China is the most important overseas market for NBA now. Every summer, groups of NBA players come to China to participate in NBA official events, sponsors’ activities, to raise their own personal values, and to prepare for their commercial development after retirement.
This year, these NBA players have visited China: Tony Parker, Zach LaVine, Paul George, Damian Lillard, John Wall, Mike Conley, Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant, and maybe a few others. In this month, James LeBron and Klay Thompson will also come to China. They have created or will create waves of passions in every city in their trip in China.
However, what is worth noting is that many stars do not choose top-tier cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou as their first choices any more.
Tony Parker, who is signed by Peak, has visited smaller cities such as Xiangyang, Wenzhou, and Nanchang. Dwyane Wade went to Chengdu, a second-tier city in the southwestern part of China. A few former NBA stars have also paid visits to many second and third tier cities, for instance, Allen Iverson and Tracy McGrady.
So why do these stars make such choices? There are mainly three reasons – fans, commercial prospects, and governmental supports.
Fans in first-tier Chinese cities are more and more difficult to satisfy now, as they have seen too many international sports stars. On the contrary, people in second and third tier cities in China have not had been as lucky up to now to personally attend activities with bright international stars, and thus are more excited about such events.
Players who are as popular as Kobe Bryant in China are able to create significant buzzes in big cities like Beijing and Shanghai nowadays.
Yesterday, on the Sunday morning, Kobe appeared at a Nike store in Guangzhou to communicate with fans. The event had huge effects although the number of fans originally designed was merely 50 people. The other thousands of fans were all attracted there by Kobe’s fame.
It is said that one of the current top stars LeBron James is going to visit Shanghai this month as well. His visit is likely to create big effects as well.
McGrady is smart to put most of his China trip in second and third tier cities and seemed to have had pretty good results.
2. Commercial prospects
Basketball is a major sport in China. Easy to play and easy to like. There are a massive number of people in China who play the sport, especially in the second and third tier cities. These basketball fans indicate significant commercial potentials for brands, for example, sportswear and football brands like Nike and Peak.
Therefore, it makes sense for brands to send players they sponsored to visit these cities to help spread brand image and increase brand awareness.
On the other hand, the costs of hosting events in these cities are lower than in the large cities. So it is a better choice for organizers.
3. Governmental supports
It is in the not-so-large cities that the governments show more supports and attention to such tours and activities. In the large cities, there are many similar events every year. They are not unique.
However, in middle and small cities, these commercial events could be good PR tools. Local governments, media, and companies would be supportive, which in turn would create more positive exposures for the trip.
As China becomes more and more involved in the global sports market, the value of this large market needs to be studied more carefully and developed with the right strategy.
Unless you are Kobe Bryant, you should always consider carefully where to go in China.