GOLF The number of US golfers has dropped 24% from its peak in 2002. Nearly every metric—TV ratings, rounds played, golf-equipment sales, golf courses constructed shows a drop-off. _MMA After being banned 20 years ago by the governor, MMA in New York State is legalized again in May 2016 by a vote of 113 25._CRICKET ESPN2’s broadcast of the T20 World Cup final on a Sunday morning drew 2.4 million viewers. Three exhibition games of T20 cricket were played in American baseball stadiums, with 84,000 tickets sold._SOCCER Even though NBC paid $1 billion for the English Premier League rights, ratings in the US are 19% higher for Liga MX on Univision
GOLF Between 2004 and 2013, one in five golfers in England gave up their club membership; in the same period, membership dropped in Scotland by 14%. The story is similar in Australia and Japan—which has lost 40% of golfers from a peak in the mid-1990s._CYCLING After Sir Bradley Wiggins won the Olympic gold medal and the Tour de France in the same year, cycling became the new golf. Chris Froome’s three Tour de France wins have accelerated the trend. Sales of bikes manufactured in the UK are growing 69% annually._SOCCER 30,000 people attended the Women’s FA Cup final between Chelsea Ladies and Notts County Ladies, more than double the previous record. Across England, the number of girls and women playing soccer has increased by 40,000 in two years.
PING-PONG The country that has won 23 out of 27 gold medals in ping-pong is falling out of love with table tennis. Television audiences of world championships have dropped 90% in the last decade._BASKETBALL Zhejiang Golden Bulls sign American star Brittney Griner for $600,000 a year—12 times what she was earning in the WNBA._FOOTBALL Interest in the NFL has grown from 1% to 8% in just the last two years. There are 16 teams in the American Football League of China, where all players must be Chinese or of Chinese descent._TENNIS A record 134 million people in China watched the 2011 French Open Final. There are 11 Chinese women within the top 200 tennis players in the world._SOCCER Chinese President Xi Jinping publishes a 50-point road map to make his country a world soccer power. The Chinese Super League promptly spends $300 million in the winter transfer window on top foreign players—more than Europe’s top five leagues combined. Four of the 10 highest-paid players in the world now play in China.
CRICKET Though still the country’s #1 sport, cricket is losing its crowd-pulling power on television, creating massive opportunities for other sports. Television viewership for the game across all formats has dropped 40%. Over the last decade, the number of hours spent watching cricket has dropped almost half. Even the T20 India Premier League 2016 ratings are down 22%._FIELD HOCKEY Field Hockey, already the poor cousin to cricket, falls further from grace. At a player auction for a league restart, the best player in the world sells for less than $100,000. _KABADDI The first Kabaddi season championship between the Jaipur Pink Panthers and U-Mumba was watched by 86.4 million fans, approximately one out of every four viewers in India. The 37-day “season” attracted 435 million total viewers._SOCCER Over 68,000 spectators showed up at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata to watch Atletico beat Chennaiyin 2–1 in the 2015 Hero Indian Super League. Just two years old, the league averages 27,000 fans._BASKETBALL Punjab is the home of Satnam Singh Bhamara, who became the first Indian to ever be selected in the NBA. Skipping college, Bhamara became the 52nd pick in the 2015 NBA draft for the Dallas Mavericks._BADMINTON Following Saina Nehwal’s bronze medal at the London Olympics, India’s first-ever medal in badminton, the Indian Badminton League opens in 2013 with a $1M prize fund, the largest ever offered in the sport.
HANDBALL For the Handball Euros, 75 networks broadcast the tournament to 175 countries. The event smashed attendance records. 70% of all televisions in Denmark were tuned in. That record was soon eclipsed by the DR1 League finals, which received an 80 share. Dane Hans Lindberg, who plays for Hamburg, earns 11 million euros a year
CYCLING Over the last decade, cycling shot up from 13% of the population to 19%._BASKETBALL Australian Ben Simmons becomes the #1 pick of the Philadelphia 76ers._HOCKEY The Trans-Tasman Champions League of hockey Down Under was canceled due to financial problems. Attendance, regularly under 1,000 at the AIHL, sank the event against the New Zealand champions
RUGBY After stunning South Africa, one-fifth of the entire Japanese population, with an audience share of 64%, tunes in to the Rugby World Cup to watch Japan beat Samoa 26–5 _BASEBALL The Japanese television audience for the World Baseball Classic is the highest-rated cable program in the country’s history, with larger TV audiences than the Olympics or World Cup._TENNIS Kei Nishikori of Japan rises to #4 seed in the world.
