Published on February 24, 2016 by Drew Patterson  

The National Basketball Association is a popular league in the United States. Some consider it to be the most popular league over the NFL, MLB, NHL, and MLS. This American product is now branching from the United States and now venturing across the world. The NBA is becoming a well admired brand more internationally than domestically.

Efforts to grow the NBA brand internationally unintentionally in 1979 when the Washington Bullets played China’s national basketball team. Then in 1987 China began to show NBA content for free on China Central Television (CCT). Fast forward to 2015, games are being shown on TV in over 35 plus different countries across the globe. Preseason and a few regular season games are even being played in countries like Africa, Brazil, China, Italy, Mexico, Spain, and the UK. There will be two regular season games in the 2015-2016 season: Sacramento Kings vs. Boston Celtics in Mexico City, Mexico and Orlando Magic vs. Toronto Raptors in London.

A big target and a huge help to the NBA international fan growth is China. The numbers can speak for themselves. In April 2014:

  • There were 27.5 million fans on the NBA’s blog in China,
  • There were 8.6 million registered fans on the NBA’s website in China,
  • There were 70 million NBA followers on Chinese website such as Sina Weibo, Tencent Weibo, Tencent Qzone, and Tencent WeChat.

NBA China CEO David Shoemaker also made a statement about the NBA’s involvement in China, "As I oversee our business here, I see 300 million people playing basketball." That number is the same as the United States population.

The reason why China is a huge target is because of its size. With the help of playing NBA Global games in populated cities like Beijing, Shenzhen, and Shanghai the NBA brand is gaining more exposure every year. With help from Chinese companies it is beneficial for the NBA’s brand to be able to market its goods and services. The NBA is also building a $1.5 billion NBA center near Beijing which will contain restaurants, basketball courts, stores with licensed merchandise and more.

100 International Players

Another way the NBA has increased its fan base internationally is players from international countries. Top tier players like Manu Ginobili, Kyrie Irving, Tony Parker, Luol Deng, The Gasol Brothers, and Tim Duncan have a big fan base in the United States, but in their home countries it is even bigger. This past NBA finals featured 8 international players. The start of the 2015-2016 saw 100 international players on NBA opening night rosters with Africa and Brazil setting records in their respective countries. Canada lead all countries with 12 players.

Probably the best way to promote the NBA brand and to gain exposure is social media. A perfect example of this is LeBron James. In 2014 during the NBA finals, 40% of social media content came related to the Miami Heat came from international users. This is generated only from one player which is incredible.

Also 39% of geo-tagged mentions related to the NBA came from outside the United States, 18% higher than the NFL and 15% higher than MLB. Social media presence for the NBA generates fandom for the superstars and their teams furthering making the NBA a well-known international brand.

This blog post was written by Samford University student Drew Patterson.

References [Link broken as of 6/11/18] [Link broken as of 1/22/2019]

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