SBJ/20090629/This Week's News

Wizards say they don’t need Chinese player to score China sponsors

The Washington Wizards don’t have a Chinese player on their roster, but that won’t stop team executives from traveling to China this summer in hopes of attracting Chinese sponsors.

It’s a unique marketing approach for an NBA team that has no direct connection to China. The Houston Rockets and New Jersey Nets, who have Chinese players Yao Ming and Yi Jianlian, respectively, on their rosters, have landed deals with Chinese sponsors.

But the Wizards are confident that they can land Chinese sponsors even though the team has no ties to China.

“Having a Chinese player on a team is important because it gets those games broadcast back to China, but what we are trying to do is to get Chinese companies who want to sell products in the U.S.,” said Peter Biche, president of business operations for the Wizards. “Our pitch is that we are delivering eyeballs in the most powerful city in the world, so we think there is opportunity with Chinese sponsors.”

The Wizards are still working out the final details, but plans call for 10 to 15 members of the team’s front office to spend 10 days beginning in late August in at least three cities in China. The team’s traveling party will include a few players who will hold clinics, but Biche made it clear that the trip is more about bringing in new sponsors than spreading NBA good will throughout China.

The team will use the 30th anniversary of the then-Washington Bullets making the first-ever NBA team appearance in China as part of its marketing platform when it travels overseas later this summer. In 1979, the Bullets played two exhibition games against the Chinese national team.

Biche would not disclose any financial information related to the team’s current sponsorship business.

“We feel pretty good about it,” he said. “We have some major renewals coming up that will renew. We are looking at being flat to up slightly.”

The NBA is expected to return to China in October for preseason games as the league continues to build its NBA China entity. It has not announced which teams will participate. The Indiana Pacers and Denver Nuggets will play a preseason game Oct. 8 in Taipei, Taiwan.

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