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Hupu: More than just a sports forum

Hupu (虎扑) is a popular sports forum in China that keeps attracting more users. It started as a website covering basketball news, has since expanded to become a broader sports forum and later a sports news website. The platform offers its audience access to event news, live broadcasts, videos, and other data, both connected to sports and e-sports. Moreover, it provides a platform for sports enthusiasts to discuss and exchange opinions.

Hupu (Shanghai) Media Co., LTD, the parent company of the platform, is also involved in other business sectors in media, e-commerce, self-owned sports events and investment, and is a prominent company in China’s sports industry. With 70 million registered users and 6 million daily visitors in 2020, the platform has been gaining more relevance in the market.

During the pandemic, it pursued more online opportunities by promoting sports events, organizing sports leagues and competitions, and focusing on e-commerce. This approach has paid off, with the company attracting giants such as Nike and Adidas. Additionally, Bytedance invested 1.26 billion yuan in the platform.

Former NBA player Shaquille O'Neal visited 虎扑
Source: China Daily, Former NBA player Shaquille O’Neal visited 虎扑 in 2019

The evolution of the platform from sports forum to thriving community

Hupu is not simply an online news website and forum: it has become a thriving community. It is widely known as the “straight men” platform in China: more than 90% of its users are male, unlike most other websites where the gender balance is more equal or even female-dominated. Some netizens call it the male version of Xiaohongshu

The high number of like-minded men on the Chinese platform leads to specific user behaviors, allowing for a more pronounced expression of traditional masculinity. According to a 2021 scientific research, the “straight men” stereotype on Hupu is not only characterized by heterosexuality, but also by lower emotional intelligence and communication skills, as well as a tendency to be intolerant of non-traditional identities. Indeed, users tend to criticize posts that do not convey enough masculinity.

Because the platform initially started as a sports-focused media, users were mainly drawn by that topic. They were united by their interest in basketball, football, and other sports: these fields of interest defined the main conversation topics on the forum. However, after engagement grew stronger, users started touching on a wider range of topics. The posts unrelated to sports grew so much that the company had to create a separate space for them. Users seemed to become more interested in discussing emotions and personal issues than just sports.

Love is the most discussed non-sports topic on Hupu

A good illustration of the community created by Hupu is its “Pedestrian Street” section (虎扑步行街), which is dedicated to non-sports discussions. It contains a range of different topics, including the “love area”, “hot topics area”, and “historical area”. Among the different topics, the love area stands out as the most popular, with each post garnering an average of 324,000 views – nearly 60% more than the “hot topics” section.

Netizens enjoy reading and discussing relationships and love stories: there are an average of 149 replies per post in the love area, which is 22.1% higher than the “rational discussion area”, which comes second by number of comments per post.

Among the major themes in Hupu’s love area, the posts related to “blind date”, “ex-girlfriend” and “girlfriend” ranked in the top three. Although the content of the posts is varied, the main problem worrying users in these discussions was “proving personal value”. These topics also pushed for high interactions, having an average of 477.8 replies per post.

Other prominent examples of discussions is the ranking of celebrities, where users create competitions to determine the most beautiful actresses. The platform also hosts discussions where users compare themselves with celebrities, which creates a sense of rivalry; it also shows that most users have a high opinion of themselves.

Hupu’s Pedestrian Street in 2021
Source: DT Finance, designed by Daxue Consulting, Average number of views per post in the app’s Pedestrian Street in 2021

How Hupu developed its own e-commerce

The community created by Hupu gives it a commercial advantage: users are united by similar interests, values and hobbies, and the platform’s niche adds a high-entry threshold for users. Not only do the users share the same values, but their common identity is very strong. This creates a strong audience with high loyalty which is attractive for commercial purposes.

The forum adds value to the app because it increases user stickiness and the audience’s loyalty. Because of this, more users are willing to pay for Hupu’s derivative businesses, such as e-commerce. This is why the platform has been pursuing development in this direction in the past ten years.

Among its initiatives is the Dewu app, also known as Poizon, a platform that was born out of a forum on Hupu and is now an affiliated app mainly focused on selling sneakers. The app’s strong community allowed to turn the forum into an independent C2C and B2C platform: it was easy to attract the targeted users with similar interests, and build the marketplace according to their habits. Additionally, Dewu is not just an e-commerce platform, but it also hosts its own social media feed, where customers can discuss their purchases. This feature has proven to be successful in engaging Hupu’s audience, with the platform boasting around 40 million monthly active users by 2020.

Tapping into male beauty

The Chinese sports platform has always been proactive in responding to the evolving interests of its user base. As their interests expanded beyond just sports and into areas such as the beauty industry, specifically male skincare and makeup, Hupu was quick to adapt. In 2020, Later, they began selling these products on their platform and even invested into a beauty brand and helped it grow.

advertisement on Dewu/Poizon
Source: Dewu, Nike sneakers advertisement on Dewu/Poizon

Why Hupu is more than a sports forum

  • Hupu is strongly dominated by Chinese men sharing similar values and interests.
  • From a news media and forum, the app has evolved into a sports competitions and e-commerce platform.
  • Itss loyal and consistent user base makes it an attractive platform for brands looking to reach young male consumers in China. It is becoming more than a sports platform, giving a space for men to share emotions and interact.
  • The company is expanding in different industries, having even started selling male beauty products.

Author: Sofia Tishchenko

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