The NBA is serious about expanding into the Chinese market.
That is more than just a couple preseason games — the Heat beat the Clippers in Beijing early Thursday and they meet again this weekend in Shanghai — and having players go over there on shoe company sponsored tours. They have an official NBA office in China and now they are about to have an actual footprint.
The NBA is actually building a sports/entertainment complex, reports the New York Times.
The N.B.A. Center — a basketball extravaganza that will include a gym and an N.B.A.-themed cafe, a restaurant and a store as well as an interactive gaming area and a children’s zone — will be placed at the center of a $1.5 billion, 800-hectare, or 2,000-acre, property development being built by a Chinese company….
Why China? As always just follow the trail of money.
China is already the second-biggest market for the N.B.A., after the United States, and it is a key to the league’s international strategy, with revenue of more than $100 million for the past year, according to analysts.
And with the size of China, the growing middle class in that nation and a growing love of basketball there, this makes a lot of financial sense. The league plans to build more than one eventually, league officials said.
Doing business in China and understanding the market there are not simple, but the league is committed to it, clearly. Because you don’t see them building like this in Europe or Mexico.
Heck, I’d pay to see this. Maybe more than the Heat/Clippers exhibition games that tip off in China in just more than a week.
Allen Iverson and Jason Williams are going to play in an exhibition game in Beijing against Stephon Marbury and his team, the Beijing Ducks. Other guys playing on the NBA alumni team you may know include Damon Jones, Shane Burrell and J. R. Reid.
Remember that the Ducks are the reigning Chinese Basketball Association champions and Marbury was a huge part of that, dropping 41 in the final game. He got a statue out of it.
The NBA is trying to spread it’s brand in China and has been for years, hence sending two of its most popular teams and some very popular players — LeBron James, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade (who may not play as he recovers from knee surgery) — there before the season.
But like I said, if you’re forced to watch meaningless games wouldn’t your rather watch Iverson and Marbury put on a show?
You get the feeling Nike is the puppet master on this one, pulling all the strings…
Monday the Miami Heat signed a sponsorship agreement with Chinese beer company Tsingtao, and that may be the first step to a preseason tour of China for the Heat next season, reports the Sun Sentinel (via SLAM).
“We’re not in control of that, the NBA is. But we have every reason to believe that we are high on the list of teams that they’ll be inviting over to China, if not next year certainly soon,” said Eric Woolworth, Heat president of business operations. “I believe it’s in the pipeline.”
NBA players do tours of Nike every summer, doing clinics and the like, to promote their shoe brand — Kobe Bryant has been going on behalf of Nike for years. It should be noted that LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all are part of the Nike shoe family.
But this is bigger than just shoes — David Stern is all about globalization of the game and wants to tap into the massive Chinese market. Sending a marquee team like the Heat makes some sense from a marketing perspective. Which often around the NBA is the only perspective that matters.
NBA players are looking to do things during the lockout other than workout and improve their Halo 3 skills. Well, some of them are, some just want to get better at Halo.
Which leads to this interesting note out of the Sports Business Journal (via SLAM):
Armed with its star-studded NBA client list, Wasserman Media Group is proposing a basketball exhibition tournament in China as the agency explores moneymaking options for its players should there be an extended lockout … Wasserman in April began floating a plan to bring 15 to 20 of its NBA clients to China for a two-or three-week tournament if there is a work stoppage.
The idea would be mixed teams of NBA stars with the best of the Chinese players in a tournament of games that would tour parts of China.
This is still in the “throw the line in the water and see if we get some nibbles” stage of development, but it’s the kind of thing with the kind of agency behind it that could pull something together. That said, there are a lot of major hurdles to clear, from insurance for the players to dealing with the Chinese Basketball Association.
There are 45 current NBA players represented by Wasserman, including current league MVP Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls. Other guys under the umbrella (held up by Arn Tellem) are Joe Johnson and Al Horford, Russell Westbrook, LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol.
Go ahead and shake your head if you want, but if this lockout stretches into December you might be trying hard to find a stream of these games just to get your NBA fix.