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The NFL is turning to Chinese pop star Kris Wu to build an audience for professional football in the world’s most populous nation.
The league has named Wu, 27, its official Super Bowl LII ambassador for China. Wu will also perform at Super Bowl LIVE presented by Verizon, a 10-day fan festival kicking off in downtown Minneapolis on Feb. 3.
Wu’s performance and experience attending Super Bowl LII as a fan will be covered and broadcast online in China by Tencent Sports, which became the NFL’s exclusive streaming partner in the Middle Kingdom last year.
“It is my pleasure to be named ambassador to one of the world’s most recognizable sports and entertainment events,” Wu said in a statement. “I look forward to participating in Tencent’s coverage and sharing my game day experience with fans around the world.”
Wu began his career as a member of South Korean-Chinese boy band EXO, but in recent years he has branched out as a solo artist, model, media personality and film and television actor. He’s an especially strong draw among Chinese youth. His most recent singles have even achieved some traction in the U.S. “Deserve,” released in last October and featuring Travis Scott, briefly landed at No. 1 on the U.S. iTunes charts. He has 5.6 million followers on Instagram despite the fact that the Facebook-owned service is blocked in China.
Wu began appearing regularly in Chinese films in 2015, including a turn in Mr. Six opposite local icon Feng Xiaogang. Last year, he made his Hollywood debut in Vin Diesel’s xXx: The Return of Xander Cage, and followed it up with a role in Luc Besson’s Valerian.
Wu also is becoming a familiar presence at international events overseas. He represented China at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards ceremony Sunday, and he played a similar ambassador role at the 2017 NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans.
The NFL has been working with Tencent to boost professional football’s popularity in China, where the game has far less exposure than NBA basketball and European soccer. Tencent, which operates a leading streaming platform and China’s largest social media network, says an average of 1.3 million weekly viewers tuned in to watch its live broadcasts of NFL games during the 2017 regular season.
Tencent will stream Super Bowl LII live on Monday, Feb. 5, at 7:30 a.m. (China time).
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