Now, the NBA and Globetrotters are taking that strategy global. As part of a program to make the team the unofficial basketball ambassador to the world, the NBA will help plan, promote, and market the Globetrotters' international games and events.
Kurt Schneider, CEO of the Phoenix-based Globetrotters, says the two organizations can help each other: the Globetrotters, which have been around for 80 years, have been trotting the globe--literally--for the past 50, most recently in Bosnia and Herzegovina, playing nearly 150 games a year overseas. What they don't have is a marketing program there.
"What this really is, in basic form, is a combining of our two strengths to help grow basketball worldwide," says Schneider. "To their credit, [the NBA] saw us as a way not to cannibalize their current business but grow incrementally. They have incredible leverage and infrastructure, great relationships with sponsors, TV networks, merchandising, and mobile companies. [The Globetrotters are] another piece of content for their arsenal while we can tap into their clout overseas to grow our business," he says.
"When we go overseas, we go in, play a game and are gone. So it has been, unfortunately a 'Johnny one note' condition: we come in, do a great job and go away. The NBA will allow the brand to exist internationally way beyond a single live event with merchandise, a TV presence, and mobile presence both preceding and trailing the events. Our goal here is consistent consumer contact, interacting on multiple platforms."
The NBA says its games are televised in 215 countries and in 41 different languages, and that it has hosted more than 135 international events in 25 countries. The association has offices in Beijing, Hong Kong, Istanbul, London, Madrid, Mexico City, Paris, Shanghai, Seoul, Taipei, Tokyo, and Toronto, and 75 international players from 32 countries and territories.
"Until this point, their business internationally has been one-dimensional, just the shows, but we see an opportunity to marry their business with our international business lines," says Emilio Collins, who is NBA senior vice president, International Development and Partnerships.
Schneider says the Globetrotters have a strong fan base in China, Spain, England, France, Italy, Argentina, Brazil, and even Romania. "Because we have been touring for 50 years and the NBA started internationally 20 years ago, there's a generation around the world whose first exposure to basketball was the Globetrotters."
Collins says there is particular opportunity for NBA/Globetrotters collaboration in China. "We see a particular opportunity there, where they toured in 2004, and had very good reception there. We have strong business ourselves in China, and there's an opportunity to build brand value.
"The Globetrotters have an amazing heritage, and are ingrained in the memories of fans. Anytime we can tap into that to build the business around the world, we will," he says.