HOCKEY Two of the three teams with the highest attendance in the Russian KHL hockey league—are actually in Germany. _FOOTBALL The New Yorker Lions from Braunschweig win their 2nd Eurobowl in a row, to go with their seven German Bowl titles. The Eurobowl has been played since 1986._CRICKET Immigration from Afghanistan and Pakistan stirs up cricket participation over 300%. The 100th registered cricket club is founded near the Czech border
BASEBALL Yan Gomes from São Paulo becomes the starting catcher for the Cleveland Indians. Gomes signs a 6-year, $23 million extension with the club. FOX and ESPN broadcast 8 games a week, and ratings have doubled since 2012. _FOOTBALL 12,000 fans attend the American Football Gigante Bowl in Beira Rio. There are reportedly 3.3 million NFL fans in the country
MMA Though MMA is still officially banned in France, World Warriors Fighting Championship (WWFC) utilized the MMA cage; police officers in attendance did not shut the event down._HANDBALL Even though Eurobasket sets a record for basketball viewers in France, the EHF Handball Euros draw even more French viewers.
FOOTBALL The Polish American Football League has 74 teams in 36 cities. The Polish Bowl is played in front of 20,000 fans. It’s now the fastest growing sport in Poland. _MMA UFC Fight Night 64: Gonzaga vs. Cro Cop 2 drew over 10,000 to the Tauron Arena in Kraków, Poland.
BASKETBALL Diana Taurasi skips the WNBA season to earn $1.5 million with UMMC Ekaterinburg— 15 times what she can earn in the US. _FOOTBALL 13.3% of Russians are now NFL fans _VOLLEYBALL All the highest-paid volleyball players were in Turkey; that changed when volleyball star Ekaterina Gamova signed a $1 million–a-year contract to play with Dinamo Kazan in the Russian Super League.
HOCKEY Ahead of the 2018 Winter Olympics, the Korean national hockey team is bolstered by the granting of South Korean citizenship to six North American players who’ve been playing in the Asia League for Korean teams.
HANDBALL The European sport of handball accelerates in popularity in Argentina after their national team wins the gold medal at the Pan Am Games and Diego Simonet becomes a star.
FOOTY Australian rules football gains popularity in Zagreb. Four teams from Zagreb make up a six-team league, the CEAFL.
HOCKEY When Anze Kopitar becomes a star in the NHL, youth hockey participation in Slovenia doubles. 1,500 people in Slovenia stayed up until 3 a.m. to watch a Stanley Cup finals game.
RUGBY Rugby overtakes soccer as the country’s most popular sport. When Georgia played Russia in the European Nations Cup, 65,000 people crammed into the national stadium in Tbilisi.
BASKETBALL The NBA hosts an exhibition between Team Africa (players of African descent) and Team World in Johannesburg, with special appearances from Hakeem Olajuwon and Dikembe Mutombo
BASEBALL Uganda becomes the first African country to send a team to the Little League World Series.
FIELD HOCKEY Even here where the best in the world play, field hockey salaries are less than $100,000 and subsidized by club coaching and construction work.
BASKETBALL The Boston Celtics play an exhibition against Olimpia Milano.
TENNIS In the last five years, tennis
participation has leapt 32%
CRICKET At the T20 World Cup, Afghanistan shocks the world by beating the West Indies.
THE RISE OF THE GLOBAL MIDDLE CLASS
The middle class is expected to increase by 1.4 billion people over the decade—a 42% increase in South America, 59% increase in Africa and 83% increase in Asia. As societies grow younger and more educated, their interest grows in sports, politics and culture. They have the income for game tickets and monthly television bills. By 2030, the middle class of Europe is expected to have twice the total SPENDING POWER as the North American middle class. The Asian middle class will have six times the spending power.
With over 11 million Mexicans now living in the US, LIGA MX on Univision has an American audience that is 19% larger than NBC’s audience here for the English Premier League.
With well over 2 million South Asians in the US, Cricket is finally here. New York City councilman Ruben Wills broke ground on a cricket complex in Van Cortlandt Park, where the local Commonwealth Cricket League has over 100 teams. Exhibition attendance and ESPN ratings are climbing.
Emigration from Canada to the UK is helping the popularity of the British Elite Ice Hockey League, where teams such as the Nottingham Panthers draw over 5,000 fans to games.
DEREGULATION OF TELEVISION
In addition to CCTV-5, the government’s sports channel, China allows CSPN and Shanghai Sports, as well as online channels Baofeng Sports (Chinese Super League) and LeTV (American baseball, golf and ATP tennis).
