The NBA’s Chinese New Year Takeover

By Ming Wong #2

It’s no news that China, with its 100 million basketball-rabid fans, is a market that the NBA and other basketball-relevant companies are turning its focus to. In advance of the upcoming Lunar New Year (February 8), the NBA has released a commercial starring three of the top NBA player draws in China—Stephen Curry, James Harden and Jeremy Lin (oh, and the Rockets’ mascot, Clutch)—in an ad celebrating the biggest holiday in China (imagine the family and food traditions of Thanksgiving, the gifting of Christmas, the hype of the Super Bowl and the fireworks of July 4th folded into a week-long festival).

In addition, the NBA will release for the Chinese New Year-themed jerseys for the occasion which will feature Chinese characters of the teams’ names. For the first time on Feb. 3, two teams (Warriors vs. Wizards) will be wearing Chinese character jerseys in the same game.

Chinese New Year Uniforms

In an effort to tie the NBA to a holiday like Christmas games in America, the NBA will feature all 30 teams during the two-week Chinese New Year activation, with five star-laden marquee matchups that will be widely available for broadcast:

  • LeBron James’ Cavaliers play the Charlotte Hornets and Jeremy Lin on Feb. 3.
  • Defending champs Golden State Warriors starring 2015 MVP Curry vs. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook’s Oklahoma City Thunder on Feb. 6.
  • James Harden’s Houston Rockets in a Western Conference Finals rematch vs. the Warriors on Feb. 9.
  • Kobe Bryant’s final game vs. LeBron James when the Lakers meet the Cavaliers on Feb. 10.
  • Western Conference powers San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers on Feb. 18.

China’s top broadcast channel CCTV will air 18 games, Tencent, China’s biggest web portal and social media platform, will stream 31 games during the two-week period. Additionally, fans can also tune into Guangdong TV, Beijing TV, BesTV, Videoland, Fox Sports, Elta, Taiwan Mobile and NowTV to watch.

The NBA is certainly not monkeying around in its marketing to China, fitting since the upcoming Lunar New Year will be the year of the monkey in the Chinese zodiac.