Guizhou attracts businesses amid soccer league frenzy |
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Guizhou attracts businesses amid soccer league frenzy

By ZHU WENQIAN in Beijing and YANG JUN in Guiyang China Daily Updated: 2023-07-13
Employees from KFC China (center, waving hands) are seen posing for photos at a competition venue of the cun chao, or village super soccer league, in Rongjiang county, Guizhou province, over the weekend.

Earlier this summer, a village football competition in Rongjiang county, Southwest China's Guizhou province, went viral on social media.

Dubbed by Chinese netizens "cun chao" — or village super soccer league — villagers from various walks of life took to the field in often fully packed stadiums, with ethnic cultures adding more color and excitement to the unique competition.

These rural football matches are nothing new, and have taken place regularly in Rongjiang since the 1990s. Locals have often designated Saturdays as "Village Super", or a super Saturday night of rural football.

The sports fervor has not been lost among business enterprises.

With China's rural vitalization drive continuing to gain momentum, more brands are focusing on the vast consumer power of lower-tier cities in the country.

On Saturday, at the semifinal stage of the competition, staff from quick service restaurant chain KFC cheered for the local team, drawing attention. KFC China said its support reflects the brand's recognition of China's growing purchasing power in lower-tier cities and the importance of the country's burgeoning rural economy.

The company said it has been a long-term supporter of sports at the grassroots and an advocate of healthy lifestyles.

The company said combining rural tourism and sports is an innovative and meaningful way to promote rural vitalization and drive the development of the rural economy.

Last year, more than half of the new KFC stores that were opened in China were located in third-tier or smaller cities, according to the latest annual report of Yum China.

"Sporting events have become one of the major celebrations for humanity due to their competitive and entertaining features. The attention economy and sports economy generated by sporting events could have a significant impact on the business growth and brand promotion of companies," said Zhu Xicheng, an analyst at market research firm LeadLeo Research Institute.

"Enterprises have realized the magic of sports marketing in shaping their brand values, and they have also recognized the business opportunities hidden behind sporting activities," Zhu said.

Local resident Wu Dongsheng, 28, is one of the referees for the "Village Super" this summer in Rongjiang. Wu, the headmaster of a local school, has established a football team of nearly 40 people.

"At first, students were not good at playing football, and I taught them the most basic skills. After learning to play football, kids have become happier and livelier, showing significant changes," Wu said.

Rongjiang, which mainly relies on the agricultural sector for economic growth, has leveraged "Village Super" to develop its local tourism and service sectors.

In the first half, more than 650 new business entities were established in Rongjiang, including 91 in the catering sector, 188 in the retail sector, and 195 in agriculture and agricultural food processing, according to the local government.

Since May, when the "Village Super" games began, Rongjiang has attracted a large number of visitors from across the country, who have driven business growth in local tourism, catering, accommodation, creative and agricultural products.

In May, the number of visitors to Rongjiang hit 1.07 million, up 39.73 percent year-on-year. The county achieved comprehensive tourism revenue of 1.24 billion yuan ($172 million), jumping 52.08 percent year-on-year, the local government said.

Its amateur sporting scenario has also attracted the attention of British football player Michael Owen, who recorded a video message to express his support for the competition.

During breaks between games, cultural dances were on display to promote the culture of local ethnic minorities.

With over 680 stalls outside the stadium operating till late in the night, vendors provided unique cuisines for visitors. Tourists were also provided with maps showing famous sightseeing spots and eateries in each town.