NBA, Tsingtao are post-Olympics partners

China's No. 1 beer will push hoops on Chinese TV, Web

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BEIJING -- NBA commissioner David Stern and Tsingtao Brewery chairman Jin Zhiguo announced Saturday a multiyear strategic marketing partnership set to feature TV and online campaigns aimed at growing China's audience for basketball.

Already wildly popular in China, basketball and the NBA are boosted by the fame of Houston Rockets center Yao Ming and Yi Jianlian, the Milwaukee Bucks forward. NBA games are broadcast on Olympics host broadcast network China Central Television and by 51 other Chinese telecasters. They reached 34 million, mostly young, male Chinese each week during the 2006-07 NBA season.

An official Olympic sponsor, Tsingtao is China's most widely distributed domestic beer, with 13% of the market in 2007, and perhaps its best known brand outside the world's most populous nation.

"The NBA is excited to partner with Tsingtao and its extensive retail network throughout China," Stern said at a press conference punctuated by Chinese youths breakdancing with basketballs in jerseys from the NBA's Cavaliers, Celtics, Heat, Lakers and Rockets teams.

NBA China CEO Tim 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 move comes just eight months after 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, a newly formed entity headed by Chen.

On Saturday, Yan Xu, Tsingtao's president of sales and marketing, said the partnership with NBA marked the beginning of "post-Olympics sponsorship efforts" for the 105-year-old brewery, located in the port city of Qingdao.

"We look forward to getting more big stars like Yao Ming and Yi Jianlian from this partnership," she said.

In Olympic men's basketball, the U.S. "Dream Team" advanced Friday, beating Argentina, and will face Spain on Sunday for the gold medal. The Chinese men's team was knocked out of the tournament on Wednesday in a 94-68 loss to Lithuania.