Ronaldo more popular than Beckham in Far East: study

HONG KONG: Despite the apparent dominance of David Beckham as a driving commercial force in Asia, a new study has found Real Madrid?s latest 'star acquisition' is actually less popular among respondents in the Far East than his new team-mate Ronaldo.

The 'Asian Football Study' was conducted by sports communications research company SPORT+MARKT and surveyed over 3,000 people in China, Japan and South Korea. Respondents were asked about their interest in and opinions about football and the companies associated with the game. This study also provides profiles of these important markets investigating media usage, future purchases and attitudes towards and awareness of sponsors.

The survey comes at a time when the flamboyant footballer is set to visit the region next month and play his first match for Real Madrid courtesy the Real Madrid Asia Tour. Ten Sports will have live coverage of the event on 2,5 and 8 August. The tour visits include China, Japan and Hong Kong. In addition, the channel is featuring the star in its Legends package every Friday in August at 6 pm.

Coming back to the study over 60 per cent of the people surveyed found the Brazilian striker appealing. This equates to over 60 million more people than Beckham. However, in Japan, where Beckham has recently been on a promotional tour, the England captain did outscore Ronaldo, who played a significant role in Brazil?s 2002 World Cup win on Japanese soil.

In fact, Beckham was the most popular foreign sportsman in Japan ahead of golfer Tiger Woods and even proved almost as popular as the most popular Japanese sports star, New York Yankees baseball player Hideki Matsui, with support from over 50 per cent of the Japanese. However, Ronaldo?s popularity in Korea and especially China was the driving force behind his overall appeal.

The 'Asian Football Study' also found that Serie A is more popular in these markets than the Barclaycard Premiership with close to 40 per cent of Asian respondents surveyed interested in the competition.

Whilst the Premiership was the most popular league in China with over half of the people interested, it lagged behind Serie A in Korea and especially in Japan, where Japanese players Hidetoshi Nakata and Shunsuke Nakamura have been plying their trade.

Serie A also came ahead of the Barclaycard Premiership in terms of the most popular foreign clubs in the Far East. However, they all trailed in the footsteps of Real Madrid, which proved to be the most popular club in the Far East.

The research was conducted shortly after AC Milan won the UEFA Champions League and the Rossoneri beat both Manchester United and Real to the title of the most popular foreign club in China with almost a third choosing it as their favourite club. Whilst United was second in China, in Japan, not only did they lag behind Real and AC Milan, but also behind Serie A club AC Parma, whose popularity can be attributed to the presence of Japanese national team captain Hidetoshi Nakata in their ranks.

An official release informs that the Far East has been identified as one of the main areas for commercial exploitation by the football industry with clubs, leagues and sponsors all fighting to gain a foothold. This research is expected to dispel a few myths about the popularity of certain competitions, clubs and players in these markets.

No entrepreneur has yet to make serious inroads in converting these markets into a regular source of revenue. This research will aid those looking to move into Asia to identify more accurately where a football property?s weaknesses and strengths lay states the release.

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