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Kevin Smith Provides Avenues to Chinese Consumers

6 December 2001

Gaming operators everywhere know that if they can cash in on even a small part of the Asian market their business could be a huge success. And getting brands, especially those of the gambling variety in front of Asian customers is half the battle. is one portal site that has been able to tie the Chinese speaking world, from San Francisco to Shanghai, to a host of western brands and products. With its 35 million registered users on the network and 3 billion hits a month to its sites, SINA holds the key to Chinese players for many gaming companies.

Despite the Chinese and their propensity to gamble, SINA has been unable to match up the players with viable online alternatives for their gaming dollar, but Jeff Unze, the company's senior director for sales and marketing, said it is an ongoing process to marry what Chinese players want and what the company can give them.

SINA does accept gambling related banner ads on its U.S. and Hong Kong sites.

SINA is working with the Global Fortune 500 on alliances in numerous sectors. SINA is the largest Web property in China and one of the most well known tech brands. Unze said most international companies that want to do business in greater China come to SINA first. Companies that have already partnered with the portal include the like of Dell, Proctor and Gamble, IBM and Citibank.

"We have developed specialized content and micro-sites for many of these clients to create areas that serve our audience's desire to find information on the Web and provide a fertile place for clients to meet their marketing goals," Unze said.

With localized sites based in Hong Kong, Taiwan, China and the United States, SINA can reach Chinese consumers all over the world. Laws and regulations make it difficult for SINA to partner with play-for-pay gaming sites, but Unze said it was important for the portal to include gaming related aspects to make it a viable community for the Asian market.

"We understand that our audience does enjoy gambling and seeks out information on new gambling opportunities," he said. "To that effect we provide a SINA games area where our users can play casino-style games and Chinese games often used for friendly wagering such as Mah Jong and Big 2."

Unze pointed to recent studies which proved that Asian players can often make a positive difference in the bottom line for gaming operators.

A recent Harvard report showed that in high-stakes games, such as baccarat, Asian or Asian American players account for 80 percent of all revenues in Las Vegas casinos. While many operators focus on trying to get Asian players because of their reputation of being high rollers, Unze feels it is important to remember how many Asians are just casual bettors compared to those of other cultures.

"For an example of SINA's audience, 40 percent gambled online last year and 39 percent said they plan to start in the next 12 months," he said. "When they do gamble 30 percent wager once a week or more."

Soccer's World Cup, which will be held in Asia for the first time ever in the summer of 2002, offers a prime opportunity for companies of all kinds to get their brand in front of a vast Asian consumer market. Unze said the event will be the main focus of SINA next year as past sporting events have proven to be major traffic drivers to the site. He said the France World Cup in 1998 was seen as one of the early traffic generators for SINA.

During the Sydney Olympics SINA was the official online partner to the Chinese Olympic team and got unprecedented access to the team with interviews and expert commentary.

"Sporting events are second only to political events as traffic watersheds for SINA," Unze said. "Asia's first World Cup holds special significance for SINA and the rest of the Asian World. SINA's coverage will be very extensive and include interviews and chat rooms with China team members, insight and analysis on every match and every team. There are excellent sponsorship opportunities to be had throughout the SINA portals."

The Wagering on the Internet report shows that nearly 40 percent of online gamblers come from Asian, including Japan. Unze said in order for gambling related sites to truly benefit from the relationship SINA has with its registered users many factors would have to change.

Obviously there are a lot of factors involved including net penetration levels, credit card payment issues and the Asian legal climate," he said. " Taiwan and China are too dicey to put banner ads for gaming sites on SINA, and its better to err on the side of caution."

Unze admits that companies from all walks of life struggle constantly to reach Chinese consumers. SINA has been able to help some while others have had trouble getting the key to fit the lock. If current political and regulatory measures change though, Unze is confident SINA will play a roll in getting more companies to match their product with an eager consumer base.

"The important thing is that the market is there and the new wealth of the area will provide a steady flow of new customers for companies that are able to crack the puzzle of how to reach the market," he said. Provides Avenues to Chinese Consumers is republished from
Kevin Smith
Kevin Smith