Tom Parker | Taking Australian Football to China

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Today on The Negotiation, we speak with Tom Parker, Head of China with the Australian Football League (AFL) and Vice President for the Australia China Business Council. Tom shares his journey in the Chinese business world, beginning in 2007 with the founding of Red Tape Consulting, “a China Advisory business that helped stage the first AFL exhibition match as part of the Shanghai World Expo.” Since 2018, Tom continues to serve a prominent role in the AFL. As Head of China, Tom “drive[s] commercial outcomes from the ongoing engagement and games being played in Shanghai.”Before COVID-19, Tom’s role as Head of China at the AFL was to serve as the bridge between Australian and Chinese brands. As the pandemic reared its head just before the beginning of 2020, Tom had been looking to boost the organization’s social media presence and build on its branding. With both countries currently occupied with their respective challenges heading into the new normal, Tom is optimistic, but at the same time sees the future of the AFL as uncertain. At this point in time, the most they can do is to “ride the ship” onwards and continuously adapt to the situation at hand.Tom describes Australian sports as being a “bottom-up, grassroots”-led part of the culture, while Chinese sports is a “top-down” affair dictated by the state. Traditionally, the Chinese have generally focused on professional sports that are less team-oriented such as diving or table tennis. In recent years where globalization has become more prevalent than ever, ball sports, and the culture of fandom for teams and players have sprung up among the Chinese.

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