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Volume 27 No. 28
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Yao In The News For First Game In Chicago, Marketing Deals

Thousands of Asian-American fans "jammed the United Center" for Rockets-Bulls last night, Rockets C Yao Ming's first NBA appearance in Chicago, according to Lucio Guerrero of the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES. More than 70% of the arena's upper level was filled with Asian-Americans, and "most applauded politely for the ... Bulls, but cheered loudly when Yao scored his first points about five minutes into the game" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 1/27). The game drew a sellout crowd of 22,052 (THE DAILY).

HIS DEALS: While terms of Yao's endorsement deals with Nike, Apple computer and Sorrent are undisclosed, Burns Sports President Bob Williams "estimated the Nike deal to be worth 'low seven figures' a year and the other two deals combined to be worth between $500,000 and $750,000 a year." Williams: "His endorsement possibilities are limited by his English skills. And while the Apple ad works [with Yao not speaking], how many times can you do that? He's still a novelty in this country" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 1/26). The SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's Liz Mullen cites sources as saying that Upper Deck "is in talks about expanding" its deal with Yao to include "the development of an English-language Web site" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 1/27 issue). In S.F., Carrie Kirby wrote that CA-based Sorrent, which makes Fox Sports-branded football and basketball games for Web-enabled cell phones, "hopes to release Yao Ming Basketball by the end of June." As the company is looking at the Chinese market, Sorrent President Isaac Babbs said, "Yao wants to help us understand what Chinese gamers are going to respond to." Under the deal with Sorrent, Yao "is required to make one promotional appearance a year" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 1/26). The Sports Business Group President David Carter: "You've got a guy, who for the first time, can help American companies really penetrate Asia with credibility. You have a lot of Asian companies hoping to do business in the (U.S.), and Yao Ming gives them a platform to really come into America" ("Moneyline," CNN, 1/24).

COMPLAINT BOX: While Yao received the most votes among NBA Western Conference centers for the February 9 All-Star Game in Atlanta, Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban "considers it unfair that All-Star voting was available online in Chinese but not in any other foreign language." Cuban: "It just shows you that the NBA has some biases going on." Cuban added that "if the NBA had offered balloting in Germany, perhaps Mavericks [F] Dirk Nowitzki would be in the West starting lineup." Nowitzki missed by just 7,355 votes (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 1/27).