NBA scores with China outreach

Updated: 2014-02-03 11:56

By Jack Freifelder in New York, Cai Chunying in Washington and May Zhou in Houston (China Daily USA)

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The National Basketball Association's (NBA) attempts to increase outreach efforts in China have had immeasurable benefits for the league's relationship with its growing international fan base, according to a head official with NBA China.

"This is the third year that the NBA will launch what is in effect a tribute to its largest international fan base," said David Shoemaker, CEO of NBA China.

According to Shoemaker, the number of NBA teams with in-arena advertisements from Chinese companies has grown from two to 10 in the three years since the NBA began celebrating Chinese New Year.

"The Chinese New Year program has grown very substantially in the three short years that we've run this program," Shoemaker added. "Now we've got over a third of the league."

From Jan 28 to Feb 4, the NBA plans to stream 23 live NBA broadcasts to millions of fans in China, a move timed to coincide with the Chinese New Year. Teams are set to pay tribute to Chinese culture through musical performances, showcases of Asian cuisine and Chinese ads, the NBA said in a press release.

NBA China is also conducting a series of social media contests to promote interaction with fans during the league's celebration of the Chinese New Year.

NBA China, headquartered in Beijing, is an arm of the NBA formed in January 2008 to spearhead the league's business in China. The NBA in China has relationships with a number of television and digital media partners, including a partnership of more than 25 years with China Central Television (CCTV).

NBA scores with China outreach

Shoemaker told China Daily that NBA China has "nearly 70 million fans and followers" of its social media platforms, which allows basketball faithful to "get as much NBA as they can digest".

"Digital is booming," Shoemaker said in an interview with China Daily.

A number of teams playing during this eight-day period will wear special Chinese New Year shooting warm-ups from Adidas, the NBA's official apparel sponsor. The shirt, which is red with the image of a dark gray horse printed on front, sports the two Chinese characters Ma Nian, or "Year of the Horse".

Ten teams are participating in the Chinese New Year celebration: the Houston Rockets, Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs, Toronto Raptors, Golden State Warriors, Brooklyn Nets, Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Sacramento Kings and Washington Wizards.

Although severe weather closed many Houston schools on Tuesday, fans still made the trip to the Toyota Center for the battle between the Houston Rockets and the San Antonio Spurs. Fans who made the trip were rewarded, as the Rockets pulled out a 97-to-90 victory.

Advertisements from Chinese sponsors dotted the arena throughout the game on Tuesday night, which featured a halftime performance, sponsored by China Mengniu Dairy Co, by four singers from the Houston Chinese Community Center.

Alex Otremba, an oil engineer and longtime Rockets fan who braved the elements to get to Tuesday's game, said he was thrilled that the Rockets were celebrating Chinese New Year.

"It's wonderful that the Rockets would think of celebrating Chinese New Year at their game," Otremba said. "After all, we had Yao Ming and now we have Jeremy Lin, so I think this would do them an honor."

Lin now plays with the Rockets after having played with the New York Knicks.

On Saturday in Washington, DC, a matchup between the Wizards and Oklahoma City Thunder ended in a 96-81 victory for the home team.

During the game, banners around the stadium read "Happy New Year" in both English and Chinese, and the Jumbotron displayed information about the celebratory traditions of the Chinese New Year during the game's timeouts.

Clive Callender - a transplant surgeon and professor of surgery at Howard University, - said the Chinese New Year celebration "was spectacular".

"I enjoyed the celebration very much, but this year's is more elaborate," Callender said. "This is a good thing, and it should get better every year."

The NBA's official Chinese New Year celebration is set to come to a close when the Golden State Warriors host the Charlotte Bobcats on Feb 4 in Oakland, California.

This year's festivities are quickly winding down, but other important outreach projects in China are in the works, including the opening of the first-ever NBA Yao School in Beijing.

The school, which is set to launch toward the end of February, will provide after-school basketball training and fitness programs for boys and girls up to age 16.

"We sparked a comprehensive partnership with Yao Ming back in 2011 to grow the game and to develop programs for both charity and social responsibility," NBA China's CEO Shoemaker said. "Our initiative is to give boys and girls the opportunity to learn the game of basketball, and the NBA Yao School is an outcrop of that."

Joe Dupriest, chief marketing officer for Monumental Sports & Entertainment, the firm that represents the Washington Wizards, said in an interview with China Daily, that "every time you think the NBA is in a good place it finds a new way to grow".

Shoemaker said the opportunity to share Chinese culture with fans in the US is "an important development" for the NBA's outreach efforts.

"Innovative things like our Chinese New Year celebration and live game broadcasts are unprecedented," Shoemaker said. "The development of the game here in China is really staggering. We're in our 27th year with CCTV, our fan base has continued and will continue to grow, and business is thriving. We're thrilled."

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NBA scores with China outreach

Students from US Wushu Academy, a Chinese martial arts school in Virginia and Maryland, perform dragon dance during the intermission of the NBA game between Washington Wizards and Oklahoma City Thunder last Saturday in Washington as part of NBA's nationwide celebration of the Chinese New Year. Cai Chunying / China Daily

(China Daily USA 02/03/2014 page1)