NBA Presses to Broaden International Base

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The influx of foreign-born players into the National Basketball Association has also meant an influx of new fans. In fact, 40 percent of traffic to in the past year has come from outside the United States, with 13 percent from Pacific Rim countries.

To take advantage of this new base of fans and extend its marketing opportunities, the NBA is working on initiatives to expand its exposure internationally.

With the hype this summer surrounding the scouting and eventual drafting of China's 7'5" Yao Ming, for example, the NBA began a Chinese text-based 2002 NBA Draft page within its site.

The league would not discuss the traffic numbers the page received in the time leading to the draft but said the numbers were enough that it will provide its All-Star Game voting ballots in Chinese and Spanish this year.

"We saw enough Interest and traffic on that site that made us think offering the ballots in multiple languages would be a good move," said Ron Erskine, the NBA's vice president of marketing properties.

Ballots are available Nov. 14.

These initiatives and increased interest outside the United States not only provide the NBA the chance to expand its reach and increase its popularity, it also gives major marketing partners including Sprite, Coke and American Express much broader exposure.

"There are a group of global marketing partners that we have that are looking for more international opportunities," Erskine said. "And we are providing them with a way to leverage their message outside the U.S."

In two to four weeks the NBA also will announce a partnership with one of China's largest portals, Erskine said.

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