Why Basketball sells better than Baseball

From Japanese Aikido to dwarf-tossing in Australia

– when it comes to sport, the world is anything

but a global village.

Half the planet is crazy about football – but

in Austria, the most popular sport is alpine

skiing, in Bhutan archery, and in Mongolia

Wrestling.In the US, most people like American

football – followed by basketball and baseball.

Only few American Sports fans watch football,

or soccer, how they call it.

A glance at China: Table tennis and badminton

are the most popular sports – followed by

basketball and football.If you look at global

statistics, football is unchallenged at the

top with about four billion fans.

But another ball game has turned into a lucrative

and rapidly growing export hit – responsible

for billion-euro deals in broadcasting rights

and sportswear: basketball.

The game is expected to have more than 800

million fans around the globe.Baseball, supposedly

America’s most popular hobby, is growing slowlycompared

to Basketball in terms of viewership and revenues.

Steffan Heuer lays out some explanations as

to why in a story for German business magazine

Brand Eins:Complicated set of rules, hour-long

matches, an endless season, and a lack of

Superstars from different countries.Ingredients

that make up a successful sport.Historically,

Baseball is a simple game of racquetball,

which many cultures of the world have played

in one form or another for centuries: One

player throws, one hits, the others try to

run to score points.

Cricket sends its regards.But in its current

form, Baseball is anything but simple.

The official rule book of the Major League

Baseball in the US has 188 pages and is about

as exciting to read as the repair instructions

ofa portable radio.

Hardly anyone immediately understands whose

turn it is and when, and what tricky moves

each team makes to fill the bases with players

and score points over nine innings.To make

matters worse, each team plays 162 games in

the six-month season, which means an average

of 27 matchdays per month until the final


This final round is incorrectly called the

“World Series”, although only teams from North

America are entered.

Sittingthrough almost one game a day for months

requires a lot of patience,even from the most

dedicated fans.The official MLB rules run

188 pages.

Compare that to the NBA’s rulebook with

only 68 pages.The game of basketball explains

itself: Two teams fight a battle, just like

football or ice hockey.

They try to bring the ball into the opponent’s

territory with rapid attacks to shoot hoops.Baseball

fans consider the lack of excitement to be

a great advantage of the sport.

Sports journalist Stephanie Apstein wrote

in”Sports Illustrated”: “Baseball is best

enjoyed as the soundtrack tosomething else.

It’s a perfect sport to watch as you catch

up with afriend, as you read a book, as you

drift off on a Sunday afternoon.”A basketball

game is different.

The regular game has 48 minutes of playing

time – with many interruptions, it can usually

be an hour and a half to a maximum of two


And that’s it.

On the other hand, with Baseball, you have

to be prepared for at least two to three hours.

The longest game ever in 1981 lasted eightand

a half hours and was played over two days.

Fans often turn the matches into “tailgate”

parties, including a grill that they bring

along and fire up right by their pickup’s

tailgate.Basketball is completely different:

simple rules on a compact battlefield plus

quick attacks and counter-attacks.

A game that sells well.

The NBA recognized this early on and targeted

one of theworld’s largest markets: China.

Unlike other western things, the sport was

also popular during the Cultural Revolution.

The NBA, therefore, explicitly invested in

the Chinese market for decades.The breakthrough

came in 2002 when the Houston Rockets signed

Yao Ming of the Shanghai Sharks.

He played for the Rockets for 9 years and

made them the most popular basketball team

in China.

The local marketing was tightly organized

by the NBA: It set up a China Division, including

its own office in Beijing.

The NBA installed about 800,000 baskets in

Chinese villages to inspire the youth and

sent well-known players on nationwide tours.The

plan worked.

In 2020, an estimated 300 million people are

playing basketball in China.

Ten percent of the NBA’s revenues will come

from China — by 2030, that number will double

to 20 percent..The NBA has licensed its games

and additional content worldwide in 50 languages.

Nearly a third of its streaming subscribers

are based in Asia.

Between 2015 and 2020, the Chinese internet

giant Tencent has paid two billion dollars

for the digital rights to basketball games

– that are watched by half a billion Chinese.

