JD.com, a Chinese online retailer, has been named as the official exclusive partner for China’s most-watched television broadcast, the Spring Festival Gala (31st January 2022). At this event, JD.com will give out digital red packets and physical gifts worth a total value of 1.5 billion RMB ($235.4 million). This has been the biggest offer to date, surpassing its predecessors, including Douyin’s (Chinese Tik Tok) 1.2 billion RMB, Kuaishou’s 1 billion RMB, Baidu’s (China’s answer to Google) 900 million, and Taobao’s at 600 million.
Partnership with the state-owned broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) for each year’s Spring Festival Gala has long been an important battlefield for China’s Internet firms, considering the large numbers of the audience tuning in the live session for as long as four and a half hours.
Being a sponsor for interactive activities on this programme would undoubtedly significantly increase a brand’s exposure to the wider public and working with the Chinese government adds a level of brand value itself. With the audience encouraged to participate in live shows through online games on the exclusive partner’s app, in order to win cash given in the format of virtual red packets, brands can also obtain consumer insights, which would be a crucial gain for their businesses.
On top of that, the partnership with a government-backed media outlet has also been regarded as a sign of political approval of this tech firm, which has largely remained intact amid the government’s crackdown on the tech sector over the past year.
In comparison, other tech giants have all been attacked by the authority, from Alibaba fined for breaching antitrust laws to Douyin and Kuaishou disciplined for promoting overconsumption. JD.com, therefore, has become a safer option for the broadcaster to seek financial support for this grand event and in turn, their unison with the government should ease any regulations towards them as well as further increase consumer trust within China due to such a partnership.
It is understood that, unlike previous successful bidders who only gave out red packets on the night of the gala, JD.com’s interactive activities are set to last for 23 days. Starting from 24 January to 15 February, which is the Lantern Festival that marks the end of the Chinese New Year, giving JD.com far further reach and potential for revenue than previous years.
“The gamified activities, which include inviting friends to online lucky draws, sending red envelopes with brand customised cover designs, gifting coupons…during the entire Chinese New Year celebration period would provide participants with more time, richer benefits and greater joy,” reads a statement from JD.com on 5 January.
This is the fifth consecutive year that CCTV has partnered with a major Chinese internet company for the interactive sessions on Spring Festival Gala. According to Baiya, the former Chief Product Designer at Alipay (a third-party online payment platform owned by Alibaba), as an exclusive interactive partner of the Spring Festival Gala in 2018, its e-commerce platform Taobao gained online traffic 15 times as high as that seen over the Double 11 Shopping Festival in 2017.
Given that Double 11 is the biggest online shopping phenomenon in China, that has been generating bigger numbers than any other online sales in the world, it can be seen just how lucrative the annual Spring Festival Gala is. With the government tightening control over China’s tech industry, such partnerships will continue to grow in importance for tech companies.
The deal, however, might be more difficult for these market players to secure, but if they are able to overcome the hurdles to do so they stand to earn a lot from such an endeavour. It is clear to see the might of partnerships with the Chinese government, beyond allying to the latest regulations with tighter measures against the tech firms, this avenue is one that opens up a higher level of consumption and revenue and so will be a battleground for these companies over the coming years.