For the first time ever, the National Basketball Association is partnering with a film studio outside the U.S. around a major feature film release overseas.
The league, which has invested heavily in development and marketing in China, is partnering with Shanghai Film Group (SFG) to produce a Chinese-language movie for Asian audiences that features NBA players and Asian film stars.
The multiyear deal makes the Shanghai Film Group, which owns 640 feature films and is the largest cinema chain in China, the first official movie partner of the league there. It is also the first time SFG has partnered with a U.S. sports league.
The film, "Amazing," features such players as Carmelo Anthony of the Denver Nuggets and Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic, along with A-listers from Asia. Production began mid-month for the film, segments of which are being shot in Beijing, Shanghai and New York through November, per the NBA.
The official word is that the movie, set to debut next summer, is about young people "achieving their dreams through hard work." The cast includes China film and TV star Huang Xiaoming; south Korean actress and model Kim A. Joong; and Eric Mabius, an American actor who recently appeared in "Ugly Betty."
The NBA has done similar deals on a raft of films in the U.S. like Spike Lee's "He Got Game"; "Eddie" with Whoopi Goldberg; the animated film "Space Jam" starring Michael Jordan; and "Forget Paris" with Billy Crystal, per the league.
An NBA spokesperson says the studio approached the NBA about the deal. "It's a real feature film, a mainstream film -- not just for basketball fans."
The NBA launched NBA China in 2008 with Disney/ESPN, Bank of China Group Investment, Legend Holdings, China Merchant Group, and Li Ka Shing Foundation, who collectively contributed $253 million. The league also formed a joint venture with AEG to develop NBA-style arenas in the nation. The Shanghai World Expo Culture Center was unveiled on May 1.
The NBA's marketing partners in China include 7-11 Stores, Adidas, Akamai, Amway, Cisco, Coca Cola, EA Sports, Everbright Bank, Gatorade, Lenovo, Nike, Spalding, Toyota, and Visa.
Among marketing programs there is a first-ever Lenovo NBA Basketball Tour that launched in May and will visit 10 Chinese cities. The league is also teaming with Tsingtao Beer on the second season of a cheerleader reality show called "Dance Passion" that will air on CCTV5. Auditions are being held in more than 100 cities and the winning dancers will get to perform at an NBA game.
NBA games and programming are available on 51 television and digital media outlets in greater China and NBA.com/China now ranks as the largest basketball Internet site in China for traffic.
The league also has eight retail stores in China at the Shanghai World Expo Culture Center. And the NBA says that branded merchandise is located in more than 30,000 retail locations, with sales up 100% this fiscal year. Kobe Bryant topped the NBA jersey sales in China for the third consecutive year, per the NBA. Yao Ming ranks 6th.
The NBA will return to play its fifth set of pre-season games in China when the Houston Rockets and the New Jersey Nets play in Beijing and Guangzhou this October as part of NBA China Games 2010.