US Sports Leagues Expand Outreach to Asia

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by Sarah Wang
Los Angeles Kings player Jonathan Quick exits the ice near an advertisement for China’s O.R.G. Packaging, which became a sponsor of the NHL last year. Image: Flickr user Dinur

On September 21 and 23, the National Hockey League (NHL)’s Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks played two preseason games in China; one in Shanghai and one in Beijing. These two games marked the first time ever that the NHL held games in China, signaling a push by the organization to increase interest in hockey in one of the world’s largest emerging markets for sports coverage. China also has seen the utility of such a partnership in garnering interest in hockey in the lead up to its hosting of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. Hockey is also a focal point of the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, where two sisters, one of whom was adopted from Korea, who will play on the US and Korean national teams.

The games were hosted by China’s O.R.G. Packaging, a company that became a sponsor of the NHL’s Boston Bruins last year. 2015 also marked a first for the NHL when it drafted its first Chinese-born player, Andong ‘Misha’ Song, to the New York Islanders.

Another first occurred in basketball: for the first time ever teams from Australia’s National Basketball League (NBL) traveled to the United States to face off against three National Basketball Association (NBA) teams. The Sydney Kings visited the Utah Jazz on October 2, Melbourne United played against the Oklahoma City Thunder on October 8, and the Brisbane Bullets faced off against the Phoenix Suns on October 13.All three games were broadcast live in Australia via ESPN.

Currently there are eight Australian players in the NBA, including superstar Kyrie Irving, who holds dual US-Australia citizenship. To continue to grow the number of NBA players drafted from Australia, in June 2017 the NBA and Basketball Australia opened the NBA Global Academy in Canberra to serve as a hub for top male and female prospective players outside the United States.

The NBA also has academies in China and India, growing markets for both prospective players and audiences for the games. Last year the NBA partnered with Chinese technology company Tencent to gain greater broadcasting access to Tencent’s over 850 million online subscriber accounts.

 

Sarah Wang is a Project Assistant at the East-West Center in Washington.