SBJ/November 12-18, 2012/Franchises

Rockets drawing global interest

The Houston Rockets are becoming a magnet for international sponsors again, with the club’s offseason addition of Jeremy Lin fueling new foreign interest in the club.

Already well-known in Asia thanks to Yao Ming’s eight seasons in Houston, the Rockets currently count five companies doing business in China as team sponsors. Rockets CEO Tad Brown said the team is nearing additional deals with Asia-based companies in the telecommunications, financial services and apparel sponsorship categories.

Jeremy Lin has replaced Yao Ming as the Rockets’ resident international star.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
The Taiwanese-American Lin, who stormed the NBA with the New York Knicks last season, signed with the Rockets as a free agent this summer.

“Jeremy is unique, and people are interested in him as a person and as a player, and we are seeing significant interest again from the Chinese market,” said Brown, who joined the Rockets in 2002, the same year Yao was drafted by the team. When Yao retired in 2011, the Rockets for that season had in their sponsor lineup eight companies that did business in China.

The Rockets so far this year have signed deals with Taiwan-based Maxxis Tires, which was a Knicks sponsor when Lin played in New York, and with Kenda Tires. Other Asia-related partnerships newly signed this year are with East West Bank and MetroBank; both have deep business interests throughout Asia. China-based shoe apparel company Peak is on board as a longtime team sponsor, as well.

The deals being negotiated would come in addition to these existing deals.
Brown said total team sponsorship revenue is up 20 percent, though he declined to disclose specifics.

The Rockets also are benefiting at the gate from the addition of Lin as well as from the trade for James Harden from Oklahoma City on the eve of the season’s start. Full-season-ticket sales are up 25 percent to date over last year, and the team has a 90 percent season-ticket renewal rate. For their home opener on Nov. 3, the Rockets posted record gate revenue, though Brown did not provide specific revenue figures.

Gains are being seen in the group and premium-ticket areas as well. All but eight of the 400 floor seats ringing the Toyota Center have been sold, and group sales are tracking on a record pace.

“We have put a lot of effort in our premium areas and we are in the top four in the league in group sales and should have our highest production ever,” said Gretchen Sheirr, vice president of ticket sales and service for the Rockets.

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