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.

My dad's not the greatest texter... From Yao to Lin.

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:

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11 responses »

  1. Awesome post. I like the conncetion of the biggest story in sports (and the biggest underdog story in a while) to globalization. I read an article last week that one of the first people Lin talked to after his overnight rise to stardom was Yao Ming. The converstaion was focused on his link back to China. The article also touched on the fact that Lin is an even bigger sensation in China than Yao was because of his size. Many supported Yao however many more feel that they can relate to Lin because his size is much more normal. Another interesting Also, it will be interesting to see how long his support in China lasts. The major question surrounding Lin is whether or not his performance will last, and when the underdog story fades, if he’ll be able to keep putting up solid numbers. If they do, the economic impacts in both countries would be a pretty solid example of globalization and how small the world really is right now. Another article I read was about the television rights. Many of the contracts for NBA coverage are set for years into the future between the NBA and Asia. Asia however is calling for increased coverage and the NBA is working to provide this. Who makes out on that deal? The United States…again a winner of Globalization by taking advantage of an indirect resource from abroad.

    • Connie says:

      You have no idea how hard I tried to find an article about globalization in Asia just so I can talk about Jeremy Lin, ha! But yes, in the scholarly article that I referenced in the post, they also mention the increased number of Houston Rockets’ games that were being broadcast in China when Yao Ming was playing. I completely agree that the U.S. benefits from this (surprise, surprise!) On top of all that, in my opinion, the increased NBA coverage also allows for more marketing opportunities and exposure for U.S. companies, such as Nike, Adidas, Gatorade, and other brands that are known to sponsor NBA arenas, games, and teams. Therefore, the globalization of the NBA has really opened up a lot of channels for various companies in the U.S.

  2. Jordi says:

    Why not ask your Dad?

    • Connie says:

      I’ll have to do so the next time a Knicks game is on! I don’t want to have to mention to him that I awkwardly put up our texts on the internet. Not sure how well that’d go over…

  3. Alex Lin says:

    Once Jeremy Lin blew up, I immediately thought of another athlete, Chien-Ming Wang. Admittedly, Chien-Ming Wang never took the world by storm like Linsanity has but for those of you who don’t know, he was a starting pitcher with the New York Yankees who won 19 games in back-to-back seasons.

    Now as a Yankees fan, I obviously knew of him but what surprised me more was that my mom knew of him. That’s saying something. I had no idea how big of a deal he was until I went back to Taiwan in the summer of 2007. As soon as I got off the plane, I saw billboards, magazines, newspapers, and posters with Chien-Ming Wang on them. The phenomenon was even more noticeable when I started hearing conversations of people talking about the Yankees like it was the Taiwanese national team. In Taiwan, Chien-Ming Wang was a national hero.

    Looking back on it all, I am still a little amazed how much of a direct impact one player can have on a little island thousands of miles away (about a 17 hour flight..). Now, Linsanity is blowing up all around the world and has already become bigger than Chien-Ming Wang ever was. Can’t wait to see globalization first hand in my future travels.

  4. Kate says:

    Jeremy Lin is another example of how globalization can be positive in the world of sports. Thanks to globalization, athletes of all different nationalities (in every sport) have the opportunity to play at a professional level anywhere in the world (if they have the talent). In many ways, it brings the world closer together by celebrating the love of sports. Anyone else counting down to the 2012 Olympics like me?

    On another note, globalization provides athletes many options: it can be seen as an “escape” from the hardships within their own countries (such as African soccer players in Europe and Hispanics in the Major Baseball League), the opportunity to play for a “better” team (Cristiano Ronaldo was traded to Real Madrid a few years ago for the money and opportunity to play in one of the “best” soccer leagues in the world), and for those players in the NBA that aren’t talented enough, can go to another continent to improve their skills.

    After being cut by the New Jersey Nets in pre-season, my dad actually played semi-professional basketball in Spain in the early 1980’s and said it was one of the best experiences of his life. Mind you, he did not come close to producing a phenomenon like “Linsanity,” but he was one of the few Americans to participate in the league. On a side note: my dad is a former Princeton basketball player and actually watched Jeremy Lin play in two games against Princeton. He is addicted to the “Linsanity,” just like everyone else.

  5. Paul Martin says:

    Great post. As Carson said, the connection you made between Lin, the NBA and sports in general, and globalization is right on point. Carson also said a couple of other things that I wanted to comment on. He brought up the question of what will happen once Lin’s ridiculous begins to level out. Currently, I think it is pretty apparent that this Linsanity is a band-wagon trend. Personally, it’s a little annoying, because I’ve been a Knicks fan through thick and thin (mostly thin in my lifetime), and all of a sudden everyone is a Knicks fan (Lin’s jersey is currently the most purchased in the league). While the Asian market might be a Lin fan for years to come, I see American’s quickly forgetting about him if he doesn’t continue his trend. Carson also made a comment about how the US is winning out on the deal of China trying to but up rights to air games on Chinese television. I mention this line of thinking in my own post, but while the US might be gaining (economically) in the short-term, I think in the long run we will see that it is China that is profiting and the US eventually getting shafted. From my own reading I learned that China is doing this with buildings across Africa, from Marc’s post I learned they are doing it with American debt, and now they have their hands in the American sporting world as well.

  6. Jeff Galloway says:

    Looking at this from the other side, not only have players like Lin and Yao expanded the NBA’s reach, but I think it’s fascinating what globalization has done to the NBA. I was reading an NBA mailbag on ESPN a few weeks back, and a questioner brought up an interesting point. The last 3 years of Yao’s career, despite being injured for almost their entirety, he was voted as a starting center in the All Star game because of the pure numbers he received from the Asian vote in China. With Lin’s emergence, the reigning NBA MVP (Derrick Rose) may not start an all-star game for a long time if Lin gets all of the Asian vote.

    While it’s remarkable how much of an impact a guy like Lin can have on spreading basketball, it’s just as remarkable how much that globalizing impact can have on the league itself.

  7. Jordi says:

    Ok, to be controversial, if all these Chinese folk love him because he is Chinese, aren’t they reinforcing a kind of tribal us vs them mentality? In other words, even as Americans, generally, like the idea of a more open society where race or ethnicity don’t affect how we judge others, it is ok, even encouraged, to appreciate Lin because he is Chinese-American.

    Or, to put it another way, if a bunch of whites went crazy for the Larry Bird, or the newest Lithuanian import (nudge, nudge, Tomas), wouldn’t some people think that seemed a little “racist.”?

  8. […] Best Post goes to Connie (GlobaLINzation: The Jeremy Lin Saga) and congrats for getting 16 5 star […]

  9. Sarah says:

    So I know this post was from last week, but until this past weekend I had not fully grasped the scope of how big of a topic this was becoming and how much of a star Jeremy Lin is. I first heard mention of him in my Sports, Culture and Society Class last week. My professor handed out a set of media guidelines written by the Asian-American Journalists Association. In the guidelines it listed what was and was not appropriate for reports to be saying about Jeremy Lin regarding comments to his ethnicity. Some of the words or phrases they had on the list were quite racist and I would think most people would have the common sense not to use them. However now that I have learned a little more about him and read some of the press reports I think the guidelines were necessary. I think that it is totally crazy that in this day and age reporters are still so concerned with race and make racist or stereotypical comments when talking about him or his playing ability. Regardless of athletes race or ethnicity reporter should only be concerning themselves with what they do on the athletics field/court and not using racial comments to attract more coverage. I think his story of success is really impressive and shows how hard work can pay off.

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