SBJ/20090406/IMG World Congress Of Sports

Globalization: China, and the NBA’s efforts there, top the discussion

Heidi Ueberroth, Don Garber (center)
and Peter Foss
Peter Foss
president, Olympic sponsorship and corporate sales,
Don Garber
Joe Steranka
The PGA of America
Heidi Ueberroth
president, global marketing partnerships and international business operations,
Keith Harris
executive chairman,
Seymour Pierce

Four of five panel participants and 40 percent of the audience identified China as the international market or region most ripe for development. Other emerging markets, like Dubai and Russia, are weakening, said Keith Harris of investment banking firm Seymour Pierce.

The NBA has the most robust operation in the country, creating NBA China last year and selling an 11 percent interest in the organization to five stakeholders for a total of $253 million, a model that will likely be used for growth into other geographical regions, said Heidi Ueberroth of the NBA.

“I think the NBA has done it right,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber.

MLS has expanded outside the U.S. to Canada, and Garber said that MLS will use expansion franchises in Seattle and Vancouver as a gateway to the Far East.

The NBA and professional golf drew an interesting comparison, with the NBA’s international growth traced to the 1992 Dream Team and golf trying to re-create such a curve by bidding to join the Olympic program in 2016. “There’s no single event that would be bigger for golf’s globalization,” said Joe Steranka, CEO of the PGA of America.

Peter Foss, president of Olympic sponsorship and corporate sales for GE, a TOP sponsor, said 50 percent of his company’s revenue now comes from outside the U.S., fueling the interest for more international sponsorships. “We became an Olympic sponsor because of Beijing,” he said.

Stories by staff writers Tripp Mickle, Jon Show, Eric Fisher and John Ourand. Photos by Alex Gort Sr. / Gort Productions.

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