PARIS: After three pre-season tours in a row to the United States, French club Paris Saint-Germain turned to Asia in search of new fans and business deals ahead of the new season.
It’s the market “with the biggest growth potential,” according to a PSG official discussing the club’s two-week summer trip to Singapore and China.
PSG’s Asian fan base has grown while its social media presence has exploded along with the French club’s rising profile following the signings of world football’s most expensive player Neymar and French teenage sensation Kylian Mbappé.
Riding the wave of rising popularity, the French club with the Eiffel Tower logo took advantage of the Asian tour to open a permanent office in Singapore.
“With the growth the club has enjoyed in recent years, along with the arrival of our two superstars Neymar and Mbappé, we thought that now was a good time to do it, it was the right moment,” said Sébastien Wasels, the club’s Asia Pacific director.
He said the Qatari-owned club with ambitions to dominate Europe needs the base to handle rising Asian growth opportunities.
The club, which could face sanctions by European football’s governing body UEFA for allegedly violating regulations over spending limits, needs to significantly boost its income.
PSG says that it has signed several commercial deals in the region including a multi-million euro partnership with marketing agency Desports for sponsorship, as well as licensing rights in China and Hong Kong.
The club has also pinpointed three geographical growth areas in Asia and plans to hire a team of five expert locals to focus on business development opportunities in China, South Korea/Japan, and Southeast Asia/Oceania.
During the club’s brief summer Asia stay that included matches in Singapore and the French Super Cup final against Monaco in Shenzhen, PSG hosted a range of promotional events.
The included a cooking class by the club’s Brazilian defender Marquinhos and a training session for young players at China’s “PSG Academy” by former star player Maxwell, now part of the PSG management team.
PSG’s e-sports section was also brought into play to woo the younger generation, hosting a FIFA video tournament for 400,000 participants on local platforms to boost the club’s active gaming sector.
PSG’s social media footprint in Asia is rapidly expanding, says the club.
“When QSI (Qatar Sports Investments, the club’s owners since 2011) took over, we had a million social media followers globally, 90% in France.”
“Today we have 60 million… 90% outside France. No other sports entity has had that scale of digital growth.”