NBA compete for rights to Chinese team

If Champ Car has any hopes of racing successfully in China, it is going to have to do some PR work in China, get its races on Chinese TV starting in 2006, and get a Chinese driver in the series soon. Perhaps they will take an idea being tried by the NBA as that league looks to make inroads into the lucrative Chinese market.

Competition for the marketing rights to China's men's national basketball team is heating up between the NBA and Switzerland's Infront Sports & Media. At stake is the right to arrange competition and events for the Chinese men's national team, along with control of sponsorship and merchandising opportunities.

The deal, which leads up to the 2008 Beijing Games is a key opportunity to tap into the vast but unproven Chinese basketball market. Landing the men's national team would play directly into the NBA's plans to expand its international footprint. Chinese interest in USA basketball is fueled by Yao Ming's success with the Houston Rockets in the NBA.

"Whoever gets the business will be able to position themselves for the future," said Bruce O'Neil, president of the US National Basketball Academy. "The NBA would be able to control the schedule of events and sponsorships leading up to the Olympics, and then they'd be in the driver's seat after the Games. It could pay huge dividends down the road."

It will be interesting to see if Champ Car leverages a sponsorship role in the Olympics to increase awareness of Champ Car in Beijing ahead of a possible race in the fall of 2008 on the Summer Olympic site. Ahead of the Champ Car's going to China, introducing a Champ Car Atlantics Series in China using the existing leftover Atlantic cars (see other rumor) is somewhat analogous to the NBA's idea with the China men's basketball team.

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