If you follow sports at all, or honestly, just pay any attention to the world around you, you’ll know at least something about the Linsanity fever that has [l]infected the world. If not, just Google ‘Jeremy Lin’ and before you can even spew out another Jeremy Lin pun, Google has already generated 2.1 million results.
From the video, it is evident the impact that Jeremy Lin has had on the local New York fans of the New York Knicks; from the results garnered by Google, it is obvious the impact he has had on the NBA as a whole. However, since this week’s blog focuses on the topic of globalization, I wanted to hone in on the impact of Jeremy Lin’s recent propulsion into stardom on his home country of China. (Note: While he is actually Taiwanese, the only research I can find on the globalization of the NBA is with regards to China.)
Curious to see if there was already a scholarly article written on the topic of the globalization of the NBA in Asia, I typed in the key words ‘globalization,’ ‘NBA,’ and ‘China’ into Bucknell’s “Libraries Worldwide” search engine, and the fifth option that came up was a peer-reviwed article titled Sport, Media, and Consumption in Asia: A Merchandised Milieu by David Rowe and Callum Gilmour. Linning!
Currently, China is the NBA’s largest market outside of North America. According to Rowe and Gilmour, this is likely due to the fact that the fans’ consumption of international sports “can be linked to a form of ’aspirational’ class performance in which fan identification is seen to link consumers to middle-class status and values.” In other words, the people in Asia who participate in the international sports culture feel as if they are embodying what it means to be part of the middle-class. Consequently, this leads to a phenomenon that Rowe and Gilmour term “Buying Asia.”
Multinational corporations have taken notice of the Asian fans’ identification with the middle-class when consuming professional sports. If these fans can identify with the middle-class, surely they can spend like the middle-class. As a result, American conglomerates have begun sponsoring sports clubs to reach an Asian market. In Rowe and Glimour’s article, they illustrate this idea with AIG’s alliance with the English Premier League’s Manchester United soccer team. According to a quote in their article, “three-quarters of South Korea’s football fans say they support Manchester United, and another 650,000 of them own [the team’s] branded credit cards. United’s sponsor, American International Group (AIG), who pay US$28 million a year for the right, say ‘they are not buying the UK—they are buying Asia.’” Although the sponsorship has since ended (chiefly due to AIG’s involvement in the global financial crisis), it is still interesting to see how corporations and companies are trying to globalize and reach the Asian market by recognizing the appeal of international sports in Asia.
So, where does Jeremy Lin fit in with all this, you ask? Rowe and Gilmour also mention how U.S.-based professional sports leagues are “attempting to increase television rights revenue, sponsorship income, and marketing opportunities via the employment of Asian players.” The first most notable Asian athlete to make this transition from East to West is the now-retired NBA player, Yao Ming. While the popularity of basketball in Asia is nothing new, I think the Jeremy Lin story exemplifies a recent issue that arises with the globalization of the NBA, particularly in China. In their article, Rowe and Gilmour discuss how the dominance of international sports culture has hindered the development and progression of Asia’s domestic leagues. Specifically, Yao Ming, and now Jeremy Lin, has cemented the dominance of the NBA in China over the CBA, the Chinese Basketball Association, illustrating the impact the globalization of the NBA has had on the country. It appears as if the consumers in Asia would much rather focus on and celebrate a success story of ”one of their own” making it in America than on a local player playing in one of their domestic leagues.
Personally, I can absolutely understand the rationale of these Asian fans, and that’s due in part to my father. While I was born in America, my father was not; he was born in China, and was always a fan of basketball. When Yao Ming burst onto the scene, without hesitation, my dad declared that he was his favorite NBA player, presumably because he was Chinese. When Yao retired in 2010, my dad lost all interest in the NBA. That is, until the Linderella story came about.
I know he’s obsessed with this resurgence of a Chinese “presence” in the NBA because I would find him texting me crazy “LINSANITY!” texts all the time, and he even sent me a text about how Jeremy Lin’s now his favorite player after Yao Ming (Note: actual text to your right). While I’ve never asked my dad personally why that is, I can only imagine that his reasoning is the same as these Chinese Jeremy Lin fans’ reasonings, “he is China’s pride” and “he’s giving face to all China’s basketball-loving fans. Go for it, Brother Lin.” Therefore, while the globaLINzation of Jeremy Lin has tremendous endorsement and marketing potential since he now has global marketability that now surpasses LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, a.k.a., the potential to make an obscene amount of money, Lin’s recent stardom has also had a significant social impact, both locally and globally.
Bonus, completely unnecessary links to more Jeremy Lin goodies: