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SBD Global/March 17, 2014/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NBA Battles Unique Hurdles In Asia, Looks To Region For Next Growth Spurt

Chinese fans take in a preseason game between the Lakers and Warriors in Shanghai in October.
The NBA "is one of the most popular brands in China, and the only American sports league with a significant following throughout Asia," according to Ben Sin of the N.Y. TIMES. The league has a combined 70 million followers on Sina Weibo and Tencent’s microblog platforms, compared with fewer than 400,000 followers for the NFL. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver "is hoping to build off that success, with expansion plans across Asia." In China, the basketball league is "expanding TV coverage and building lavish sports facilities." In India, it is "promoting the sport through after-school programs." In South Korea, it is trading on basketball’s “swag.” From the outset, the NBA "had to tweak its strategy for the Chinese market." Unlike in the U.S., there "have been no bidding wars" for NBA TV rights in China, because CCTV "is a monopoly there." So the NBA "has largely had to rely on licensing and marketing deals." The league "has also secured licensing deals with major companies." Anheuser-Busch InBev, which owns the Harbin beer brand in China, "has N.B.A. logos on its Harbin bottles." They are "also emblazoned" on Mengniu Milk. Sponsors "have paid close attention to basketball’s growing popularity in the region." Nike and adidas send their biggest NBA stars on promotional tours in Asia every summer. Dunkin’ Donuts hired LeBron James and Mercedes-Benz signed Kobe Bryant "to promote their products in Asia." Adidas Group Greater China Managing Dir Colin Currie said that the company signed Houston Rockets guard Jeremy Lin "more for his Asian marketability than for his American appeal" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/13).
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