Hupu and Dongqiudi are the two largest football-themed information and social media apps in China. Both of them have been accelerating their efforts to boost their relationship with fans and effectively increase their market shares.
Founded in 2004, Hupu used to be a community exclusively for basketball fans and was later expanded to other sports, including football. Users love Hupu since it has well-operated communities, in which people can easily find other users who support the same teams to discuss games together. However, compared to its community maintenance, Hupu does not provide enough analytical articles, real-time news or complete statistics to help die-hand fans understand what has been going on in games and what they can expect from new players. Hupu has noticed those limitations and decided to collaborate with influencers to improve football-themed content on its platform.
In August, Hupu introduced two football-themed bloggers, Neide and Yuze, who used to be active on Dongqiudi, that would write exclusively for Hupu. Below the announcement was a recruiting notice that Hupu was still hunting for writers to cover football topics, highlighting Hupu’s ambition for football-themed content production.
The reason why Neide and Yuze’s transfer to Hupu is shocking news is that the two are widely recognized among football fans and have earned high trust from their readers. Their articles not only cover game analysis, but also player introductions, industry research, and even tidbits. Neide has over 610,000 followers and Yuze has almost 450,000 followers on Dongqiudi and their posts usually become trending topics on social media platforms.
To have bloggers like Neize and Yude is only part of Hupu’s ambition in the football field. Hupu has also invited renowned athletes or coaches to interact with users. On June 1, Hupu initiated a vote to decide who they would invite for a livestreame broadcast. Jose Mourinho, the current manager of Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur received the most votes. A few days later, Mourinho accepted the invite and answered questions from Chinese fans. When Hupu initiated the vote, many participants questioned whether Hupu could actually fulfill on its promise to invite the legendary coach, especially since Mourinho has a long history of clashing with the media. When Hupu officially announced the livestreaming time, comments were full of people marveling at Hupu for being “the No.1 football app in China.” After Mourinho, Steve Gerrard, Kaka, Phillip Lahm, Kylian Mbappé and other famous athletes visited Hupu in succession to interact with their Chinese fans, the growth of daily active users grew by 30% in June.
As mentioned above, Neide and Yuze were based on Dongqiudi before moving to Hupu. Different from Hupu, Dongqiudi was designed for football fans. Founded in 2013, Dongqiudi provides users with the latest news, live scores, match details, and statistics of soccer competitions. As previously introduced, Hupu has been criticized for its lack of real-time news and game highlights; which are the big advantages of Dongqiudi. Users can easily find real-time game highlights and statistics of players in second-tier leagues. Additionally, Dongqiudi has reached a long-term collaboration with many professional football clubs, including PSG, Leicester City and other powerhouses. Those clubs have official Dongqiudi accounts and provide the most updated information for fans.
However, Dongqiudi has its bottlenecks. Some comments complain that Dongqiudi has poor community management, where users often encounter unfriendly information that pushes them away. What’s more, the quality of posts on Dongqiudi is not stable. Many articles available on Dongqiudi are translated from Twitter, Reddit, and other foreign social media. On one hand, Dongqiudi has always been one of the top football platforms in China. On the other hand, the platform is full of unconfirmed information, which harms the brand’s reliability. Meanwhile, the population of football fans in China is still limited. According to a report from Analysys, in 2019, China had around 20 million football fans and the mainstream football apps had over 19 million monthly active users. Although there might be some overlap across platforms, as an app focused solely on football, Dongqiudi could clearly see its glass ceiling regarding new user acquisition.
In order to break the ceiling, Dongqiudi decided to expand its coverage. Currently, when users open Dongqiudi, they can read articles regarding not only football, but also NBA, F1, e-sports, and even reality shows. A controversial action Dongqiudi took last quarter was its collaboration with Sisters Who Make Waves, a reality show that features 30 female celebrities over 30 years old who must compete to debut in a seven-member girl group, whose real-time ranking was listed parallel to those of football leagues. Those attempts raised a lot of displeasure from its existing users, who accused the app of losing its roots.
Reacting to the increasing blame, Chen Cong, the founder and CEO of Dongqiudi, posted on his personal social media to discuss why Dongqiudi decided to move outside the football field. He claimed that in past years, there were more than one round of discussions on whether Dongqiudi should focus on football or not and the answer was always yes. However, the brand needs to incorporate non-football content to attract more users. He supplemented in an interview that, “Comparatively, users who exclusively read football-themed posts stay for half of the time compared to those who are open to other topics. Therefore, I believe our users are willing to read more diverse content.” Notwithstanding its strategic determination to diversify content portfolio, Dongqiudi still updated its products to allow users to filter out topics if they aren’t interested in them. Backed by the strategic transition, when asked how Dongqiudi would react to Neize and Yude’s leave, Chen Cong seemed very calm. He re-emphasized that the company would focus on diversifying available content at the moment and believed the high user stickiness would keep users on the platform.
Hupu and Dongqiudi represent two paths of growth: one aims to cast a wide net and then dig deeper, and the other aims to occupy a niche market and then move wider. They are learning from each other and are gradually seeing more overlap: Hupu is taking efforts to improve its athlete database and Dongqiudi is paying more attention to constructing its community. The battle between these two giants has started and will inevitably be more competitive as they both continue to grow.