Indian law requires à la carte channel purchases; 161 million households have cable or satellite television carrying Prime Sports, Star Sports and ESPN, while pay-per-view has not thrived, keeping sports available to the masses.
IPTV eradicates the difference between online and broadcast delivery. The most-regulated broadcast markets have the greatest IPTV penetration.
Smartphones and 5G Connectivity give billions of new fans access.
DIVERSITY, EQUITY & INCLUSION
Half of the most recent NBA draftees were internationals.
The players in the Premier League represent 70 countries. Only one-third of the 220 starting players on opening day were English.
The top 100 players in Tennis, across both genders, are from 45 countries. Players from 30 countries have won a grand slam. And so far it’s the only sport with a truly global tour.
89% of avid female sports fans in America played some school sports growing up. By that measure, the demographic trends for female fandom will power growth.
But the US is no world leader in female fandom; other markets are even further along. Participation in school sports is higher in the UK, and far higher in China, where 86% of girls participate in school sports. The percent of women who regularly watch sports on television is 10% higher in India, Russia and Brazil than in the US.
Basketball is the next soccer
Cricket fans are bored—and up for grabs
Cycling is the new golf
American football has legs on the ground
Handball is crushing field hockey in europe
The demographics of tennis—a global tour with champions from so many countries—are paying off
97% of Real Madrid’s fans will never see their team in person. Three of the top five countries that generate the most traffic on the club’s website are not Spanish-speaking nations. Back in 2011, the club helped build a $185 million youth academy—in Guangzhou, China. Still, some spare no expense to see Los Blancos: for each Classico, an estimated 3,000 Israelis fly to Madrid, at an average ticket price of $900.
Cross-cultural marketing is no easy thing. Baseball didn’t become widely adopted in Japan until the meaning of the game changed to emphasize group harmony and obsessive ritual, mirroring Japanese culture.
In order to reach global markets and capitalize on their remote fanbase, a new “globalization backbone” for the sports industry will emerge.
Sports franchises were their own experts in their metropolitan markets— they had the staff and relationships. But to market themselves nationally, they naturally grew to partner with infrastructure companies who had nationwide expertise and relationships. Apparel-licensing companies (Nike), sponsorship agencies (IMG), ticketing networks (Live Nation), talent representation (Octagon).
Today, in order to reach global markets and capitalize on their remote fanbase, pro franchises won’t be able to fly solo. A new “globalization backbone” for the sports industry will emerge. By serving (or owning) multiple franchises and leagues, those who develop early, real expertise in transcontinental markets will grow and become the durable infrastructure others rely on.
Need someone to find you a corporate sponsor in India? Need someone to add play-by-play commentary in 20 languages to your video feed? Need someone to sell your luxury box packages to tourists from Japan? Can’t get on a French television channel but want to be available via IPTV? Playing an exhibition game in Beijing and need to know who can move all the tickets? If video pirates in Croatia are stealing your signal, who do you call?
Just as MLB’s app and streaming service eventually grew into a diverse multisport and entertainment company that Disney has invested over a billion dollars in, it’s those who can actually get things done in international markets who will become the lynchpins others need. With this enormous potential developing, we’re witnessing mega-deals all over the globe. New money is coming in from the tech and venture industries, from Hollywood agencies, from Chinese billionaires and from pro athletes who’ve amassed fortunes. Since major sports teams rarely come up for sale, this money finds emerging opportunities wherever they appear—the new global sports markets.
JUST THE START
- WME and Silver Lake Partners first buy IMG, then buy UFC.
- Dalian Wanda Group buys Infront Media (World Cup rights), Atletico Madrid, Ironman events.
- Alibaba Sports takes over AC Milan and Guangzhou Evergrande FC, then makes deal with World Rugby to develop 1 million Chinese rugby players in a decade.
- Chinese investors Everbright and Baofeng take 65% stake in MP and Silva (Grand Slam tennis, NFL in Europe, Formula 1 and EHF handball).
WHO’S NEXT TO BUY?
- Tencent (already has NBA rights)?
- Lakshmi Mittal or Mukesh Ambani from India?
WHO’S NEXT TO SELL?
- Irdeto B.V. (anti-piracy)?
- A ticket reseller ($8 billion market)?
Sports tourism in the US adds up to $9.45 billion, and it’s going up fast. Tourists already spend $1.15 trillion globally. Smart money will increasingly find ways to integrate sports and tourism. Three main categories define the current sports tourism market: fandom, recreational sports travel and youth tournaments.
