„I didn’t have a specific picture in my mind,“ NBA commissioner said. „If I did, it would not have been as bright and as large as what has actually happened.“
NBA games are televised in 215 nations. There are more than 100,000 stores (in more than 100 countries) that sell NBA merchandise.
The Rockets have no doubt how it happened. The day after the team selected Yao with the first pick in the 2002 NBA draft, Rockets owner said Yao would become the most popular athlete in the world, citing China’s fan base and growing taste for basketball. It seemed hyperbolic then. It appears prescient now.
„Literally hundreds of millions of people follow us each and every season,“ Rockets CEO said. „We average 30 plus million people per game watching the broadcast of our games.Cheap Jerseys from china It’s given the full platform for the NBA to develop its grass roots, licensing, sponsorship, media, all of its efforts in China.
„The Rockets have truly become the national team of China.“
Stern estimates between 3 and 5 percent of NBA revenue comes from China, and there is great potential for that figure to go up.
„We had huge expectations, but this has met or exceeded them,“ NBA International president said. „Creating NBA China, we saw this incredible opportunity. Just the (construction of) arenas, for example, has moved faster than we thought possible. We have been involved with three state of the art arenas since the (in 2008). The growth is amazing.“
Passionate fan base
Many factors explain the growth, from basketball’s popularity in China now considered on par with soccer to the changing economies around the world. The most vital factor, however, can be described simply:
„Fans in China love basketball, and they were passionate about the NBA. But Yao Ming introduced it to a broader audience and, with the Rockets, created a deeper connection,“ Ueberroth said. „It really provided a platform to introduce and create a following for so many of the other teams. “
Yao’s uniform is rarely among the top 10 officially licensed uniforms sold in China. (The Chinese have no problem with wearing unlicensed Yao garb.) But every jersey or official shoe sold in China reflects on the spotlight Yao brought to the NBA.
Toyota reaps rewards
„If you look at the growth of the NBA in China, everything reflects on Yao, absolutely every single metric the love of the game, the viewership numbers, the sales of the jerseys, the sponsorship numbers, the China Games and the popularity of the China Games not only in China but throughout the region,“ Brown said. „He’s such a truly global force. He’s really taken the league and taken the Rockets to incredible heights.“
When Gulf States Toyota bought the naming rights to the new Rockets arena, Toyota was just starting to make inroads in China. Eight years later, in 2009, Toyota sold 800,000 vehicles in China and harbored much larger goals.
„The first game Yao Ming played in , with the word Toyota written on the floor, was seen by more people than will watch an entire season in the NBA, every NBA game combined (in person),“ Gulf States Toyota President said.
The financial impact on the Rockets has been significant, but nowhere near as large as most assume. The team has about 85 sponsors each season. Typically, about seven are based in China, accounting for about 5 percent of the Rockets‘ sponsorship revenue.“When you look at the most popular teams in the league, everybody has Chinese based sponsors, or they have sponsors that are multinationals that put Chinese signage on their courtside,“ Brown said. „We were forerunners of that. We were the first ones to sign a Chinese sponsor for a local team deal. “
As far as the NBA is concerned, the greatest achievements are not found on the bottom line.
„Yao is a key cultural milepost in our development,“ Stern said. „He gave the Chinese fans a huge reason to follow the NBA and become even more familiar with it and feel so good about themselves to have produced such a great player and person. Secondarily, it gave Americans a way to follow China through a different lens. It’s been wonderful.“