The NBA is the third most-watched sport in the United States just behind American Football and Baseball. It was founded in 1946 and now consists of 30 teams across the country. In North America, the NBA is the third wealthiest league behind the NFL and MLB by revenue, but it is also among the top four in the world. It is able to achieve such high revenue not just due to domestic viewership and sponsors but also international support. It is able to garner such a huge international following especially in countries like China through its global marketing strategy.
Even though the NBA is an American basketball league, it consists of 107 international players from 41 countries. The league is broadcasted through TV and website live stream in 215 countries and regions in 50 different languages. By having ways to view the games in countries across the world, the NBA is more likely to gain followers even in places far from the US.
The NBA also has multiple programs to promote them internationally including Basketball without Border. Basketball without Borders is a program where the NBA host and organize basketball camps globally to train and scout young players. They would often send current and former professional players to personally train players at these camps. It is an excellent way to reach the international community and players. The NBA will also often have show matches or even regular-season games in foreign countries to reach international audiences. They would send teams overseas and have them play their games in a foreign country or have them play with local teams to connect with local leagues and fans.
Furthermore, the NBA also uses its players as foreign ambassadors as a marketing channel to attract foreign audiences. In the mid-2000s, the NBA managed to explode in popularity in China through the help of Chinese player Yao Ming. Not only was he the main focus of many ad campaigns in China but the NBA also became the first American professional sports league to stage games in China just two years after Yao Ming was drafted due to the increase in popularity. In 2016, the NBA also announced that it would establish training camps in Urumqi, Jinan, and Hangzhou. The marketing strategy in China has paid off, out of the 1.6 billion people in China, 640 million has watched at least one game in 2018, and NBA’s social media has gained 180 million followers from China according to Forbes.