The NBA is the most powerful sports organisation in China, according to a new report which analyses the online performance and influence of the sports teams and players.
The NBA Red Card is the first of its kind to analyse the online influence of the basketball organisation, revealing how it is driving the sport's growth across China through its large influence over the team’s marketing strategies.
The NBA’s global marketing monopoly, which allows a team to market itself individually within a 150-mile radius, gives the organisation the power to distribute the majority of content through its social media channels and enables it to build a stronger association with the fans.
The NBA’s WeChat account is the most followed sports account on the platform, attracting around 1 million total reads, while the organisation’s Weibo profile has more than 33 million followers – more than its Twitter following.
The report attributes the NBA’s popularity to its long-standing presence in China, the organisation’s financial power and its digital innovation, most notably its five-year partnership with Internet giant Tencent Sports, which includes digital broadcasting rights for all NBA content.
The report revealed the Golden State Warriors are the most influential team online in China, well ahead of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Houston Rockets, LA Clippers and LA Lakers.
The report also highlights the icon market phenomenon in China, where fans pick their team based on their favourite player. Despite his retirement, Kobe Bryant remains the number one basketball star online in China, followed closely by Stephen Curry. Jeremy Lin, Stephon Marbury and Dwyane Wade round out the top five.
The NBA Red Card is the latest report from Mailman, the digital sports marketing agency behind the Red Card report, which ranks European football organisations online performance in China.
The latest report compared the NBA to European football leagues and revealed the NBA has around five times more followers than the top European football leagues combined. However, the European football clubs are more influential than their counterparts in the NBA, largely due to the teams’ investment in the market, with 14 European football clubs touring China in 2017.
Andrew Collins, founder and CEO of Mailman Group said, “Over the last 5 years, the NBA has been pushing its online presence through big partnership deals with market leaders like internet/gaming giant Tencent and China’s favourite microblogging platform, Sina Weibo.
“The results of the partnership with Weibo have already been visible, for example, during the playoffs the NBA’s social account gained 2.9 billion video views and 15.5 billion hashtag reads. Most recently, the NBA organised a local 5v5 tournament in Beijing and live-streamed all games online on Weibo, setting the pace for all other sports organisations in China.
“However, the NBA also faces challenges in the future. One emerging trend is that teams and players are increasingly focused on building their own digital ecosystems in China. While the players are already free to pursue this long-term goal, teams face the issue of a number of restrictions from the NBA. The NBA has made it clear that they intend to manage all of the team's digital and social media in China.
“This approach will ensure a strong online presence for all 30 teams, however, it may also lead to a lack of personalisation and difference between accounts which will mean that they miss the best positioning of some teams,” said Collins.