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A Beneficial Partnership

By Matthew Luchs

American sports have tried to cross the plane into the international market for years and have had some instances of positive results. For example, many international National Basketball Association (NBA) players, like Dallas Mavericks' Dirk Nowitzki, attribute the rise in international interest in NBA basketball to the 1992 United States Men's Olympic basketball team, also known as the "Dream Team." (http://projectspurs.com/2012-articles/ginobili-parker-influenced-by-92-dream-team.html). Since the "Dream Team," international interest in basketball has been at an all time high. Although the International Basketball Federation Basketball World Cup displayed that the USA is still the leading powerhouse in the basketball world, there are also a number of other countries that possess serious talent, such as Spain and France. The NBA has taken the next step toward continuing the success of their international programs, while increasing fan interest to an already strong international market. For example, on October 13th2, the NBA and China's Ministry of Education formed a joint partnership to implement basketball development curriculums throughout China. (http://probasketballtalk.nbcsports.com/2014/10/18/nba-announces-groundbreaking-partnership-to-implement-basketball-development-curriculum-in-chinese-schools/).

This agreement represents the first partnership that China's Ministry of Education has undertaken with an American professional sports league. (http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nba/2014/10/17/nba-china-education-basketball-training/17457813/). The NBA released a statement indicating that "[t]he groundbreaking partnership [will] focus on basketball participation in elementary, middle and high schools across China and... provide enhanced basketball training to at least 3 million students by 2017." (http://probasketballtalk.nbcsports.com/2014/10/18/nba-announces-groundbreaking-partnership-to-implement-basketball-development-curriculum-in-chinese-schools/). Although three million people, relative to China's 1.35 billion person population, would seem small, the nature of the program speaks to how large a step this is for relations between China and the NBA. (http://www.geoba.se/population.php?pc=world). The NBA will be sending a combination of NBA players, alumni legends and coaches to educate and inform Chinese coaches and physical education teachers on the experience they gained during their employment with the NBA. (http://probasketballtalk.nbcsports.com/2014/10/18/nba-announces-groundbreaking-partnership-to-implement-basketball-development-curriculum-in-chinese-schools/). In addition, the NBA has agreed to help the Ministry of Education with China's youth basketball leagues. (http://www.foxnews.com/sports/2014/10/17/nba-announces-partnership-to-expand-basketball-development-and-training-in/)

The partnership makes sense from a relationship perspective. The NBA has been involved with China "for decades," but the NBA's growth in popularity has occurred since the formation of NBA China. (http://www.nba.com/news/nba_china_080114.html). On January 14, 2008 the NBA "announced the formation of NBA China, which [was] a new entity that [would] conduct all of the leagues business in greater China." Id. The then-NBA Commissioner, David Stern, thought that "the opportunity for basketball and the NBA in China [was] simply extraordinary . . . ." Id. He believed that by "working with the General Administration of Sports and the Chinese Basketball Association," the NBA could continue to "emphasize, in both rural and urban Chinese communities, its contribution to fitness, healthy lifestyle and an appreciation of teamwork." Id. Basketball is now the most popular sport in China, with more than 300 million participants. (http://www.nba.com/2014/news/10/13/nba-china-anta-partnership/).

Although it appears that this new partnership with the Chinese Ministry of Education is solely in furtherance of the goal of healthy living set by David Stern, there may be other underlying motivations as well. On the same day that the deal with China's Ministry of Education was announced, the NBA revealed that ANTA Sports Products Limited (ANTA) would be "an Official Marketing and Merchandising Partner of NBA China...The announcement was made at a press conference in Beijing by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and ANTA Sports Chairman and CEO Ding Shizhong . . . ." Id. This deal allows ATNA to launch a "complete line of ATNA and NBA co-branded league and team-identified footwear and accessories..." Id. They will be "available online and in over 2,000 ATNA stores around the country." Id. The NBA's current commissioner, Adam Silver, sees this as an opportunity to give Chinese fans a chance to connect with their favorite team via ATNA's products. Id.

In addition to the NBA's deal with ATNA, "[t]he NBA currently has relationships with a strong network of television and digital media outlets in China, including a partnership of more than 25 years with national broadcaster CCTV." (http://www.nba.com/2014/news/10/17/nba-ministry-of-education-in-china-join-to-push-basketball-fitness-in-chinese-schools/). The NBA hosts hundreds of touring basketball events for fans, conducts community enrichment programs, and maintains marketing partnerships with a combination of world-class Chinese-based corporations and U.S.-based multinationals. Id.

Some believe this may be step for the NBA to introduce an official Chinese team that would play in its American league. However, there are a number of complications with that proposition. How much time would teams need off to adjust to the time difference and the trip length from China to the United States? At what time would the games be shown to maximize viewership when there is a 12-hour time difference? What is clear, however, is that the NBA is years from making such a project a reality. Yet this partnership with ATNA and China's Ministry of Education will not only provide a great outlet for Chinese students interested in basketball, but will also continue to increase the NBA's international revenue.

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