The value of adding a stud Asian athlete to your professional sports team could be as much as $10million per year. This is what the experts said about the NBA team Houston Rockets when they signed Jeremy Lin. And it's not hard to believe given a Taiwanese tyre company, Maxxis, followed him with their sponsorship money back in 2012 from New York Knicks to Houston Rockets and now again to LA Lakers, where he has recently been traded. Lin shirts sales in 2012 ranked second in the league beating Kobe Bryant and he even helped to raise the price of the Madison Square Garden stock price while he was at the Knicks.
In 2007, the Houston Rockets star. Yao Ming was estimated to have brought in about a million dollars a year in Chinese Sponsorships, around 10% of their annual sponsorship revenue. Not bad considering this was only one year into the life of twitter, pre-Instagram and prior to so many other revenue generating digital platforms.
So there is definitely a correlation between international commercial revenue and international players, but does it cross over all sports, teams and nationalities? Is every rights holder with an "international stud" reaping the maximum rewards? From my experience, it's a no, but why?
a. Additional Cost - Once you sign the player, its not just enough to sit back and wait for the $$$ to start rolling in. You need to spend on new sales hires, maybe people who speak the foreign language of the new player. Also, travel cost to visit that region, time to research and meet with the businesses in that area and the opportunity cost of not focusing on the domestic brands.
b. Brand Image - Of course there is a lot of extra revenue associated with bringing on new sponsors; however could you be doing any damage to your existing roster of sponsors? Does it affect your brand image or fan messaging by trading space from National, and usually known Brands to relatively unknown Foreign brands? Looking at soccer, you figure not considering the amount of Chinese language branding on the perimeter boards and the biggest U-turn in "Sponsor Messaging" when Barcelona stopped supporting UNICEF on the front of their shirt and sold the space to Qatar Airways. Barcelona friends and family didn't seem to mind the injection of approx $200million into the club!
c. Difficulty - Working with Foreign Brands can be hard due to cultural differences and sometimes dealing with a Brand who is new to major Sponsorship. When the Indian Premier League first started; many brands who had never sponsored before found it challenging that despite spending so much money, they were not given a free reign on marketing campaigns, player shoots, hospitality etc. In other forms of advertising, Brands paying top dollar get whatever they ask for, but with Sponsorship there are so many more considerations - players, game rules, team owners, stadium rules etc.However these add to the charm of Sponsorship; ultimately the Brand feels part of something much bigger and can leverage that wave, connecting with the fan and the many stakeholders of the game who witness and appreciate the Brand's partnership to their team and player.
I recently met with the Commercial Director of an English Premier League club who had signed an Asian footballer, and we discussed how they would use OpenSponsorship to advertise sponsorship opportunities to the Asia region. He wasn't the only one to inform me of their prowess in terms of foreign talent and the desire to capitalize on this. Every team and agent regardless of region and sport, could and should be using OpenSponsorship to help mitigate A and C above while looking for international sponsors (given we already proved B is not a factor). We allow Rights Holders to list packages exclusively for certain regions and countries, thus there is only a free 5 minute sign up form between Rights Holder and Brands across the globe connecting to open a sponsorship conversation.