Technological advances are bringing sporting events to more people than ever before. Mobile devices, net books, laptops and satellite televisions have increased international viewership of sporting events. For the 2010 World Cup, ESPN3 (ESPN's broadband network for live sports programming) clocked nearly 7.4 million viewers, generating 15.7 million hours of viewing. The network's World Cup application was downloaded more than 2.5 million times and accessed by an average of one million users per day.
Though the World Cup may be seen as an outlier in terms of revenue generated and number of viewers, the international fan base continues to grow—even for smaller scaled local sporting events—with the aid of ever-advancing technology. This is due in part to athletes playing abroad, which may generate interest in a player's native country, and in part to the relatively new ability to watch games taking place anywhere in the world through live web stream or satellite television. Cross-border deals are also part of the equation as foreigners increasingly purchase interests in local teams, such as Mikhail D. Prokhorov recently becoming the first foreign owner of an NBA team. The potential sale of Liverpool, a soccer team in the English Premier League, has drawn the interest of potential purchasers from across the globe. This influx of interest creates opportunities for local and foreign sponsors and advertisers. The increased globalization of sports has also increased the value of many sport properties as evidenced recently by the $2 billion price tag—double the previous contract—for overseas television rights for the next three years of Premier League games.
Globalization of the NBA is not a new phenomenon, but technological advances are helping it continue. Today, the NBA finals are televised to more than 200 countries in over 40 languages. More than half of all NBA.com traffic comes from outside of the U.S. Due to its enormous popularity in China and because of high-profile players Yao Ming and Yi Jianlian, the number of Chinese sponsors and advertisers in the NBA is growing. Recently, the NBA announced a multi-year marketing partnership with the BBVA Group, a leading Spanish bank. As part of the partnership, BBVA will serve as the official bank of the NBA, WNBA and the NBA D-League in the U.S., Spain and Puerto Rico. MLB is also seeing its brand grow. Thanks to players such as Ichiro Suzuki, a significant number of Japanese sponsors, including Nintendo, MasterCard Japan, Ajinomoto, Sanyo Electric and Hitachi, can be seen throughout MLB stadiums. The benefits of globalization are not limited to foreign companies; many U.S. companies are also getting in on the action. The NBA's popularity in China is a significant reason for Nike's revenue growth in that country, which rose 22% in 2009.
Many sports are using advances in technology to expand, driving an increase in opportunities for advertisers and sponsors. Because international games are so easily accessed, they reach more people in more countries than ever before. Sponsors and advertisers are no longer limited to local markets or traditional forms of advertising and should explore different markets and media to reach as many "local" sports fans as possible.