Magazine article Marketing

NBA's UK Challenge

Magazine article Marketing

NBA's UK Challenge

Article excerpt

The National Basketball Association (NBA) is one of the world's biggest and most respected sports organisations. John Reynolds asks whether it can finally build the brand in the UK this year.

Last week, the NBA became the first major sports league in the world to top 5m Twitter followers. That figure is testament to the popularity of the North American basketball competition: more than 350 current and former NBA players are on the social-media site, and between league, team and player profiles, more than 260m people follow it on Facebook and Twitter.

However, basketball is still a comparative minnow in UK sport, dwarfed by football, cricket and rugby.

According to Sport England, an average of 151,500 people play basketball at least once a week, compared with more than 2.1m who play football. It is clear, then, that the NBA faces a huge task if it is to rival the popularity of the latter sport in the UK.

Nonetheless, the NBA views the UK as a key market to grow the brand. In March 2011, the New Jersey Nets and Toronto Raptors played twice in London, the first time a regular season match was played outside the US.

With NBA stars set to compete in the UK again this summer - this time for Olympic gold - a major marketing push is under way, as its bosses aim to shake off its niche-sport image. Marketing spoke to Darrell McLennan Fordyce, senior director, marketing communications EMEA, at the NBA, about winning over British fans.

- How is the NBA perceived in the UK?

We are a challenger brand in the UK and this forms a big part of what we do marketing-wise. In the UK, football is king, so we have to do a lot, not just to raise awareness of the brand, but our products too, such as our merchandise and our TV broadband offering, The NBA has a powerful brand identity and logo, but there is a big job to do. We have an avid core group of fans, but our challenge is to grow beyond this, and this involves a stronger focus on youth. …

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