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How NBA plans to grow its biz in India

MUMBAI: With the new NBA season kicking off next month, the National Basketball Association (NBA) plans to take its business in India to the next level, be it television, merchandising, or grassroots.

Yannick ColacoSpeaking to TelevisionPost.com, NBA India MD Yannick Colaco said that one of the things it is looking at is to see how it can better localise live and shoulder programming.


“On television, we have, in conjunction with our partner Sony, just commissioned a large, multi-city research project which will take a couple of months to complete. We want to better understand the requirements of existing fans and the needs of potential fans. We will work closely with our partner Sony to ensure that we appropriately localise around our live and shoulder programming to continue to keep our fans entertained,” Colaco said.

Talking about the deal with Six, he said that the partners have managed to more than double the number of games per week in the past season and saw viewership increase by more than 300 per cent.

“In addition to live games, we are creating highlights packages of games for broadcast during primetime and have localised lifestyle programming. Last season, we aired a record 14 live games per week on Sony Six, which was up from four games the previous season.

“On Sony, our popular magazine show ‘Inside Stuff’ gives fans the chance to get to know our teams and players better on and off the court. Some of the other local content we’ve created with Sony includes promos, tour diaries with NBA stars and legends and content around NBA Jam. NBA.com/india, which launched in 2009, continues to provide local editorial content and real-time highlights, news and stats about the NBA,” he explained.

Going forward, one of the things that it is examining through the research project is the possibility of doing language feeds. A highlight show will air daily at 8 pm on Six when the season starts. It is also looking to have some action from the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) aired in India from next season. “We have had enquiries about WNBA. We are evaluating it and we hope to have some matches from WNBA shown in India.”

Licensing and merchandising

Earlier this year, the NBA launched its e-commerce store in India, NBAStore.in, in partnership with online sports and fashion destination Jabong. NBAstore.in is an assortment of NBA merchandise, including the first-ever NBA products for women in the country.

“Thanks to e-commerce, we are offering more merchandise than ever before. Importantly, our partner Jabong provides access to our merchandise to fans in over 400 cities and villages across the country. In just a few months, we’ve had tremendous success in distributing our product to over 270 cities,” said Colaco.

He added that merchandise sales have been doubling year-on-year. “One of the key areas of progress was increasing distribution of NBA merchandise which provided fans more access to our products. We continued to work with adidas to increase distribution of authentic NBA merchandise across their retail outlets and our partnership with Jabong.com has allowed us to reach fans across the country. In addition, we developed new categories of NBA merchandise. New partnerships have been developed with New Horizon for NBA socks and American Tourister to launch a line of NBA bags. We continue to explore new opportunities to create exciting NBA merchandise for our fans.”

Social media

Like other media companies, NBA is using digital platforms in India like Facebook and Twitter. “Digital and social media is a huge growth area for us in India. Our fan base is young and tech-savvy. We have approximately 500,000 followers on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and are seeing nearly 500 per cent growth on Facebook year-on-year. 93 per cent of fans who follow NBA India’s Facebook page are under the age of 24,” Colaco stated.

Grassroots activation

In terms of grassroots events, he noted that the Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA programme is going to eight cities this year and is expected to engage over 750,000 youth and train PE teachers at more than 1,000 partner schools across these cities.

“This programme is a comprehensive youth basketball initiative that applies the positive values of basketball to engage and impact the lives of boys and girls.

“NBA Jam powered by Jabong.com is our other large-scale basketball programme with a national 3×3 tournament at its centrepiece. This platform targets college youth and will be travelling to 16 cities across the country this year.

“We also have some exciting marketing innovations and fan programmes that we intend to launch this season, details of which we will reveal soon,” Colaco revealed.

He noted that a big reason for merchandise growth is the result of the increased television coverage and viewership of matches coupled with grassroots events.

“Our team jerseys and footwear sales are the most popular. The more people play the game, the more likely they will be to purchase shoes. Similarly, if they watch our lifestyle content, then that could be the driver for them to purchase our lifestyle products,” he stated.