The Ministry of Sports Marketing 2017 is on tomorrow in Sydney, and to give you a bit more of a taste of what to expect from the conference, NBA Asia’s vice president of marketing and communications, Sheila Rasu (pictured above), spoke to B&T recently about how the top basketball league in the world is growing its footprint across Australia, Asia and the rest of the globe.
What can we expect from your presentation at the upcoming Ministry of Sports Marketing conference?
The title of my presentation is ‘Bringing the Game Closer to our International Audience’, and I’ll be discussing how the NBA – a league whose games are predominantly played in North America – has managed to develop such a prominent global footprint.
What are some of the key opportunities that the NBA offers brands? Are there any brands in particular that you believe have made the most of these opportunities recently?
We have a number of marketing and promotional partners in Australia and all of them activate in unique ways. NBA fans are amongst the most passionate and vocal in the world, and associating with the NBA allows our partners to tap into that fandom.
If I had to name a couple notable examples, I would start with UP&GO and the NBA Championship Trophy Tour they conducted in 2016 with Matthew Dellavedova. Another brand that has integrated closely with the NBA is Tissot, who we worked with closely to develop a state-of-the-art timing system which integrates the 24-second, timeout, and game clocks into one piece of hardware across all 29 NBA arenas. Every second counts in sports, and NBA games often go down to the wire, with the outcome undecided till the very last shot. Given the unique dynamic between time and sports, we launched a segment called ‘Tissot Buzzer Beaters’ which, as the title suggests, highlights some of the most clutch shots in the NBA.
The NBA now seems to have quite a strong footprint in Asia. How did that come about?
The game has never been better, and excitement for our on-court product has translated to off-court success and recognition. Just recently, the NBA debuted on Campaign Asia-Pacific’s annual ‘Asia’s Top 1,000 Brands’ list at #63 – the number one sports league ahead of other powerful brands like the EPL (#68), F1 (#90), Bundesliga (#200), MLB (#259) and NFL (#310). We are extremely bullish about our position in Asia, and we believe there is huge potential to further grow the game.
NBA games and content are widely distributed today, available in 18 countries and territories in eight languages across Asia. Our digital presence – whether through a local destination, local social media platforms or our direct-to-consumer offering NBA LEAGUE PASS – allows fans to consume the game and engage with the NBA whenever and however they choose – on their way to work, in the office, across a range of platforms on any device. The extensive distribution network ensures our content is accessible despite the timezone differences. We also conduct Jr. NBA – our global youth engagement platform that teaches the values of our game at the grassroots level – in eight countries across the region to get more youths dribbling basketballs. To date, the Jr. NBA program in Asia has reached more than 5.5 million kids, parents and coaches.
What are some of the key lessons that the NBA has learnt from growing its footprint in Asia? What can Aussie sporting leagues learn from the NBA in growing their Asian footprint?
Asia is a large and dynamic region, and brands should not employ a one-size-fits-all approach. Your fanbase is not homogenous, and finding the right way to engage with the different segments of your fans is crucial, and something that I address in my presentation.
The NBA has always seemed quite coy about growing its footprint in Australia. Why is that the case? When can we expect an NBA game Down Under?
I don’t think we’ve been coy about our efforts in Australia. We currently have nine Australians on NBA rosters and we have been taking an active role in developing future talent in Australia, which is why we partnered with Basketball Australia to launch the NBA Global Academy, our elite basketball training centre at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra. We have localised Facebook and Twitter accounts to bring the latest news and content directly to our fans. Our games are widely available through our partnership with ESPN, our direct-to-consumer offering NBA LEAGUE PASS and our official local online destination, which offers one live stream game per week for free throughout the regular NBA season. We also work hard to ensure that fans have access to our licensed merchandise at more than 90 Rebel stores across Australia (8 NBA Corners at select Rebel outlets) and online through our official NBA Online Store. Regarding an NBA game in Australia, our commissioner Adam Silver has stated publicly on various occasions that we are open to the idea, and while I can’t put a timeframe on it, it is something the league continues to look into.