The National Basketball Association (NBA) announced on Wednesday that Houston Rockets and the New Orleans Pelicans will feature in the NBA Global Games China 2016 in Shanghai and Beijing this October. The tour will mark Pelican’s first ever China tour and also Houston Rockets’ return to Shanghai for the first time since 2004 when Yao Ming played for the first time in his NBA career in front of his home fans.
A record breaking year for NBA China
Despite fact that without a Chinese player in the Association now, NBA has managed to well expand its outreach the Chinese market.
“This has been a record breaking year for NBA both on and off the court”, said NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum at a media round table in Beijing, where NBA China was unveiled in 2008.
In the NBA Chinese New Year celebration, said Mr. Tatum, there were over 300 million unique TV viewers watching NBA contents. And in the past season, CCTV witnessed 700 million unique viewers watch NBA live games in China.
The NBA, like any other sports leagues in the world, can’t reach such remarkable achievements in China without clear objectives and strategy. Mr. Tatum revealed that NBA will concentrate their overall strategy for Chinese market on growing the game of basketball. “Clearly, if you play basketball, you’re more likely to become a fan of the game. From a business standpoint, what we are trying to do is to make sure where those fans are and they have accesses to our games. ”
With the practical strategy to grow the game of basketball among potential fans, the NBA has partnered with Yao Ming and China’s Education Ministry to lead more school kids to involve in the game of basketball. The NBA has also been working closely with the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) on scrimmages, player development and trainings and coaching programs over the past few years. This does not only help more and more Chinese kids learn life lessons of hard work and teamwork through the game of basketball, but also drives NBA’s outreach in a soaring market apart from North America.
Social media community around the NBA
The TV market is not the only battlefield that the NBA has triumphed in recent years as social media is becoming a more and more powerful tool for sports properties to engage their fans. With over 108 million followers on various social media platforms in China now, NBA is making new history here that any other major sports league in the world has never reached before. As phenomenal as it stands, NBA has coherent social media strategy all the way.
“The engagement takes place at the league level, the team level and the player level. One of the most meaningful ways is our players have the ability to talk one to one with fans and consumers, and vice versa”, said Tatum.
“That’s why social media for us has been so important because it allows two-way dialogue between the consumer and player or the fan and player. And our players embrace it, and they have grown up. Through social media, they have led the way and they are authentic. “ Overall, they have great things and insights that the ‘fans are looking for’.
Furthermore, NBA is creating social media community around the game of basketball and the NBA. “From a league and a team standpoint, through social media we engage with the content we provide.” By providing content which starts a conversation and drives people to share it on social media, whether it’s video clip or special NBA moment like slam dunks at NBA All-Star Weekend, the NBA builds a community for supporters and consumers to engage round basketball and the NBA games.
With the good combination of sound social media strategy and engaging content, NBA is now harvesting popularity among a large fan base across the globe, and China is not an exception.
More importantly, NBA is also scoring points off the court. It has now secured a record number of marketing partners (22) which help promote the game in the Chinese market. In addition to the marketing partners, Tencent, out of question, alongside CCTV are homes where Chinese fans consume live NBA games.
All these partnerships enabled NBA to reach “substantial growth”, as Tatum stated, in China over last year and Mr. Tatum and his colleagues from the Association “don’t anticipate that slowing down anytime soon” and are quite optimistic about continued growth in the market as the passion for the game is there.
No matter it is the two-digital growth in viewership or the record number of social media followers, few had expected NBA to reach such remarkable achievements in China especially in a post-Yao-Ming age. However, the efforts NBA has put in the market over years and the true passion that fans hold for the game of basketball have really drove the good results.
The NBA is not, and should not be, complacent about what they have achieved over recent years. As the Association will continue investment in technology as they always did, people in China might be able to “sit in front of” NBA teams and players, such as Golden Warriors and Stephen Curry, and watch them chase history on the court through VR headsets in the near future.
There will be more to come as Chinese fans’ long-admired Rockets will be returning to China within next few months. The Global Games China 2016 will not only feature the likes of James Harden, Dwight Howard from Rockets or Anthony Davies from Pelicans, but also a list of engaging off-court activities, including the fifth Fan Appreciation Day in Shanghai, NBA Cares and Jr. NBA community events and other fan activities.
Overall, the game of basketball and NBA are soaring in China where its central government has been stressing a national plan to reestablish the country’s sports as a multi-trillion industry. Yet, the Association and Mr. Tatum are eyeing continued growth in the China. With a coherent strategy as well the Association’s 22 marketing partners here, NBA is ambitiously expanding its outreach in the market.