Chinese singer-actor Kris Wu brought excitement on February 3 as he performed at the Super Bowl LIVE Concert, becoming the first Chinese artist to ever do so. Wu was part of a line-up that featured various local and national acts. The 27-year-old celebrity performed two of his well-known hits, Juice and Deserve, at the 10-day fan festival in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota, in celebration of Super Bowl LII.
Wu’s performance is just one of the many achievements that the Chinese artist has reached on the American stage. His song Deserve, in collaboration with American rapper Travis Scott, was number one on the US iTunes chart, making Wu the first Chinese artist to achieve such rating. Wu also made strides in the American movie industry, appearing in Hollywood movies such as xXx: The Return of Xander Cage. In addition to performing at the concert, Wu was named as Super Bowl LII Ambassador for National Football League (NFL) China, which comes as no surprise given his following – Wu boasts 5.8 million followers on Instagram and 26 million fans on the Chinese social media platform Weibo. Wu’s strong fan base makes him a key player in promoting American football to Chinese audiences.
In recent years, American football has gained traction in China, with 1.5 million people in China tuning in to watch NFL games online each week. Recognizing China as a key market for the NFL’s global expansion, the league has also shared plans to stage an NFL game in China for its 100th anniversary in 2019. With the increased interest in football, the NFL established a three-year digital partnership with Chinese media company Tencent, bringing American football conveniently to the mobile devices of Chinese fans. This is not the first time the company is streaming US sports content, as Tencent also partnered with ESPN in 2016. These efforts demonstrate not only the growing popularity of American football in China, but also the growing relationship between the United States and China in the sports sector.
Karunia "Karin" Silitonga is a research intern at the East-West Center in Washington and a recent graduate of Baylor University.