From Shanghai Scrap comes a very interesting article about the NFL’s attempts to break into China. Most Americans don’t understand that the entire rest of the world doesn’t understand something as quintessentially American as football. But if you think about it, how would you translate something as esoteric as the “Wildcat” offense to a Chinese audience? These are the sort of questions that NFL China has to grapple with in their attempts to build up public interest in the sport on the mainland.
The article features a great, long interview with Zhang Nan, one of the commentators on Sina.com’s weekly simulcast of Monday Night Football. Zhang, who started as a sports marketer working with flag football programs around China, is now the Chinese counterpart to John Madden. However, that level of exposure imparts a lot of responsibility: how do you cater to both the experienced and novice fans in a way that makes them eager for more football? Without the equivalent of a Yao Ming in the NFL, it’s a hard sell- but a very intriguing one, which seems to be working.
Even if you have little to no interest in American football, the article is enjoyable for the arc it traces in trying to relate to us the difficulties of accessing the minds and curiosities of the average Chinese sports fan. Whether the NFL could ever become as popular as the NBA in China remains a question for debate, but their efforts provide fascinating insight into the future of Chinese sports trends, and a snapshot of an ever changing and expanding youth culture. We have to say, it’s a lot better of an attempt than NFL Blitz, the Chinese reality show about football that has little to nothing to do with football.
Photo by Shanghai Scrap