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Why the NBA Succeeds in China and the NFL Cannot




The NFL planned to expand the international Series to Germany and China in 2017 and 2018, respectively. The move was to branch out from the league’s six frontier markets such as the UK, Canada, Mexico, and Brazil. In 2015, the upper, idle class of the country surpassed the United States for the first time in history. According to statistics, the growth of the NFL was expected to exceed 50% of the country’s population by 2022.

Such factors made China a golden goose for the NFL. However, the NBA is not willing to lose its ground anytime soon, considering it set its foot in China in 1895. Read the full details below to understand why the NBA succeeds in China and the NFL cannot.

China holds a basketball history

Although many people hardly know, China was the first country to introduce basketball in 1895. Yes, China treasures its basketball history longer than you realize. Four years later, basketball was invented in America. The Chinese army popularized basketball in China as a training and team-building activity. The sport later spread in schools, developing neighbourhoods like bushfires.

The sport was able to spread its wings since it only needed less space to build a court. In 1979, the NBA Washington Bullets was invited to China on August 24th for a contest. Beijing and Shanghai hosted the NBA games where the Bullets faced the Bayl Rockets in a thrilling battle. Bullets thrashed Bayi Rockets 96-85. The history of the NBA in China acts as the backbone of its popularity. Although the NFL has the potential to grow in China and serve gamblers with the best NFL lines, it has a long way to go and hold ground as the NBA has already done.

Related: Is the Chinese Market finally ready for the NFL?

NBA marketing in China

The NBA invested in marketing longer than the NFL. In the late 1980s, the NBA was at its peak after allowing a Chinese television network to broadcast games for free. The marketing strategy worked so well for them that the NFL has tried to follow suit. The power and influence of NBA superstars such as Michael Jordan and the Dream Team of 1992 placed the NBA on the screens of 30 million viewers every week. Wait, did I forget to mention Yao Ming, who rose to become an international NBA superstar?

Today’s NBA has gained a massive following through social media platforms, making it the most followed sport in China. WeChat has a unique collaboration with the NBA allowing fans to stay updated with players, clubs, and live games. Partnerships with social media platforms have made NBA popular than ever. The Chinese blogging platform Weibo publishes NBA content, including interviews with players.

The NFL has to realize how to touch the young generation, which is in line with the growing middle class in China. Although the NFL is now watching its viewers increase with time, NBA fans have remained constant over the years. The results have proved that the young generation is still more interested in the NBA than NFL.

On the other hand, the NFL seems to control every angle of their experience, while the NBA supports users’ individual experiences. The NBA has leveraged technology to capture a broad audience by considering fan-made highlight tapes to be free. NFL prevents websites from embedding YouTube videos from their official channel.

David Stern’s Contribution to NBA in China

The NBA has hosted games in China since 2004. David Stern is the man behind the NBA’s entry into China. In the 1980s, David stroked a deal with the Chinese government to allow NBA games to stream for free through CCTV. David Stern has contributed to the growth of the NBA in China, and his contributions are still remembered to date. Although basketball held ground in China for a long time, his deal with the government introduced a real NBA experience. During this period, famous NBA players such as Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson were unstoppable, and everyone talked about them.

The influence of NBA players

The NBA legends have influenced the popularity of the sport in China. NBA superstars such as Kobe Bryant contributed to the foundation of the sport in China. Kobe arrived in Beijing in 1998 to fuel the project of an instructional basketball clinic that could hold a dozen kids.

The footprints of the NBA have magnified, with more than 500 million people watching NBA games in China. Derailing the NBA in China is impossible as thousands of fans showed up to watch sons of Dwayne and LeBron James play exhibitions with the rest of their teammates. For the NFL to thrive in China, they have to choose an ambassador that will promote the sport, and NFL players should be their top-choice.

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The marriage between NBA sport and the world’s most popular country is stronger than ever. The NBA in China seems to continue thriving, with over 300 million Chinese playing the game. The NFL has to realize its potential and act fast.


Related: NFL Green Bay Packers Pull Ahead of Detroit Lions 28-17

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