The NBA has turned into a juggernaut with games being broadcast into 215 territories and 47 languages across the globe. It has resulted in the popularity of the league and basketball itself reaching new heights.
The iconic figure of Michael Jordan certainly brought the NBA to the mainstream outside of the United States, and LeBron James and Steph Curry, among others, have ensured that it has remained in the zeitgeist with the demand for broadcast rights increasing overseas.
There have already been ventures abroad to play regular-season games overseas. London has hosted a number of contests since 2013 when the NBA made strides to broaden their horizons from their base in the US.
Mexico City has hosted even more fixtures than London, although it has made less of a cultural impact considering the short trip and strong fanbase in the region. However, Paris joined London as a European host, staging their first regular-season contest in January 2020 when the Milwaukee Bucks played the Charlotte Hornets.
China and Japan have been utilized for pre-season games, although they are yet to stage contests that count on the record books of any of the NBA’s 30 teams. Both are keen to change that in the near future, and there seems to be more than enough encouragement from the league to make that dream a reality.
The NBA are keen to expand into those regions where soccer has become entrenched as the most popular sport. The reach of the Premier League has captivated Asia, with clubs such as Liverpool, Manchester United, and Chelsea enjoying the riches on offer. The NBA will be determined to earn their fair share of the merchandise and endorsement deals along with branching out further afield.
2022 World Cup
Soccer has made a mission of making its game global, taking its premier competition of the World Cup to Qatar in 2022. The World Cup has shifted around the continents over the last four competitions, being played in Africa, South America, Europe, and the furthest regions of East Asia.
Due to the extreme heat in Asia, the tournament which is normally played in the summertime in the Northern Hemisphere, is now being played in winter between November and December.
As a result, European clubs and leagues are undergoing a major change in their respective schedules to accommodate the World Cup. These are the lengths that soccer is taking to broaden its horizons beyond its comfort zone. The hope is that a new audience will be engaged by the sport given that there is already a great passion for soccer elsewhere in the region, as reported at scoopempire.com.
The Premier League and Champions League have already put it on the map, with a number of stars giving great representation for the Arab world in those respective competitions. Given that Qatar will have a team competing alongside the best in the world, there is real hope that it could take football to a new level, especially if there is a commitment from the Qatari government to produce investment beyond the end of the competition.
Can the NBA build a similar empire?
The NBA has to make an effort to commit to an overseas program if they want to further enhance their global audience. It is difficult to convince teams such as the Brooklyn Nets, who are the leading contenders in the NBA odds provided by Betway for the NBA Championship in the 2021/22 season, to give up home games and to travel abroad during their season.
There is a lot at stake for these outfits, and the general compromise has been to play pre-season games rather than regular-season contests. It does build an element of hype, but not quite that’s seen elsewhere around the globe. The NFL has committed to the International Series in London, and is now exploring the option of expanding the operation to include cities in Germany.
Venues across Germany are now competing to join Wembley Stadium and Tottenham Hotspur Stadium as hosts of the International Series. The success of the series has even raised the possibility of a franchise being created in London or elsewhere, highlighting the value of building notoriety and a rabid fanbase overseas.
The NBA has the opportunity to make the same impact, and perhaps watching first how the FIFA World Cup is received by a Middle Eastern audience before opting to commit resources into the market is the game plan. There are players that have flown the flag for the region in the NBA, but none are considered stars for their respective sides. Branching out beyond their comfort zone could be an opportunity for them to expand their horizons, and cultivate a new following before the NFL casts its eye in that corner of the world.