We have come a long way from where “Ethnic Nights” started in professional sports in the U.S. It used to be slapping a “Los” on jerseys, handing out Fortune Cookies and assuming every player whose name ended in “Burg” was Jewish all qualified for “Special Heritage Nights.’ Tons of mistakes, a misunderstanding of culture and the “Ugly American” attitude sometimes created more ill will than positive feelings around certain teams and leagues. However the global nature of fandom, more attention to intimate details and customs, and a concentration on the new immigrant has led to a more robust, interesting, sponsorable and engaged effort across the board.
One of the biggest plays this year will be with the NBA and Chinese New Year. The NBA has made China a gauge focus for growth, and their plans for Chinese New Year reflect that outreach.
The NBA Chinese New Year Celebration 2018 presented by Dongfeng Nissan will feature the debut of a new television campaign, a record 93 games to be broadcast in Greater China, and a record 12 NBA teams hosting in-arena activities, as the league celebrates the holiday for the seventh consecutive year Feb. 2 – March 3.
As part of the celebration, the NBA debuted a new series of television spots entitled “Fireworks,” and fans in Greater China will be able to watch 93 games with live broadcasts on CCTV, Tencent, BesTV, Guangdong TV, GreatSports, Videoland, ELTA, Eleven Sports and LeSports (HK).
Former NBA star Jason Williams will tip off the NBA Cares Season of Giving festivities presented by Dongfeng Nissan in China on Jan. 29 with a donation of sports equipment and a music room to underprivileged students in Lijiang, Yunnan. Williams will then travel to Shanghai to host two Chinese New Year celebrations and basketball clinics for a group of Special Olympics athletes at the NBA Playzone on Jan. 31 and at Shanghai Yumiao migrant school on Feb. 1.
Spalding will also donate sports and educational equipment to three legacy projects in Yunnan, Hunan and Beijing and Spalding basketballs to elementary school students in each of China’s 34 provinces, municipalities, autonomous regions and special administrative zones.
Nike City Edition Uniforms for the Warriors and the Rockets will have Chinese characters and symbolism inspired by Chinese culture to pay tribute to Chinese fans for a total of 12 games and a host of vignettes will be available for teams in arena online and on broadcast
Fans can also visit the Chinese New Year 2018 mini-site via NBA Qiu Mi Quan (NBA China’s fan loyalty program) to access content, play the “New Year Dunk” red envelope game, and register for an NBA Qiu Mi Quan account for the chance to win prizes, including NBA jerseys and tickets to The Finals and NBA China Games. Three lucky members of the NBA Qiu Mi Quan will travel to Brooklyn, N.Y. to meet Nets guard Jeremy Lin on Feb. 5 and watch the game between the Nets and the Rockets on Feb. 6 at Barclays Center. Then there will be camps geared toward Chinese American youth in key markets and all the trimmings for in game promotions as well.
Now we still have a ways to go to making sure all “ethnic” promotions flow as well and as deep as what the NBA is doing with Chinese New Year. It’s certainly not easy to make sure every custom is both understood and plays well, and social media is very quick to amplify the failures and not the successes. But the NBA has again cut a pretty amazing swath in growing all efforts around Chinese culture and basketball, and it looks like they will core again big time in the coming month.