Reporter Journal / Chang Jun

Professional sports making their plays for the Lunar New Year

By Chang Jun (China Daily USA) Updated: 2016-01-26 11:28

The Chinese New Year is just around the corner and I have been bombarded with repeated reminders that the most celebrated traditional Chinese holiday is near. Just in case I'm not getting it, here comes another influx of messages, all basically saying the same thing: Hey, dude, let's celebrate, even though we are in the US!

Joining in on the Chinese festivities is a throng of international industries - from US sports gear manufacturers and professional sports leagues to European leisure-culture trendsetters.

It seems to me that more and more foreign companies have realized that if they want to succeed in China, they have to keep their finger on the pulse of consumer trends there.

Two weeks before Chinese New Year, the National Basketball Association (NBA), which for more than two decades has been investing deeply in China and cultivating a consumption culture among the younger generation, announced plans to celebrate the Chinese New Year with millions of Chinese fans.

The NBA said the championship team, the Golden State Warriors, will first wear their 2015-16 season Chinese New Year uniforms for a road game on Feb 3 in Washington against the Wizards in honor of the start of the Lunar New Year, which falls on Feb 8.

The Warriors will sport the Chinese-themed threads again on Feb 9 when they host their official Chinese New Year Celebration, presented by Lucky Buddha Beer, at their home court Oracle Arena facing the Houston Rockets.

To wrap up the 2016 Lunar New Year salute, the team will wear the Chinese uniforms for the final time of the season on Feb 19 against the Trail Blazers in Portland.

In San Francisco, a city well-known for its high density of Chinese-American residents, the Warriors will send guard Klay Thompson on Jan 26 to take part in the "Adopt an Alley Way" program in Chinatown. Thompson will celebrate the Lunar New Year by touring San Francisco's oldest neighborhood in Chinatown - Ross Alley.

Thompson, who will be wearing the new uniform, will join local students from Galileo High School, along with the executive director of the Chinatown Community Development Center Reverend Norman Fong. The group will stop at Jun Yu's Barbershop for a Chinese erhu performance, the Performing and Martial Arts Center for a lion dance and end at the Fortune Cookie Factory where Thompson will learn how to make traditional Chinese fortune cookies.

"We have an amazing following from our Chinese fans both here in the Bay Area and abroad," said Warriors President and COO Rick Welts. "Hosting a Chinese New Year celebration at Oracle Arena and wearing the uniforms to honor the Lunar New Year is a great way to not only connect with the Asian culture, but to also thank our fans for supporting us throughout the season."

The National Football League (NFL), meanwhile, sent its managing director in China Richard Young to San Francisco on Jan 24 with a team composed of legendary NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana, President and CEO of Anheuser Busch InBev Asia Pacific Michel Doukeris and well-known sports commentator Huang Jianxiang.

Young unveiled a strategic partnership between NFL and Budweiser, which is owned by brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev, through which the two sides can jointly strengthen the promotion of the American football culture in China.

The strategic partnership between the two brands comes in time for the 50th NFL Super Bowl that will be played at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California, on Feb 7, which happens to be Chinese New Year's Eve.

"We are proud to be extending this partnership to China," said Young. As part of its plan to raise visibility and popularity of American football, the NFL in recent years has launched cooperation with collegiate teams and started tournaments.

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