With a total population of well over 4.5 billion people, Asia is a very lucrative prospect for all kinds of businesses, from car brands to tech giants. It’s also a region of the world that offers huge opportunities for sports looking to open up and develop new markets.
Already, UK Premier League soccer teams like Manchester United and Chelsea often undertake pre-season tours in Asia to expand their brand exposure and other sports have this as an objective too.
One of the most active of these at the moment is basketball or, more precisely, its governing body in the US, the NBA.
There are already some fairly firm foundations to build on, the sport has been popular for some time now. The rise of sports betting across the world is also helping to generate interest, with fans across Asia proving to be almost as interested in NBA odds at DraftKings as those back in the States.
The game itself was originally introduced to China in the late 19th century by Christian missionaries keen to spread the ways of the west. By the 1920s there were hoops popping up in Shanghai and by 1925 a basketball federation had been set up in Seoul.
The early 1950s saw the establishment of FIBA Asia and today many countries have their own leagues. The challenge for the NBA is to now impose its own footprint in Asia and it has different country-by-country plans for doing this.
The NBA Academy is a program that provides top prospects from around the world with world-class training and education to prepare them for the next level of basketball. With locations in India, Australia, and China, the NBA Academy is one of the NBA’s most significant investments in player development outside of North America. In this article, we will discuss the NBA Academy’s goals, programs, and the impact it has on the NBA’s global outreach.
Goals and Programs
The NBA Academy’s primary goal is to develop elite basketball players by providing a comprehensive basketball and educational curriculum. The program offers comprehensive training and education to student-athletes, including skill development, strength and conditioning, nutrition, and injury prevention. The NBA Academy also provides academic education to its students, including English language instruction, college preparation, and cultural education.
The NBA Academy offers various programs to student-athletes, such as the Global Academy, Women’s Academy, and Junior NBA Academy. The Global Academy, located in Canberra, Australia, provides a one-year training program to the top international prospects. The Women’s Academy, located in Delhi, India, aims to develop women’s basketball players in India. The Junior NBA Academy is designed for players aged 14 and under, with the goal of providing young players with high-quality basketball instruction and promoting the game’s values of teamwork, respect, and sportsmanship.
Impact on the NBA’s Global Outreach
The NBA Academy has had a significant impact on the NBA’s global outreach. The program has helped the NBA identify and develop talent from around the world, including Rui Hachimura, the first Japanese-born player to be drafted in the first round of the NBA draft. The NBA Academy also helps the NBA promote its brand in international markets by providing top prospects with high-quality training and education.
With an estimated 300 million basketball players and many more fans, in China, it’s no surprise that this is a country that the NBA takes very seriously indeed, So seriously, in fact, that it’s estimated to have $10 billion invested in it via 40 of the most prominent owners of its various franchises.
It also means that the NBA has a specific division in China first established in 2008 and now employing over 130 people spread across divisional offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Taipei, and Hong Kong.
Consequently, it has managed to attract a very high-profile collection of sponsors ranging from Nike to Pepsi as well as many other Chinese brands.
Of course, the one cloud on the horizon may be the increasingly fractious relationship between the US and China. But many in the NBA must surely be hoping that the unifying nature of the sport will be able to transcend any geo-political friction.
While the NBA has had a presence in Japan for well over 30 years now, it does seem like it has quite a Mount Fuji to climb there.
In a recent poll conducted by Central Research Services only 6% of the people interviewed claimed it was their favorite sport. Looking at their social media activity, just 1.6 million, or 1% of the total population follow the NBA.
To try to increase the popularity of the NBA one initiative has been to take teams like the Golden State Warriors and the Washington Wizards over to Japan to play exhibition matches.
But one key issue to be overcome is that domestic NBA games are currently only available to view through a paid-for streaming service provided by Rakuten. While existing fans will be happy to use this, it’s not set to draw in many new followers.
The fact that baseball is so popular in Japan does show that there is an appetite for US sports, it’s just a question of stimulating that appetite. Attracting greater participation is going to be key, and there are plans for this.
In a recent interview the Managing Director of NBA Asia, Ramez Sheikh told reporters, “Youth is very important to the NBA. In fact, we’ve run many grassroots Junior NBA programs in our other markets across Asia-Pacific. And so we look forward to working with organizations in Japan, building on what we’ve done, focusing on youth, and growing the game of basketball.”
So the hopes are that this, as well as making watching games more accessible, will give the NBA the launch pad it really needs in Japan.
The other key population center that the NBA is focused on cracking is the Indian sub-continent. In this case, it’s a question of trying to get a cricket-obsessed nation to turn its attention to the sport. In a couple of ways the strategy is the same as it is in Japan,
So there have been exhibition matches between the Sacramento Kings, owned by Mumbai-born Vivek Ranadivé, and the Indiana Pacers and there is also a very active youth program too.
On a broader pan-Asian scale there is a feeling that more should be made of the leading current NBA players whose origins lay in the East as a method of generating interest.
This, combined with the other efforts outlined above, should promise to give the NBA an even stronger foothold in the region in the future.