFs. The more than 500 million search requests on Alibaba alone is mind-boggling. Add in the 3,000 other apps including QQ, MoMo, Taobao and TanTan allowing their GIFs to be shared on social feeds and via conversations, it makes their API the exact digital tool professional sports want to penetrate China with over the web. Why reinvent the Chinese digital wheel when it’s already been developed .
Go to their website at http://en.dongtu.com and you will find a WeChat Mini Program enabling the saving and personalization of your GIF library.
Brand and content partners are excited to use their services as a GIF home page. Users can also share while promoting deep links and customized QR codes.
They also maintain a featured sticker shop SDK and personalized avatar sticker app reaching fans in China directly.
All this is handled via cloud service for developers creating a seamless fan experience for social sharing by engaged fans and brand supporters.
Leagues and Teams Want Into China
While the NBA is the most popular sport league in China over the likes of the Premier League in the UK and UEFA Champions League according to a survey by Ampere Analysis, Winter Sports are very important to Chinese government officials since they are the host country for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
The NFL, MLB and UFC are using the NBA’s proven grassroots marketing method as well as branding through social media networks to enter into China as are soccer leagues and clubs worldwide. The UFC and Weibo recently created a strategic alliance with the announcement of the “Official Social Media platform” of UFC in China.
NHL First DongTu Sports League Account
The NHL understands the long-term benefits of entering China having already opened WeChat and Weibo channels, followed by launching accounts on established news aggregators TikTok and Jinri Toutiao.
David Proper, executive vice president of media and international strategy at the NHL, said: “The NHL is thrilled to expand our offerings to our fans in China and to further social awareness of the game of hockey on this innovative and popular platform.”
In May, the NHL became the first pro sports league to launch on DongTu.
Long added: “We’re excited to offer the Dongtu platform as a single touchpoint for the NHL across thousands of new Chinese apps to engage hundreds of millions of potential fans.”
PSG Launched on DongTu
The verified PSG account on micro-content network Dongtu has more than 150 million Gif views since launching in May as the first Ligue A users.
Sebastien Wasels, PSG’s Asia Pacific managing director, said: “By launching on this account, we’ll be able to make even more club content available to our fans.”
Lagardère Sports launched a pre-season football tournament in China, the International Super Cup, set for July 27-30, 2019 and features French clubs PSG and Stade Rennais, Inter Milan from Italy and Espanyol out of Spain.
Long added: “We’re excited to offer the Dongtu platform as a single touchpoint for Paris Saint-Germain across thousands of new Chinese apps to engage millions of potential fans.”
Get ready for plenty of Neymar Gifs during the International Super Cup.
Long was pitching his company wares throughout the Bay area as well as visiting family and friends then was off to Los Angeles to raise more awareness in the entertainment industry.
DONGTU studio GIF shoot, featuring Chinese musician JiaoMaiQi !
Sports Techie, Long hails from Berkeley, California and attended college at USC. He left his old start-up in NYC (which was acquired) to move to China and start DongTu. They are privately held and have gone through a Series A round of investment with a Series B round on the horizon.
The unique cross border founding team are located in both the USA and China. They are a new digital bridge for US Sports in China, which has traditionally been a challenge to navigate. That is not true any longer thanks to Long and his half technology development, and half sales and business development team of 30-35 employees.
The Ampere Analysis survey also uncovered metrics that indicate Chinese sports fans are younger than the national average with around 65 per cent of sports fans aged 44 or younger. I asked him about the Gif usebase in China as here in America it is fair to say that mostly millennial aged adults and GenZ aged youth are producing Gifs.
Grant feels the advent of Gifs, emojis and stickers are wide ranging across China. It is not odd at all for a Fortune 100 executive or a busy housewife to use these technologies for enhanced communication while here in the U.S. he agreed the demographics are different. Long said Gifs and other similar digital products are considered cute and fun in the US, however, Chinese characters are difficult to translate making the sending of a Gif as more true emotions.
If you run a pro sports property how can you not take advantage of 75 billion views per month, that would be foolish, right. Google and Facebook are both blocked in China. Google acquired Tenor last Match and have plans of Gif integration into Google Advertising.
In terms of an exit strategy, they do significant business with Tencent and Alibaba making each a possible acquiring company or assets to raise capital, maybe even go IPO. A large conglomerate will take advantage of their reach and new form of engagement possibly integrating the tech into their platform. Long does want to ignore any ecosystem and may eventually go with the one that ties with them best, while providing growth and an exit strategy.
I predicted to Long that FIFA would award World Cup 2030 to China. Interesting that Grant had not heard that thought but he has now.
DongTu have not entering eSports as of yet but it is on the future radar.
The Golden State Warriors are the most popular team in China, in the most popular league, the NBA but who is next? Might it be the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL, soccer power Barcelona FC, or the Las Vegas Knights of the NHL? Founder, Dana White surely wants it to be the UFC.
One way that may happen to is create viral Gifs with the right tags, a skill DongTu has mastered.
I sure learned a ton from Grant about China, Chinese sport business and their internet culture, 谢谢 (xiè xiè) — thank you and good luck!
See you later sportstechie in Seattle, Atlanta and around the world!
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