The Globalization of the NBA
By Andrew Jones
When you think of a sport that is well known globally, what comes to mind? Is it Formula One Racing? Is it Football (Soccer)? Or is it boxing? These three sports definitely come to my mind, but nowadays people are saying the NBA. Basketball in general has a global appeal as we saw in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics last year and the NBA is the main reason why.
The NBA earns an average of 8 billion US dollars per year, making it the 3rd most profitable sports league in the world. Not only does this figure represent the United States but the revenue comes from a variety of different sources across the globe. They cover several continents which all have a significant impact in the global game of the NBA.
Back in the 1980’s and 1990’s, the United States have always dominated the game of basketball. The NBA itself was filled with mostly US born players in Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, and many others. But things started to change in the 2000’s. The NBA started to expand to various countries bringing in more and more international players.
As most of us probably know, Yao Ming was one of them. Yao Ming being drafted in the 2002 NBA Draft was a major shift into global appeal for the NBA into Asia, especially into China. His presence in the NBA boosted fan bases all across China and we began to see the influence a player could have domestically and internationally.
“We realize the U.S. is a little less than four or five percent of the global population and we have a whole world out there that loves basketball and loves the NBA.” Commissioner Adam Silver
As Adam Silver mentioned, we continuously see the increase in international exposure in Europe, Asia and Africa as well, creating more and more incredible talent internationally consistently. For example, Giannis Antetekounmpo (Greece) and Nikola Jokic (Serbia) winning the MVP in recent years and also having up and coming new talent in Luka Doncic (Slovenia) and Rui Hachimura (Japan). Now we even have the “NBA Global Games” in London, Paris, Tokyo, Mexico City and Africa. Not only has this affected the viewership for players and fan bases across the globe, but the creation of different International brand sponsorships and partnerships throughout the league has had a huge impact as well.
A great example is Bibigo. Who is Bibigo? Well, Bibigo is a global brand created by CJ, who is Korea’s #1 lifestyle Company. They take delicious cuisines and revamp the recipes to fit today’s modern, non-stop lifestyles. Now why are they important? Well, they announced a MEGA partnership with the Los Angeles Lakers to be on their jersey and to promote global appeal a year ago. They are the first international partnership for the Lakers and certainly has opened doors for other international brands to do partnerships with NBA teams or the league itself.
“The NBA’s continued global growth year-over-year is no coincidence. What started with the late, great, David Stern, has only been continued in tremendous fashion by Adam Silver. It’s a league that is constantly adapting, and improving daily. Nearly every professional sports league is duplicating the NBA’s TMBO (Team Marketing & Business Operations) division, because why share secrets? Improvement comes in collaboration.
The jersey patch opened doors into global companies that only became matched by an ever-growing International Team Marketing Rights plan. I have no doubt that TMBO will continue to find new doors to open.” - Logan Furr, SVP Americas of Talisman
Here are some other partnerships the NBA and teams have internationally:
Rakuten (Japan) - Ecommerce Partnership + Golden State Warriors
Kumho Tire (South Korea) - Tire Partnership
Panini Group (Italy) - Trading Cards Partnership
Sony (Japan) - Video Game Console
Tissot (Switzerland) - Timekeeper Partnership
Moet Hennessy (France) - Spirits and Champagne
Louis Vuitton (France) - Luxury Bags and Luggage
KIA Motors (South Korea) - Automotive Partnership
Adidas (Germany) - Footwear Partnership
Bibigo (Korea) - LA Lakers
The NBA is a global sport and brands outside of the United States are starting to understand that. Companies that are seeking Brand Exposure globally are looking to partner with the NBA because of their global appeal. I personally saw it myself when I was coaching out in Japan last year. The league in Japan has changed it to make it more like the NBA; Playoff formats, All Star Weekend, the Draft, etc… NBA games are now televised in Japan and you would have never seen that 5 years ago.
We enjoy how global this sport and the association has become. I personally am excited to see what more the future holds for the NBA and how big of an impact it will have globally. Watch this space!