No wonder that the co-founder of the Chinese

internet company Alibaba, acquired theBrooklyn

Nets in 2019.Next, the NBA has India in its


In 2011 it opened its first office in Mumbai

and signed an exclusive contract with the

sports channel Sony Six the following year.

Popular US players are sent on promotional

trips together with Indian pop stars.

“Social media is away we’ve been able

to infiltrate those markets very quickly with

young people in particular living on Social

Media,” said (NBA Boss) Adam Silver.Basketball

is a money-making machine: the 30 teams in

the NBA had sales of around 8.8 billion dollars

in the 2018/19 season, an average of 293 million

dollars per team.

But the top teams earn muchmore: the New York

Knicks came in at $472m, followed by the Golden

State Warriors and the LA Lakers.The NCAA’s

college championship games, which go by March

Madness, alone – a level below the NBA – brought

in a good $900 million in TVadvertising for

the association and clubs.Each of the 30 teams

in the MLB, on the other hand, brought in

an average of 330 million dollars in revenues.

However, the teams have to compete almost

twice as often as teams in the NBA – a full

2,430 times per season.

This is why the association’s total turnover

is slightly higher, at 9.9 billion dollars.

Basketball has one big advantage over baseball:

superstars that are known around the world.

Dirk Nowitzki; Yao Ming; Michael Jordan; Stephen

Curry; Giannis Antetokounmpo and Luka Doncic.More

and more basketball players come from abroad

and therefore havefans all over the world.

In the 2019/2020 season, there were 108 non-American

players from 38 countries.The top basketball

players in the USA are among the top earners

in sport worldwide.

LeBron James is in the lead with $37 million

in salary and $55 million in sponsorship income,

followed by Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant.In

contrast, the best baseball players are mostly

unknown outside the US.

This even applies to the players of big teams

such as the New York Yankees, the Los Angeles

Dodgers, or the San Francisco Giants.

Their sponsorship contracts are consequently

smaller.Top earner Mike Trout – ever heard

of him? – of the LA Angels has anannual income

of 36 million dollars, but he only earns an

additionalthree million dollars in sponsoring.

Baseball has not yet managed todevelop a market

beyond North America and parts of East Asia.

This also means that not too many people watch

baseball outside those geographies.

What’s more, it limits the talent the league

can attract as players.Even in the country

of origin, the US, interest in baseball is


Fewer people come to the games, and the World

Series championship viewership has fallen

continuously since 2016.

In contrast, the Superbowl was watched by

nearly 100 million people in the US alone

in 2020 – plus 50 to 65 million people in

around 130 other countries.

According to Fifa, more than 1 billion people

watched the final of the 2018 World Cup between

France and Croatia.Basketball is also ahead

of baseball in terms of merchandising.

If you get yourself a pair of shoes, a jersey,

and a ball, you can get started on one of

the many courts around the corner, while baseball

requires larger and more expensive equipment

with a bat, glove, and more – not to mention

a marked field, which is rarely found outside

America.Accordingly, global sales of the sports

shoes worn by basketball stars are high.

Since the 1980s, the collecting mania has

given riseto a separate subculture of “sneakerheads”

– driven by “Air Jordan” shoes.

In 2016, for example, the shoes of Warriors

player Steph Curry generated sales of 160

million dollars, those of LeBron James another

150 million.The NBA changed the license holder

for its “official” merch from Adidas to Nike

in 2015.

Nike paid one billion dollars to the NBA forthis

and also has sponsorship contracts with numerous


According to industry estimates, Nike controls

around 90 percent of the American market for

basketball shoes.

Experts peg the global market for basketball

accessories at $13.2 billion, that for baseball

articles at only $8.1 billion.Obviously, the

NBA is well-positioned for the future.

The number of spectators and revenues are

rising.On the one hand, it is the fast and

easy to understand game that is better to

market than, for example, baseball.

On the other hand, the

NBA’s expansive marketing plan to China and

India shows that the spectator and revenue

numbers will look good in the coming years.What

do you prefer – Basketball or Baseball – and

why?If you like our channel – subscribe and

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