Created in 1891 by James Naismith, Basketball, the sport of legends turns out to be one of the most popular sports in the world. It even made it to the Olympic game in Berlin’s summer games in 1936.
Basketball is a teamwork game teaching discipline and sacrifices to his players. The individual struggles mix to the community build up around that sport in the purpose of team success, make it almost as a life metaphor. A sport composed of stories, virtues, and lessons that got spread throughout Europe, Africa, Latin America, North America, and Asia.
As said David Falk, the agent behind Michael Jordan image:
“There are more people playing basketball every day in China than reside in the United States”
And it’s true. In the most populous country in the world, basketball turned out to be a massive business with a constantly growing NBA fan base. In fact, the NBA is now the most popular sports league in China with over 150 million followers on social media.
What kind of business between the NBA and China are we talking about?
- NBA & Tencent company (founder of WeChat) made a deal reported to $500 million, allowing Tencent to carry its games and highlights
- Weibo (famous microblogging platform in China) also made a deal allowing the NBA to deliver game highlights, player interviews, photos and stats to his 400 million monthly users
In China, the digital world is very important. And the role of social media can be slightly different than in western countries. With a population reaching over 1.4 billion people, not everybody can get access to basketball games. But there are 800 million daily internet users, and be sure that there is no problem for Chinese people to watch games on their phones & tablets.
NBA is clocking around 2.9 billion video views during the play-offs in China.
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Meaning what, every type of content can be spread and distribute really quickly in a lot of different ways. In China, whether it is for companies selling derivate products, a team looking for promotion or players willing to experience Chinese team, digital marketing is a real competitive advantage.
In this amazing country which is China, basketball takes part in a real cultural revolution. And Chinese fans get really interested in NBA news, relevant facts about NBA players or any content related to basketball. Any entity or individual able to brand himself in China could be the one opening the golden gate of the Chinese opportunity.
China and basketball:
- NBA got over 33 million followers just on the Chinese platform Weibo
- 9 billion video views during the NBA playoffs on the Weibo account
- Tencent and its 963 million online users, got the digital broadcasting rights for all NBA content
- In 2017, the NBA final attracted around 200 million viewers on mobile alone
- 300 million people play the game in China
- Created in 2008, NBA China is now worth more than $4 billion
- NBA franchise gained 47 million new followers on Chinese social media during the 2018-2019 season
China: a hotspot for NBA players
China is the new gold mine for basketball players. Money is everywhere and Chinese people know how to attract and keep their players. They treat them as the new kings of China.
Norris Cole signed in 2016 a contract worth $5 million with Shandong Golden Stars. Dwayne Wade got offered $25 million for 3 years in the same club. And don’t forget that in China, you get a higher purchasing power than in Europe or in the USA. $5 million is a lot of money here…
And even if not an NBA player, China is willing to give a chance to any players showing good records and talents. For most of the non-NBA players, China is their number one choice. Many of them still manage to do more than $1 million a year, which may not be possible in their home country.
Is it all about money?
No. Actually, most of the players that came to China are more into the bonus offered in the contract.
Imagine, your basic contract is worth $1 million. But the club gives you $200 each time you get back an offensive rebound, or if you score. Well, if you make 5 of it per game and play at least 40 games, it’s $40,000 right in your pocket. That’s a good motivation.
About China hospitality, players are treated like superstars with:
- 5 stars hotel
- Private driver/translator
- Plane tickets offered to their family
- Private chef cooking your meals
- $1,500 voucher for restaurants
In China, all that matters for them is a statistic. A different way to operate compared to western countries, but if you play their game, you’ll get rich from it.
Yaoming the Chinese Godfather of Basket
To sum up the basketball opportunity in China:
- Basketball it the most favorite sport in China
- Basketball is extremely notorious on Chinese social media
- Basketball players are very well treated/paid
What opportunity can we get from this?
If you’re a player: give it shot. More accessible than NBA and more rewarding than European leagues, “the middle kingdom” will pay you back for your efforts and you’ll get a high chance to be super famous.
If you’re a company: consider China as a viral market place. So many people are passionate about basketball here. Endorsement of key players will give you direct access to millions of fans ready to buy your products.
But here’s a question for you:
Are your shoulders wide enough for you to succeed in China?
Let’s be clear.
China is full of opportunity, but not everybody will make it. And here’s why…
First of all, if they don’t know you, they’ll ignore you. And keep in mind that they have a close communication system, meaning no Facebook, no Google, no Instagram. If you have been lucky enough to show your talent through NBA channels, then you may have a chance. Maybe they know you. If not, you’ll need to work for it.
Remember that in China, there are already over 300 million players. And as typical players, most of them pretend to be the best. So, wherever you come from being “the best” won’t be enough. You’ll have to prove it and to gain their trust. You’ll have to show your talents, and that people love you.
In China, you have to introduce yourself as an amazing “investment”. Yes, you’ll score for the team and break all the stats. Yes, you’re famous and locals will be pleased to follow you, buy your t-shirt and watch your games. Yes, you’re famous enough for local brands to endorse you.
They don’t want someone to pay for, they want someone to believe in.