In this episode of The Negotiation, we interview Tom Parker, Head of China for the Australian Football League, discussing the ins and outs of trying to take one of the most indigenous sports on the planet and introduce it to the largest population on the planet. We discuss some of the backstories on WHY the AFL decided to go to China in the first place, how the AFL has been received so far in China, the eccentricities of the Chinese sports fan, and the challenges presented to Tom trying to grow the sport there. We talk about how to market a sport like the AFL in China, and what the fanship of a Chinese sports fan looks like when they are following their team. We also talk about Australia’s relationship with China over the years and why Tom is optimistic that the worst of it is behind them. Enjoy!
Today on The Negotiation, we speak with Tom Parker, Head of China with the Australian Football League (AFL) and Vice President for the Australia China Business Council. Tom shares his journey in the Chinese business world, beginning in 2007 with the founding of Red Tape Consulting, “a China Advisory business that helped stage the first AFL exhibition match as part of the Shanghai World Expo.” Since 2018, Tom continues to serve a prominent role in the AFL. As Head of China, Tom “drive[s] commercial outcomes from the ongoing engagement and games being played in Shanghai.”
Before COVID-19, Tom’s role as Head of China at the AFL was to serve as the bridge between Australian and Chinese brands. As the pandemic reared its head just before the beginning of 2020, Tom had been looking to boost the organization’s social media presence and build on its branding. With both countries currently occupied with their respective challenges heading into the new normal, Tom is optimistic, but at the same time sees the future of the AFL as uncertain. At this point in time, the most they can do is to “ride the ship” onwards and continuously adapt to the situation at hand.
Tom describes Australian sports as being a “bottom-up, grassroots”-led part of the culture, while Chinese sports is a “top-down” affair dictated by the state. Traditionally, the Chinese have generally focused on professional sports that are less team-oriented such as diving or table tennis. In recent years where globalization has become more prevalent than ever, ball sports, and the culture of fandom for teams and players have sprung up among the Chinese.
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Despite being the world’s most potent economic area, Asia can be one of the most challenging regions to navigate and manage well for foreign brands. However, plenty of positive stories exist and more are emerging every day as brands start to see success in engaging and deploying appropriate market growth strategies – with the help of specialists.
The Negotiation is an interview show that showcases those hard-to-find success stories and chats with the incredible leaders behind them, teasing out the nuances and digging into the details that can make market growth in APAC a winning proposition.