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Technology Enhanced Globalization

April 10, 2011 Leave a comment

Welcome to the first installment of SportsTech, a blog dedicated to exploring the impact of information communication technology (ICT) on professional sports. Specifically, this blog will delve into how ICT advancements have profoundly affected both the on and off-field products of the professional sports industry. While there are many topics to cover it seems foolish to start anywhere other than the globalization of sports. Advancements in technology have globalized sports in a variety of manners. I remember how as a child I was only able to watch local sports games along with a few weekly selected nationally televised games and I can still feel the excitement I had when my father brought home a new piece of technology called DIRECTV.  All of a sudden we had the  ability to watch numerous pro sports games being played across the country, but it did not stop there as technology advanced so did our access to watch sports on TV and soon we had packages allowing us to watch every NBA, NFL, and MLB game. I could wakeup early to watch Wimbledon, the French Open and the Australian Open. Needless to say as a sports fanatic I could not have been happier.

Since that time accessibility has continued to increase on TV and people can now watch various sports played throughout the world, including (but certainly not limited to) soccer games throughout Europe, and Mexico, as well as rugby matches in New Zealand and South Africa. This is perhaps most evident in professional basketball where in 2008 the NBA boasted about how it would broadcast that year’s All-Star game in 215 countries and 44 languages. (Source) The accessibility to view various sporting events does not end with TV. As technology continued to advance, the capability to stream games live over the internet suddenly enabled anyone in the world with internet access the means to watch sporting events around the world. For example, the NCAA men’s basketball tournament could be viewed online for free by logging onto ESPN.com and for a fee anyone can subscribe to MLB.TV.com watch every major league baseball game live.

The evidence of the globalization of professional sports can also be seen in the players who make up the league. As access to watch different sports has grown, so has the ability for people to now play sports that at one point may have been seldom played in their country. Of the four major American sports hockey, basketball, football and baseball, the NBA and MLB are perhaps the most diverse professional sports in terms of its players. In 2010, there were 231 foreign born players on major league baseball opening day active rosters, which equates to approximately 28% of the total professional players in the MLB. (Source) Players represented countries such as the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Taiwan, Japan, Cuba, Korea, and Curacao. Perhaps a more tell tale fact of its globalization is that the last 2 world baseball classics were won by Japan with Cuba (2006) and South Korea (2009) as the runner-ups. As for the USA, their highest finish was a respectable 4th place in 2009. Maybe it now makes sense that MLB’s championship is known as the World Series.

The NBA is also incredibly diverse. The 2010 NBA season opened with a record 84 international players from 38 countries including Argentina, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, China, Israel and France. This past year the NBA even welcomed its first international team owner when Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov bought the majority interest in the New Jersey Nets. The NBA even began playing preseason games in Europe a few years ago, and this year just played its first regular season game outside of the USA when the New Jersey Nets and Toronto Raptors played a two game series in London. The NFL has been playing games outside of the USA for some time now starting with games in Canada dating back to the 1960’s. The NFL has also played games in Japan, Mexico City and Australia. The game of football has expanded so much on a global scale that the 2005 game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Arizona Cardinals in Mexico City (the first regular season game ever played outside of the USA) set the record for a regular season game with an astounding 103,467 people in attendance. (Source)

So what does this globalization mean for professional sports in regards to the business side, simply put it equates to more money and new avenues to increase revenue. The NBA is the best example of profiting from its new channels overseas. Currently, the NBA nets a small percentage of its total profit internationally (approximately 10%) yet the NBA sees such a large increase in potential business prospects internationally that it even formed NBA China to handle all of its business in China, and it currently has two storesThe grand opening of first NBA store in Beijing in Beijing. Moreover, “about 1/3 of the traffic received at nba.com comes from their Chinese area (china.nba.com)”. (Source) China has become a major opportunity for the NBA and its biggest focus for expansion, especially since all-star center Yao Ming was selected 1st overall in the 2002 draft. However, this profitability is clearly not just limited to China. As the game of basketball continues to grow and more people around the world become fans, new means of profitability continue to arise. To see this, one needs to look no further than the NBA’s recent announcement to launch jersey sales in India. (Source) With globalization come new fans, customers, advertisers, and a plethora of new ways to increase profitability.

Here is a great video of ESPN’s highlight segment for the 2009 World Baseball Classic finals:

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Categories: Globalization