BLOG | by Scott Horowitz

NBA suffers from China crisis – both home and away

As the row between the NBA and the Chinese state dies down, we thought we’d look at the metrics we track on the league to see what, if any, damage the brand sustained.

In case you’ve been completely wrapped up in the MLB playoffs, here’s a quick summary of what went down.

With NBA teams over in China to play pre-season promotional games, the Houston Rockets’ GM tweeted an image supporting the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement. Chinese organizations with an interest in the league as broadcasters, sponsors and so on, quickly went into defense, suspending their NBA ties and supporting their Government’s stance on the Hong Kong protests.

Although the tweet’s author, Daryl Morey, quickly elaborated his thoughts and the League defended his right to comment, there has been plenty of concern that the NBA’s interests in one of its biggest markets have been damaged.

So let’s take a look at the story the data tells us.

As far as the US is concerned, it’s an issue that plenty of people have noticed. As you can see from the chart below, Attention towards the NBA has almost doubled over the past couple of weeks. Over the same period, its Buzz score (a net metric which takes negative attention scores away from positive scores) has declined steeply into net negative figures. That means people are hearing plenty about the NBA right now but that the bad news is overwhelming the good.

In fact, thanks to this cliff-drop, the NBA’s Buzz score this week is at its lowest since we started daily tracking, also making it the current lowest scoring major league sport for this metric.

But what effect is that having on American’s impressions of the brand?

Well, as you can see, it has suffered badly, falling among the US general population from a recent peak score of 16.6 to just 4.6 on Sunday (Morey posted the tweet on 4 October). And although we haven’t charted it, a similar effect can be seen among those who tell us that they follow the NBA – meaning that that this outcome isn’t confined to those with little or no interest in the game.

So much for America. What about in China, where we also track opinions on the NBA (and plenty of other major sports competitions) every day?

Well, China tells a similar story. Attention has increased, Buzz has declined. And just like in the US, the scandal has impacted on Impression of the brand – at least in the short-term. Take a look at the chart below to see how much.

As for the Rockets themselves, it seems that no harm has befallen them in the US (we don’t track them as a matter of course in China). The team’s Impression metric score is exactly where we’d expect it to be, based on a 52-week average score.

So what of the future for the NBA? Well, in good news, over in the PRC, Tencent, the League’s streaming partner, has this week resumed showing NBA games. The NBA will be hoping that other partners show that same pragmatism. If that’s the case, perhaps less interesting – and more profitable – times once more lie ahead for the league. We’ll keep watching the data to see how long the bounce that we predict takes to arrive.

Photo © Tommy Boudreau

BLOG | by Scott Horowitz

Chief Revenue Officer, US

Scott has an enviable reputation for sealing deals and creating exceptional value for clients. He has worked with some of the top teams, rights holders, leagues, sponsors, and government agencies across North America and around the world to help measure, track and value sponsorship and sports marketing engagements.