China’s Biggest Export

It was Air Jordan that helped the NBA go global. Now it seems the NBA is taking a more localized approach to globalization, one player and one country at at time. Consider Yao Ming, the 7-foot-6 center from China, who plays for the Houston Rockets. According to the New York Times:

¶The Rockets are hiring four Mandarin-speaking executives and have built billboards that are in Yao’s native language. They are planning a weekly radio show in Mandarin along with a Web site diary and a weekly videotaped interview with Yao in both Chinese and English. The team also hands out ticket and statistical information in Mandarin at its games.

¶The Golden State Warriors, with an Asian population of 1.5 million in the Bay Area, have offered ticket plans of three and seven games linked to appearances by Yao. Public-address announcements were made in English and Mandarin for a Rockets game there on Nov. 27, and Yao delivered a videotaped message thanking fans for coming to see him.

¶Of the 120 N.B.A. games that will be broadcast in China this season, 30 will involve the Rockets. Some games have the potential to reach up to 280 million households, roughly equal to the entire population of the United States. This gives corporate sponsors a chance, through advertising placards being shown on television, to gain entry into a consumer market of 1.2 billion people.

And I love this:

Local fans, however, are still growing accustomed to receiving Yao’s autograph in Chinese characters. When he signed dozens of life-size posters, the Rockets received two calls from people saying that someone seemed to have been doodling on their souvenir.

How long do you think it will be before Shanghai gets an NBA team?

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