15 Feb 2016
Team Tifo Marks Major New Media Opportunity in Mainland Stadiums
Euro-style football banners capture imagination of China's sports fans, clubs and the media.
While many stadiums across China now regularly attract a sports fanbase equally as ardent as that of their European counterparts, one element has still been noticeably lacking – the huge banners that enliven many of the spectator stands across the world. Known as tifos – with the term deriving from tifosi, the Italian word for "fan" – no mainland commercial enterprise, as yet, seems to have spotted the opportunities offered by producing such items.
A typical tifo features text and images testifying to the fans' support of their local team, often making for a colourful display across the stands. The practice is said to date back to the days of Ancient Rome, a time when noblemen would line the arena with banners professing support for certain gladiators.
The practice reached new heights in the 1970s when the rivalry between fans of two of Italy's most famous teams – AC Milan and Inter Milan – really began to take off. Supporters of the two clubs took to competing in the production of ever-larger tifos and the provision of increasingly spectacular, choreographed routines.
It was only last year, however, that the tifo really began to take off in China. In March 2015, the tifo display at the Shijiazhuang Ever Bright Football Club made headlines across the country. To mark its first hosting of a derby match, fans of the Shijiazhuang-based club, the capital city of North China's Hebei Province, produced a truly enormous tifo. The size of the banner – produced by Jizhihun ("Hebei Soul"), the team's local supporters' club – proved a huge talking point, impressing fans and non-fans alike.
In total, the tifo stretched across two whole spectator stands, obliging the fans to requisition a primary school playground to finish work on the project. Overall, more than 60 fans took part in the three-day production process, with the finished result broadcast across China as part of the match coverage.
The fans had little choice but to produce the tifo themselves as, currently, only a handful of production houses across China are geared up to creating such items. Given the popularity of these banners with fans, the media, and with the clubs themselves, though, it is now all but inevitable that these colourful displays will become ubiquitous at many of the mainland's more high-profile sporting events.
In light of this, it is believed that a number of advertising agencies and creative workshops are now looking to work closely with fan associations on the production of future tifos. This represents a major opportunity in terms of sponsorship and production for companies with interests in the mainland's creative and media sectors.
Joanna Liu, Qingdao Office