How Sports Globalization Reflects the Internationalization Process

As for any global undertaking, there are huge questions when entering new markets. This is no different for a software company facing internationalization issues or a sports franchise pursuing a globally-recognizable brand.  I came across an abstract for a paper on the internationalization process of soccer team brands (run a search for “internationalization of football team brands” and it will be your first option) and realized that the same concerns that a team trying to spread its brand to a new market has, occur with any company with a global outlook.  In past years, the NFL has played one regular season game per year in London in an effort to promote the game abroad. Similar efforts have been taken by the MLB, NBA and NHL as they expand their market reach.

Firms measure success with internationalization when, after entering a new locale, the firm sees greater economic success. Whether it’s a sports franchise or a firm pursuing an international reach, the measurements are simple: if sales are greater internationally after undertaking an internationalization effort, then it was worth it.

But just throwing a product out on an international market is seldom good enough. Foreign customers need something to grab on to; something they can relate with. For example, popularity of the NBA exploded after Yao Ming became a star because Chinese fans had someone they can relate to. The NBA was no longer some foreign pro sports league, it was a league they had a direct influence on.

Now this may be a leap in logic, but I consider the same idea to be applicable to localization. International markets will seldom use a product that isn’t identified as their own; whether it is because it’s in another language, has non-intuitive instructions or whatever it may be that is lost in translation. On the contrary, when a product as identified as local in nature and as something that is useful, naturally positive results will follow.

If you have any thoughts on this, please don’t hesitate to comment below.

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