The Super Bowl 49 ended last Monday morning Beijing time. The Patriot won the game unexpectedly. Many Chinese media, including CCTV, live broadcast the game.
However, this super event, which was compared to the Chinese Spring Festival Gala, and NFL, are in an awkward position in China, because they only attract people’s attention for once every year at this time. The league’s promotion in China has been very difficult.
NFL is the most welcomed league among the big four leagues in America, i.e. NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL. Super Bowl is also regarded as the most watched games in USA every year. NFL wants to break into the Chinese market very much, to fully take advantage of the market like what NBA does.
Its promotion has not been very successful. Although it has been trying to break into the Chinese market for ten years, the effects are not rewarding. Take its broadcasting as an example. Except from the Super Bowl, other games from NFL’s regular seasons are not broadcasted on CCTV-5 at all. Reports about NFL are also scarce on Chinese traditional media including TV and newspaper. This reflects the weak influence of NFL in China.
The league once tried to use a star strategy to open the Chinese market, similar to what happened in NBA where stars such as Michael Jordan helped the league break into the Chinese market and Yao Ming increased its popularity. It enrolled a Chinese-American athlete Ed Wang in 2010, but the result was not as expected – NFL is still scarcely talked about in China.
There might be many causes for this result. Nevertheless, there are two clear reasons. The most important one is the absence of the sport in China and a very weak link with China. American football is not played every day. It also demands good equipment and facilities. These made it difficult for common people to play rugby. On the other hand, football is not a sport of the Olympic Games, and sports bureaus at various levels do not have special teams for it and thus don’t develop the sport. Therefore, the sport does not have advantages either in daily life or in terms of government supports.
The second reason is that NFL missed the best time to enter China. At the late 80s and early 90s of the 20th century, Chinese TV stations needed large numbers of sports broadcasts, which was a very good chance for foreign leagues to develop in China. NBA offered free events videos for China then, and gradually grew into the giant in Chinese market nowadays. Today, after 20 years, it might be a little late for NFL to find a place in the market.
This is an abridged translation of the original article.