NBA teams for CCTV cheerleading show

Program is part of post-Olympic marketing partnership

BEIJING -- Seven months after inking a multiyear partnership, the NBA and China's Tsingtao Brewery have something to cheer about.

The U.S. basketball league and Chinese beer giant are poised to launch a cheerleading competition show next month on China Central Television's sports channel. Winners will travel to the U.S. to train with an NBA dance squad.

CCTV-5 CEO Jiang Heping told The Hollywood Reporter it will be the first of two such cheerleading shows the state-run broadcast network will air in the coming year. Tsingtao and an NBA spokeswoman confirmed the planned show.

Jiang, who led CCTV-5's coverage of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, said the NBA-Tsingtao show is being prepped by CCTV-5's business arm, CCTV Sports Promotion Corp.

Producer Su Ling, a former CCTV-5 host and director of the marketing development center at the Sports Promotion Corp. in Beijing, said the first of nine episodes will air May 9, at the end of a week-long national holiday.

In addition to the competition itself, each episode will focus on "NBA culture ... Michael Jordan, the Lakers and basketball history," Su said.

Cheerleaders have appeared at various Chinese sporting events -- including basketball -- in recent years, but did not gain wide acceptance until their participation in the 2008 Olympics.

Known as "la la dui," which roughly translates as "cheerleaders" in Chinese, their presence at diverse events from soccer to, most notably, beach volleyball brought the concept of cheerleading into the mainstream.

The NBA has enjoyed a surge in popularity in China in recent years, led largely by the iconic status of Houston Rockets center Yao Ming, along with the popularity of such U.S. players as Kobe Bryant and LeBron James and New Jersey Nets power forward Yi Jianlian, a native of southern China.

NBA commissioner David Stern and Tsingtao Brewery chairman Jin Zhiguo announced their marketing partnership just before the end of the Beijing Olympics. Tsingtao is China's most widely distributed domestic beer, with 13% of the market in 2007.

At the time of the announcement, NBA China's Chen said Tsingtao would sponsor the NBA's television and Web presence in China as part of the partnership, but he declined to offer details. Separately, Stern told a New York Times reporter that Tsingtao would not be the NBA's exclusive partner in China, where it has 21 other marketing and promotional partnerships.

The NBA has a joint venture with Los Angeles-based sports and entertainment presenter Anschutz Entertainment Group to design and develop about 12 multipurpose arenas in major Chinese cities. It currently has relationships with 51 Chinese telecasters, including a partnership of more than 20 years with CCTV and its games reached 34 million, mostly young, male Chinese each week during the 2006-07 NBA season.

In early 2008, the Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN joined Hong Kong real estate billionaire Li Ka-shing and Chinese government-backed investors in paying $253 million for 11% of NBA China, headed by Chen.

Su said she and representatives of a team of 30 producers from CCTV-5's popular show "Basketball Town" will meet with the NBA China office and executives from Tsingtao Wednesday to discuss details of the show's format and choose the show's host.

The NBA-Tsingtao show will be called "Qing Wu Men" in Chinese, which translates roughly into "Young Dance Stage," Su said.

The initial nine episodes will be shot in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Tianjin, Chengdu, Wuhan, Shenyang, Hangzhou and Qingdao, the port city southeast of Beijing that is home to the eponymous brewery, Su said.

Su declined to say how much money each episode will cost but said that Tsingtao will cover 70% of production costs.

Su and a team from China Sports Promotion also will produce a second cheerleading show for CCTV-5 targeting the audience for the 2010 Asian Games in November next year in Guangzhou. This second show will be sponsored by Guangdong province-based soft drinks company Jianlibao.