Price is no object: Through a partnership between CAA Premium Experience and iRENA International based in Beijing, Chinese basketball fans spent as much as $10,000 each for a package to come watch Kobe Bryant play in his final NBA game.
Long-term benefits: The seven most recent countries (Malaysia, UAE, South Korea, etc.) to join the Formula 1 calendar have experienced an average boost in annual tourism of 69% since their first race.
It’s not all about the mega-events: The Olympics and World Cup are mired in controversy because of the construction investment required. A year before the World Cup in South Africa, the country hosted the British & Irish Lions all-star rugby team on a 10-match tour. It required no investment, but 40,000 fans flew into South Africa—making it “more lucrative than the World Cup,” according to the South African Tourism Bureau.
RECREATIONAL SPORTS TRAVEL
94,000 American golfers travel to play in Britain each year.
The Honolulu Marathon has a total economic impact of $86 million. Most of that is spent by runners coming from Japan, who drop $68 million while there.
The 2014 Gay Games brought 15,000 people to Cleveland-Akron, Ohio, from other states and countries—8,000 of them athletes. The event pumped $52 million into the region’s economy.
According to a National Association of Sports Commissions study, the travel industry built around youth sports brings in an estimated $7 billion.
Round Rock, Texas, built a sports complex with 20 baseball fields, 6 basketball courts and 12 volleyball courts. The soccer and football fields will be ready by 2018, but already up to 40,000 children come to the city for tournaments every year.
Rochester, Minnesota, is the king of volleyball tournaments, bringing in 110,000 visitors a year who booked 32,000 hotel rooms.
ALL OF THE ABOVE
HarborCenter, Buffalo: A hockey epicenter with hotel, restaurants, shops:
- Practice facility for Buffalo Sabres
- Home ice for 2 college teams, a women’s team and a junior team
- Host for 2018 World Junior Hockey Championships, NHL Draft and NHL Scouting Combine
- Hosts 25 youth tournaments; 75% of the teams from out of town, as far away as Russia and Japan
Promoting sports tourism is a major goal of our Western New York sports holdings. With the Bills, we attract almost half of our season ticket members from outside the Buffalo market, including 10% from Canada. We estimate that the Sabres see 15% of fans cross the border from Canada each game night.
Co-owner, Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres; president, Pegula Sports & Entertainment, builders/operators of HarborCenter sports complex
Interest in American football is growing at a colossal speed in London and throughout Europe and is part of the global culture. Look at places such as India or Pakistan, where maybe the market is saturated with cricket while other sports have gone ignored. Billions of people in rural areas and great cities are thirsty for more sport. Even just 10 years ago they had to wait to read in the newspaper about these fantastic games being played by these gladiators a world away, but new technology and social media has changed all that. In 10 years from now, we won’t be talking about [putting] an NFL team in London because it will exist. We’ll be exploring options for teams in Dubai or Lahore. The TV rights will be enormous. There is a global thirst for sports more than any other sort of entertainment, because it taps into the core of all of us, no matter our upbringing or country of birth.
Owner of NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars and Fulham FC in the English Football League, Pakistani-American self-made billionaire.
Any sport looking to expand or broaden horizons should copy the NBA’s blueprint from 20 years ago. David Stern had a vision and he made it happen with grassroots sermonizing in places like Africa and China. Grow your brand with the intention of challenging and redefining your industry, while at the same time inspiring the world. Learn to see things differently or through someone else’s lens. In basketball, kids are taught to see things in mostly twos: a pick-and-roll, a give-and- go, a 1–2 fast break. In soccer, it’s all about multiple combinations and looking several steps ahead. If you train your eye to see different combinations, your brain will follow. It’s the same when you’re running a league or a team. See the future beyond your own court.
It’s important to tap into the rising middle classes globally. These are fans who are analytically sound, who love to debate about players and teams, and those debates translate across borders. Whether they’re in Northern California or Mumbai, they’ll paint their faces and create a communal experience during game time. We tap into that passion with a Sacramento Kings website in Hindi. We host Google Hangouts during games for our international audience. By maintaining a strong alliance with fans in other countries, we also have unique opportunities to discover the next diamond in the rough, the next Yao Ming. Will he come from India, Russia? Is he now just a 10-year-old boy in India wearing a Kings or a Warriors jersey?
Owner of NBA’s Sacramento Kings, Indian-American engineer, author, philanthropist and founder of real-time business computing company TIBCO.