China: the new Eldorado for Basketball players

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 summer games in 1936.

Basketball is a teamwork game teaching discipline and sacrifices to its players. The individual struggles mix with the community built up around that sport for the purpose of team success, making it almost 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’s 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 be $500 million, allowing Tencent to carry its games and highlights
  • Weibo (a famous microblogging platform in China) also made a deal allowing the NBA to deliver game highlights, player interviews, photos and stats to its 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.

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.

For brands, it’s the same story. No players in China will accept your sponsorship if they don’t know you. The same way that Lebron James will probably not accept a sponsorship from a local Chinese company only well known in China.

As a company, to get access to Chinese basketball players and make money through their incredible network/audience, you’ll need to gain their trust. And it’s not that easy to do…

Getting into the basketball market in China


You want to be a famous basketball player in China or endorse athlete in this giant market? Very good. You’re reading the good article.

Here are some tips for you to perform in China.

I’m a player.

  • Work out your skills

As you understood, there is a huge competition in China to be the next superstar, such as Yao Ming. And we’re not even talking about the thousands of foreign players willing to integrate into a Chinese club and enjoy all their advantages.

So, if you expect to play there, you’d better train hard and be ready to show your skills. Perform in your current league, get records and rewards. Make your fame abroad or prepare to stay at home.

  • Work on your content

When models want to apply for a new agency, they prepare a book. A record of all what they did. Well, you’ll have to do the same. Take videos of your best moves, keep articles talking about you, records of previous sponsorships. Keep in mind that you need to prove your credibility to people that never heard about you before.

  • Welcome the Chinese system

If you want to play in China, play like Chinese do. We talked about the importance of statistics in China. Being a defender may be good abroad but it won’t give you much here. Also, we advise you to get in contact with a Chinese agent.

First, he speaks Chinese and get access to all clubs and sponsors in China. Without a Chinese agent, your expectation toward this market can’t be higher than visiting the Bund and buying some souvenirs.

Second, he’ll be the best one to advise you on what do Chinese clubs expect from a foreign player and how to increase your chance of joining them.

Whether you’re a basketball player or a company willing to work with players in China, keep in mind the following points.

One more time, China gets a close communication system. They don’t have access to Facebook, Google, Instagram, YouTube or other Western platforms. Therefore, they probably have no idea who you are.

And you’d better have to change this situation. As we explained before, the trust relationship is ruling China. There are too many scams here, fake people, fake companies, fake products or counterfeits… And if they don’t want to waste their time or money, they’ll have to be sure who they deal with.

Therefore, we advise you to build your visibility in China.

your visibility in China.

  • Get a Chinese Website (for companies)

Keep in mind, that whoever you’ll try to get in touch with, they’ll check on you. They want to be sure that you get real quality products, that people already love what you do, and if there are articles or online comments about you.

  • Open a Weibo account (for both players and companies)

Weibo is the Chinese Twitter. Probably the most popular social media in China. A tool that will help you to get access to a wild audience and engage with Chinese people. This platform can offer you very high visibility. And whether you want to be endorsed by a company or use an influencer for your business, Weibo is the perfect tool for you. Chinese people are very suggestible. It’s therefore, an awesome way to grow a fan base in China and start spreading your influence. If people like you, word to mouth will do the job for you.

Once you’ll be visible, you’ll have to work on your reputation.

As we previously explained, there is fierce competition in China. Not everybody is becoming a new star player. And not everybody is making tones of sales in China. To do so, you’ll have to brand yourself and build up the best reputation possible. And for that, you’ll have to go through Chinese social media.

  • Weixin & WeChat

Very famous in China, it’s a basic here. A messenger app offering you the possibility to share content with your “friend” such as text/videos/pictures/music/etc. On WeChat you’ll find as well group chat. It gives Chinese people the possibility to organize group discussions, talk about their problems and how to solve it, but also talk about new trends, who to follow, what products to buy, etc. As a future Star or leading company, you can use it to engage your followers and interact with your community. Open a WeChat account, it’s worth it.

The best tools WeChat can offer you:

  1. Create your brochure: With details about your skills, expertise, your fan base in China and abroad, your story… very useful if you need to introduce yourself to other professionals.
  2. Spread marketing content: text/videos/pictures
  3. Work on your community management
  4. Use mini-programs (for companies)
  • Douyin& TikTok

It’s the best video app in China. The best tools as a basketball player to grow your reputation. Young and middle-aged people love it! Through this app, you can create video content and spread it to a large audience. If you play it smart, you can connect with thousands of peoples and make the buzz! Fun & Intuitive, people will love to interact with you there. Plus, as a company, you can also directly sell your product through the app, do advertisements, affiliate marketing and so on.

  • Baidu &

Baidu is the Chinese Google. Netizens are always looking for information on it. If they have a problem: Baidu. If they’re looking for something: Baidu. If they want to check a product: Baidu. Also, as we previously explained Chinese people need to trust you. And whether it’s the final consumers, a fan or a company that could hire your services, they’ll check on you before doing anything.

And guess what, if they can’t find anything on you… they’ll pass. It means you’re a nobody in China. So, you’d better develop your e-reputation and be visible on Baidu.

To do so, you can implement plenty of actions:

  • Baidu Zhidao & Zhihu: a good way to deliver information about you
  • Baidu Baike: the Chinese Wikipedia. Don’t underestimate it. It’s very important in China.
  • PR: Peoples want to read articles about you. Whether you’re a player or a company, if no media has been talking about you, then you’re not famous/good enough.
  • Forums: If you’re important, you’ll be present in forums discussion. You have to get an active fan base commenting about you on a regular basis

To resume, whether you plan to play basketball (or any other sport) in China or integrate the Chinese market as a company and endorse players, building your visibility and reputation will be mandatory for your success. If you’re not willing to work on it, we recommend you to forget about China. You may just waste time and money.

For all motivate athletes or companies, we wish you the best.

If you have any question about how to integrate the Chinese market as a company or as an Athlete, feel free to contact. Coffee and advice are for free.

We are GMA, a Top Digital Marketing Agency

  • Digital Marketing Expert
  • Professional in the sports market in China
  • Deep knowledge of the Chinese market
  • Free advice(just send us email)

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