This summer saw two of the biggest American sports leagues (NBA and NHL) bring live action to China through pre-season fixtures. We have taken a look at China’s favourite microblogging site, Sina Weibo, to see what the reaction has been from fans online.
There is no questioning basketball’s popularity in China. The NBA’s official account alone has over 33 million followers, more than it does on Twitter, and NBA teams have been visiting China since 1979 when the Washington Bullets made the first trip. This time around, the NBA Global games brought the reigning champion Golden State Warriors and up-and-coming Minnesota Timberwolves to China for a two-match preseason series.
This year’s edition of the China Games again showcased China’s love for the NBA. During the three weeks around the games, the NBA’s official account gained over 47,000 new followers and its content attracted more than 799,000 engagements, doubling the previous two week’s total. More impressive still, their official 2017 China Games hashtag (#NBA中国赛2017#) received 690 million reads again showing the immense power and exposure of the games.
The NBA’s top post was advertising the event and celebrities who were attending, resulting in over 92,000 total engagements. Other top content was based around star players, for example, a video about LeBron James and Dwayne Wade (10,000 total engagements) and behind the scenes live streaming of both teams (7,800 total engagements).
The Golden State Warriors (recently crowned most popular NBA team online in China) also saw strong results from their time in China, gaining over 18,500 new followers, 2.7x more followers than the previous two weeks, and more than doubling their total engagement. The Timberwolves, however, only received minor spikes in engagement compared to their average. This was a result of the Warriors popularity and the limited presence of their stars in China. Golden State benefitted immensely from players such as Steph Curry, who saw his personal account’s engagement surge from 3,300+ to 25,000+. GSW content that involved Curry was continually amongst their most engaged.
Having only recently begun targeting the Chinese market, the NHL was hoping to capitalise on their first official fixtures in the country by launching two matches, between the Vancouver Canucks and the LA Kings, in Shanghai and Beijing.
With a strategy already in place for engaging with Chinese fans, they took advantage of being in the country by producing exclusive behind the scenes content of the teams as they traveled through China and prepared for the matches. The top 3 posts from the trip were surrounding famous Chinese swimmer Ning Zetao interacting with players and wearing a Kings jersey, the top post accumulated just under 3000 total engagements.
Over their two weeks, they received 11 million hashtag reads as well as 4.6 million views on 3 live streaming events and gained 24,000 followers (a 40% increase) on Weibo. It also marked a 60% increase in follower growth rate, compared to the previous 2 weeks combined. This led to the NHL becoming the fastest growing account amongst all sports leagues.
The buzz created by the China Games, combined with the start of the new season, the increased growth levels have continued welcoming over 67,000 new fans to their official account, capping off what can only be described as a highly successful first visit to China.
Mailman is a sports digital consultancy and marketing platform and a leader in the China Sports Marketing industry. We help global rights holders, athletes, and leagues to build a successful business in China.