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How do you Say “Put Me in Coach” in Cantonese?

If sports clichés have taught us anything, it’s that any good sports team requires certain players that provide key elements to the overall collective. The debonair leader, the pugnacious underdog, the brash win-at-all-costs warrior. But in America, where sports is as much business as religion, it wouldn’t hurt to have some trusty foreigners. You know, for marketing and advertising purposes.

In a business climate that has seen a number of pro sports owners see their portfolios shrink and with talk of salary caps declining in both the NBA and NHL, teams are looking to expand their global audience, ultimately drawing foreign ad revenue. While Michael Jordan may have been the first American athlete in team sports to be marketed on a global scale, the United States is now looking for a foreign athlete to return the favor.

That aspect of American team sports played out this past fall, when a number of New York Yankees supporters lamented the signing of recent World Series MVP Hideki Matsui by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (a team that took a hyper-local approach to expanding their fan base by adopting two city names). While scorned Yankees fans discussed Matsui’s clutch hitting and clubhouse presence, he was also singlehandedly responsible for the Yankees’ considerable marketing and advertising bump in his native Japan, where he is revered. Some analysts suggested Matsui by himself could be worth an additional $15 million revenue in Japanese-based advertising, which ultimately goes back to Major League Baseball to be redistributed among its 30 teams.

Not surprisingly in the wake of Michael Jordan, the NBA has seen the single biggest surge in foreign advertising and marketing. The real sea change occurred with Chinese giant Yao Ming’s arrival in the league. By welcoming the most famous athlete ever produced by the world’s burgeoning economic power, major walls came down in the world of global sports marketing and advertising. Just a couple of years after Yao made his NBA debut, experts saw the global sports market topping $111 billion by 2009.

The latest influx of foreign marketing and advertising could be coming to one of team sports’ smallest markets. The Sacramento Kings of the NBA were thrilled to draft Omri Casspi, a highly-skilled Israeli product, this past spring. But Casspi’s unexpected strong play in his rookie year and his formidable place in his home country and among Jews everywhere could bring an interesting bump to the Kings’ fortunes. This following years of poor performance by the team and mounting losses for its owners. While Casspi’s foreign appeal wasn’t necessarily a consideration in the Kings drafting him, it has been a potential boom for the team and an indicator of what other teams could be looking for in adding to their roster while broadening their global revenues.


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