A Look at the Marketing Efforts of the NBA in China
The first game played in the NBA was on November 1, 1946 in Toronto, Canada. The game was played between the Toronto Huskies and the New York Knickerbockers. The final score was 68-66, and there were 10,000 people on hand. At that time, the NBA was named the Basketball Association of America, and was made up of eleven teams. The first 11 teams were from New York, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Providence, St.Louis, Toronto, and Washington. In 1949 six teams from the NBL, the Denver Nuggets, the Anderson Duffy Packers, the Sheboygan Redskins, the Tri-City Blackhawks, the Waterloo Hawks, and the Syracuse Nationals joined the Basketball Association of America and the seventeen teams formed the National Basketball Association. This is a far cry from the NBA of today. Today there are 30 teams in 29 cities in the United States, and 1 city in Canada. The total fan attendance during the 2010-2011 season was 21,302,573. The NBA also has broadened their operations outside of the United States and has 16 offices worldwide, holding events in over 191 cities, in 30 countries.
The NBA has had 4 commissioners or presidents over its history. David Stern has been the head of the NBA since 1984, and has overseen the boom in the NBA popularity overseas. Within that timeframe he has had the luxury of marketing some of the biggest superstars the game has seen, names like Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and the player that took marketing to the next level for everyone Michael Jordan. When Michael Jordan was drafted into the league he was known as a high flyer, but not much else. Once he started to win titles with the Chicago Bulls his name recognition went through the roof. Jordan signed a deal to become the face of Nike basketball, and the shoe business was never the same. Jordan by himself became a global brand, and this helped the NBA expand their brand globally.
Helping the growth of the NBA as a global brand was the influx of foreign born players like Drazen Petrovic (Croatia), Vlade Divac (Croatia), and Hakeem Olajuwon(Nigeria) in the late 1980’s. The numbers started to grow from there. In 2003 there were 65 players representing 34 countries outside the United States. During the 2010-2011, season there were over 70 players from countries outside the United States. The number of international players and the worldwide appeal of the NBA’s superstars have helped make basketball the most popular sport in the world trailing only soccer.
The first tournament played by a NBA team outside of the United States was in 1988 by the Boston Celtics. The tournament was held in Madrid, Spain and included Real Madrid, the Italian league champion and the European winner of the Olympic qualifying tournament. This was one of the first steps of Stern’s foreign policy, which helped bring the NBA to the world outside of the United States. The NBA was a part of this tournament for 12 years, and won the championship every year. There is a new tournament that is currently being put together which will be a club championship and include the NBA champions starting in 2011. This will continue the growth of the league as a global brand.
The major expansion of the NBA outside the European market is in China, which has been established for some time now. China has had a rich history of playing basketball outside of the NBA in its own right. The game was first introduced to the Chinese people by Max Exner, in 1908. Exner had been a roommate of Dr.James Naismith, and was in the first peach basket game. The game grew from there and was a common game played by students and in 1935 was declared a national pastime. When communism took power in China basketball continued to flourish, with the party using the game to represent hard work, collectivism, and revolutionize fitness. During the 60’s and 70’s basketball along with badminton, and ping...