The National Basketball Association (NBA) is pulling out all the stops to expand its presence and fan base worldwide. The league's efforts, which started last fall and culminate this fall, comprise some 345 international grassroots, tournament, and corporate responsibility events in 158 cities in 24 countries.
The programs, which include everything from basketball-development in the Philippines to basketball-experience tours in places like China and Western Europe, also bring in over 50 corporate sponsors including DHL, Gatorade, EA Sports, Adidas, Nike and Honda. And for the first time, the league will play five pre-season games in China, Europe, and Latin America this fall.
Emilio Collins, SVP international development and partnerships at the NBA, tells Marketing Daily that the league's business has been expanding globally for the last 30 years, but really took off after the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
"That was a tremendous turning point because for the first time we took the world's stage. From that point, all metrics grew." He notes that today 77 players, or about 20%, of the NBA roster is of international origin. "So that is a tremendous opportunity for us to build the sport of basketball and awareness worldwide through those markets.
"To do that effectively, we have to use multiple assets: broadcasting, mobile and digital and increasingly, grassroots experiences, especially where we don't have games day in and day out. So we must be as broad-reaching in our efforts as possible, from teaching basketball skills to games, to promoting players."
Collins says the NBA's largest market outside the U.S. is China, "which is an incredible success story for us in terms of growth in basketball participation and overall NBA popularity." The second-biggest market in Asia is the Philippines. Collins says the majority of the NBA's international players are from Europe, "so many of our most prominent players have become very well-known personalities there."
The NBA Europe Live presented by EA Sports will feature the Utah Jazz and the Chicago Bulls in London on Oct. 6. That will be followed by the Jazz playing Euroleague's Real Madrid in Madrid on the 8th, and the NBA Mexico Game 2009 featuring the Phoenix Suns against the Philadelphia 76ers on Oct. 18.
Beyond games, the league is also doing a raft of basketball-experience tours worldwide: The NBA Jam Van is touring China and Europe; the NBA Jam Mall Tour is in India; and NBA Madness is touring Indonesia, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. There is also a "P&G Pavilion Tour" in China and the Adidas NBA5 United Tour in a number of European countries.
The Jam Van, a customized 52-foot truck that transforms into 10,000 square feet of free basketball activities, is stopping at 24 Chinese cities through October. Then it will visit France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, and Greece. Partners for the two tours are Lenovo, Peak, and Mengniu (for China); and Coca-Cola, EA Sports, HANNspree, and Value Retail (in Europe).
NBA Madness -- an interactive basketball lifestyle event -- visited Indonesia for the first time this year. It will also stop in Taipei this weekend and Hong Kong in early September. That tour's sponsoring partners include Honda, DHL, EA Sports, Lenovo, DHL, Adidas and Spalding.
The P&G Pavilion Tour in China, in which Scottie Pippen made an appearance, took place this month and last and featured basketball games and in-store activities in major cities there to promote P&G's Gillette, Head & Shoulders, Rejoice, and Safeguard brands.
The Adidas NBA5 United Tour is a grassroots event combining outdoor 5-on-5 tournaments with pickup games and interactive basketball elements. That event started in Athens in June and moved on to Madrid, then Rome and Istanbul. It will wind up in London in September. Adidas, Coca-Cola, and EA Sports support that tour.