The Union of European Football Associations is revving up its fan engagement in China, leveraging a partnership with digital lifestyle and payments platform Alipay to reach hundreds of millions potential soccer fans in one of the most promising markets for the sport.
The UEFA, soccer’s governing body in Europe, said it would launch a “lifestyle account” on the Alipay mobile app to connect Chinese fans with the latest news about European soccer, as well as a mini-program within the app that fans could use to buy tickets to the UEFA Euro 2020 tournament – the first time the UEFA will allow a digital ticketing channel outside of UEFA.com.
“There is a real appetite amongst Chinese football fans for UEFA’s national team competitions, where they have the chance to see some of the best players on the planet in action,” said UEFA’s director of marketing, Guy-Laurent Epstein. “We want to be in a position to give our fans premium content in their own language and our new partnerships with Alipay allow us to do exactly this.”
Alipay’s lifestyle accounts are used by brands, organizations, even individual products to interact with consumers using the app. Companies such as Starbucks, Apple and Uniqlo, as well as public utilities and hospitals in China, have them. UEFA’s lifestyle account will serve as a content hub that delivers news about national team football in Europe, while also offering content made exclusively for them, the UEFA said.
Mini-programs operate as “light apps” within an app, offering users faster access to services, such as ticket-buying. The UEFA mini-program will allow fans to apply for tickets in a simplified way to Euro 2020 games. Tickets will be available to Chinese fans on June 13.
“Alipay has accumulated vast experiences in using mini-programs as a powerful tool to enable businesses in China and around the world,” said Sabrina Peng, chief marketing officer at Alipay’s parent, Ant Financial. “It is exciting to see the application being extended to football. We look forward to deepening the integration between football and technology in our partnership with UEFA in the next few years.”
Additional digital activations and promotions are expected over the coming year, the companies said.
This is the latest initiative from a partnership between the UEFA and Alipay that kicked off last November. As a part of the eight-year agreement, Alipay will serve as the league’s Official Global Payment Partner, Official Global Digital Wallet and Official Global FinTech Partner for men’s national team events, including UEFA EURO 2020, UEFA EURO 2024, the European Qualifiers and the UEFA Nations League Finals. The inaugural Nations League Finals were held last weekend in Portugal, where Alipay designed and presented a trophy for the tournament’s top scorer.
Ant Financial Services Group is an affiliate company of Alibaba Group.