With the man regarded as the greatest quarterback in history among its ranks and having secured a record-equaling sixth Super Bowl this year, it is perhaps little wonder that the New England Patriots is the most popular NFL team in China — in terms of social media followers at least.
According to Mailman, a global sports digital marketing agency based in Shanghai which has been working closely with the Patriots, the franchise has enjoyed a “monumental” year in the world’s most populous nation, becoming the first NFL team to hit 500,000 followers on Weibo (a platform similar to Twitter which has around 300 million monthly active users).
At its current rate, the Patriots’ social growth is quicker than European soccer giants Manchester United and Barcelona as well as the majority of NBA clubs — although most of those teams have long had an established social media presence in China giving them less space in which to grow now.
Naturally, one of the most successful teams in NFL history will have a global appeal. But there is more to the Patriots’ Far East breakthrough than a steady stream of on-the-pitch triumphs and the pulling power of Tom Brady. The franchise has conquered China’s digital sphere and it has done so by being present and by being original.