Millions of Americans tune into the Super Bowl each year. But how does the National Football League (NFL) compare to America’s other major sports leagues when it comes to global appeal?
Check out our new infographic comparing the NFL with the National Basketball Association (NBA), Major League Baseball (MLB), and the National Hockey League (NHL). And, read on for some interesting takeaways for global marketers.
The NBA and NHL Lead with Global Websites
We’re impressed by the website localization efforts of the NBA. It offers 10 languages for 14 countries. It also has a site for Africa and a separate site that targets Hispanics in the US.
In comparison, the NFL offers just two languages while the MLB has four. The only other league that has a comparable number of languages on its website is the NHL, with eight languages.
Kudos to the NBA for figuring out that its international ambitions need to be clearly supported by website translation. No wonder the last three NBA seasons have brought them a record 16 billion page views and 9 billion video views on NBA.com/China. The NHL, too, reaped the language dividend: it saw a 20% increase in website traffic from outside North America after the launch of its mutlilingual sites.
The NHL Makes it Easy for International Fans to Find Content
Hockey fans from other countries have a good experience on NHL.com. What we love about the NHL site is that it makes navigation between its localized sites easy, by providing language options right at the top (see below). Of course, the vertical language bar will have to give way to a menu when the NHL increases the number of languages to more than a dozen or so.
The NBA Has Strong Global Content but Buries International Pathways
The NBA scores major points for serving up country-specific sites that are not just mirrors of the global site. They provide a truly localized experience with local content like blogs from basketball players who are famous in their country or region. They also have localized social media channels that, unsurprisingly, have huge fan followings: 70 million followers on Sina Weibo and Tencent’s microblog platforms.
NBA.com also has some cool globalization features like geo IP location. The moment a user types in nba.com, the relevant language site opens up depending on the user’s geographic location. For instance, if an NBA fan from China were to open the site, they would be directly led to http://china.nba.com/.
However, the NBA could make their navigation better for international visitors. Instead of burying the pathway for international fans to find relevant content, they should provide a one-click global gateway, which allows users to change the language or country or both quickly and from anywhere on the site.
Currently, the NBA makes it difficult for international visitors to find relevant content. If the visitor somehow realizes they should click on the tiny globe, which they are likely to visually skip over, they then have to go to a different page, and from there, look for their language (see below).
The NBA also artificially forces this discovery process to happen in an English-language environment. The NBA is doing itself a disservice by not prominently displaying its valuable, in-language content. These are assets that it likely invested a good deal of money in to create. With some simple tweaks, the NBA can greatly improve the discoverability of its global content.
All Leagues Score on Hispanic Marketing
Pretty much all of the leagues recognize the importance of marketing to Hispanics. Why wouldn’t they? After all, the collective buying power of this community hovers in the area of more than $1 trillion.
The NBA has a dedicated site for Hispanics which is named Ene-be-a, after the way Hispanic fans pronounce the letters in the league’s name in Spanish. Nice touch. The NBA also conducts its Noche Latina campaign every year. Likewise, the NFL successfully connects with its Hispanic fan base. So does the MLB.
American businesses should take this page out of the leagues’ Hispanic marketing playbook. After all, it’s a simple way to tap into a new market, without even having to step outside of the country.
Most Leagues Penalize Themselves by Not Localizing Apps
We couldn’t help but notice that none of the leagues offer localized apps for any country or language, even though they advertise and broadcast in many countries. This is strange considering that more than a fifth of the world’s population now owns a smartphone, and their fan bases are all global in nature.
Given that localizing mobile apps is a simple, inexpensive process that results in a 128% increase in downloads and a boost in app store rankings, all of these major American sports leagues are neglecting a very simple and surefire way of growing international fan bases.
Sports Leagues Are Slowly but Surely Going Global
In summary, all of the major American sports leagues aspire to grow their revenue and their fan bases. They have rightly recognized that their growth paths will take them global.
Languages are important for international marketing, and that isn’t news to these leagues. After all, each one of them broadcasts their games in anywhere from 17 to 47 languages. But they aren’t even coming close to leveraging the language advantage across all marketing channels, even though they could do so quickly, easily, and inexpensively.
The lesson is clear – language represents a major opportunity for the marketing teams at these leagues to expand their international fan bases, and to better engage the fans they have already worked to attract.