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Volume 25 No. 239

Leagues and Governing Bodies

This year saw the 76ers and Mavericks play two preseason exhibition games in China
Photo: NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

The global footprint of the NBA "continues to expand," as the league has opened up 12 international offices, establishing seven academies "on four continents and started broadcasting games to more than 200 countries and territories," according to Tim Reynolds of the AP. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said, "We can be the No. 1 sport in the world. When I look at the trajectory of growth, the fact that young people, boys and girls, continue to love this sport, are playing this sport, are engaged in the sport of basketball on social media or with online games, I don’t know what the limit is." There are "300 million people playing the game for fun in China alone," and an "estimated 1 billion people around the globe ... having some access to the NBA Finals." The NBA also "heads back to Mexico and England for regular-season contests, after the 76ers and Mavericks played exhibitions in China." Staging regular-season games abroad "isn’t exclusive to the NBA," as MLB "opens next season in Japan." The NFL is "playing three regular-season games in London," and the NHL will stage a "two-game series next month in Finland." NBA Deputy Commissioner & COO Mark Tatum said, "We know what the future looks like. When you look at China, India and Africa, you’ve got about 60 percent of the world’s population in those three places. So we’re putting a lot of time and energy in how we become the No. 1 sport in those countries and those continents." In China, the NBA is "well on its way to that No. 1 spot" (AP, 10/12).

GROWING AN EMPIRE: NBA China CEO Derek Chang said the sport is "really riding a wave" in China. Chang: "It's the NBA, it's the players, it's the teams. You can sense the excitement. ... We are very committed to China, as you might imagine. Frankly, it's our biggest market outside the U.S. We have close to 200 people in total. We have significant offices in Beijing and Shanghai. As I've walked into this job over the last three months, I've recognized the level and quality of the talent that we have here. We've got probably some of the best people in the business in China." Chang noted the NBA's first game broadcast in China was in '87, and its "first live game broadcast" was in '94. He added, "The combination of just having longstanding roots in the country along with our attention that we've paid to the market over the last 30 years has resulted in us being where we are" (Tyler Everett, SBD Global).

WORLD POWER: In London, Ben Pringle cited new data from Europe-based POWA Index showing that the NBA is “top of a new global table charting the commercial impact of sponsorship rights-holders,” eclipsing every EPL club and a “host of other franchises” such as Real Madrid. The POWA Index is “described as the world’s first real-time sponsorship evaluation engine” and has “compiled trillions of data points across social media, online searches and on-field performances.” The table is “constantly updating to mirror real-time trends.” Leagues like the NFL and MLB also “outperform” the likes of F1 and cricket’s Indian Premier League (EXPRESS.co.uk, 10/10).

WTA CEO Steve Simon said the tennis circuit is "continuing to trend very positively," as audience numbers are continuing to grow and the circuit is "attracting a lot of interest from the business segments of the world in sponsorship and other things." Appearing on SI's "Beyond The Baseline" podcast, Simon noted the WTA is "looking to see growth" across its social and digital media platforms. He said the WTA is "seeing change in the demographics of our audience," and that is being "driven through the social platforms, which trend a little bit younger than the traditional linear broadcast." Social media is "very important for us, because obviously this is where we're cultivating our future fans and also beginning to cultivate how we address these platforms and put our content out there." Simon: "We're seeing ... a younger audience beginning to follow our sport, and now we need to build upon it." Meanwhile, thanks to some of the younger American players, the WTA is "gaining strength back" in the U.S. market. Simon: "For any global brand without the U.S. market, you're going to struggle" ("Beyond The Baseline," SI.com, 10/12).

With Bruins Owner Jeremy Jacobs again floating Houston as a possible NHL expansion city, THE HOCKEY NEWS' Ken Campbell wrote when Jacobs "says something, it's best to take it very, very seriously." Jacobs said, "Clearly the one area that is missing is Houston because that's a great city." But what he is "actually saying is, 'Hey, Tilman Fertitta, get your ducks in a row because, as of this moment, consider yourself to be auditioning to join the club.'" Jacobs is the NHL BOG Chair and "de facto chairman" of the Exec Committee, making him "arguably the most powerful man in hockey." Campbell: "Do not be surprised if Fertitta puts together a group to go to the NHL sometime soon because he has basically been given the green light to do so" (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 10/11).

SOUNDING OFF: Gold Medal-winning U.S. hockey players Monique Lamoureux-Morando and Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson are "among those who think Seattle getting an NHL team is a good idea." Lamoureux-Davidson: "You've seen in (Las) Vegas, I think they had less than 100 youth hockey players last year and now I believe they are up to 7,500. If you can get an NHL team in a non-traditional hockey market, that's probably the best way to grow youth hockey numbers." Meanwhile, the twin sisters also think that it would be "good to have on unified pro women's league," rather than the separate NWHL and CWHL (SEATTLETIMES.com, 10/11).

CHINESE CHECKING: SPORTSNET.ca's Elliotte Friedman noted during the NHL's trip to China this year, Commissioner Gary Bettman said that he "wanted to bring regular-season hockey to the country, not just exhibition games." Such a move is "going to be interesting, simply because teams might not want that." One team governor "suggested taking four clubs instead of two, so they don't have to move between cities while overseas." There is "no question clubs will be afraid of the toll the travel and time change could take" (SPORTSNET.ca, 10/10).

In S.F., Ron Kroichick reports PGA Tour officials visited Corica Park Golf Course in Alameda, Calif., "twice in the past 10 days, and the course has emerged as the front-runner for a planned new tour event" in September '19 hosted by Warriors G Stephen Curry. The tour has "not reached an agreement" with facility operator with Greenway Golf, and it is "still possible the deal could fall apart." But Octagon, the agency that would run the event, "posted an online job listing Wednesday for 'Vice President, Tournament Director' of 'a full-field PGA Tour event' in the Bay Area." Tour officials have "not announced the dates," but it is "tentatively slotted for Sept. 19-22" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 10/12).

TIERS FOR FEARS: In St. Louis, Benjamin Hochman wrote for fans of USL club St. Louis FC, there is an "interesting mix of emotions about the prospects of an MLS team." Right now, STLFC "has a good thing going." Since STLFC Owner Jim Kavanaugh is already "part of the potential MLS ownership, STLFC will be part" of the potential franchise, "similar to the way STLFC opponents LA Galaxy II and Portland Timbers 2 are connected to MLS clubs" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 10/11).

TOO GREAT EXPECTATIONS? In Oklahoma City, Berry Tramel notes the NFL is set to stage Seahawks-Raiders in London this Sunday, and "marketing the league overseas is a noble idea, but let's be realistic." Tramel: "Does anyone think football is going to take hold in Europe? ... This isn’t basketball." That said, London "isn’t a bad gig for teams that have trouble selling season tickets." Tramel: "Make London one of your designated home games, and that means you only have to sell seven games on a season-ticket package" (OKLAHOMAN, 10/12).