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NBA’s growth plans in India

MUMBAI: Six years after opening an office in India, the National Basketball Association ( NBA) is focusing on growing the business in the country through various routes such as language commentary and the launch of an NBA Academy.

Speaking to TelevisionPost.com, NBA India MD Yannick Colaco explains that the aim is to take basketball beyond an aspirational value.

Yannick Colaco“We’re focusing on growing the game of basketball and not just restricting it to the aspirational value, but also ensuring the sport’s access through inclusion in school curriculum, training coaches and providing kits. We recently announced the launch of NBA Academy India, which marks our most significant investment in basketball development in the market. NBA Academy India will be the first of its kind in the country and will be fully funded by the NBA. The Academy will provide the top male prospects in India with world-class coaching and training, as well as academic support and an emphasis on life skills. The initiative builds on our existing grassroots programming, including ACG-NBA Jump, Jr. NBA and NBA Jam,” Colaco said.

Broadcast: On the broadcast front, the aim is to offer language commentary soon. “We, along with our partners, are continuously evaluating ways of making our content more relevant and accessible to our fans. We’re already into our second season of our weekly wraparound show ‘Around the Hoop’ and ‘NBA Weekly’, both produced in India for our Indian fans. Local-language commentary of games is something we have been looking at very closely and we will be trying this on our content very soon,” he explains. Commentators are being trained in this regard. This strategy has worked well in China.

He adds that broadcasters play a significant role in reaching out and engaging with the audience. “Sony Six has successfully delivered comprehensive coverage of the NBA to our fans, televising 14 games a week. The popularity of the NBA continues to grow and, through the diversity of NBA programming on Sony Six, we’ve been consistently engaging with our viewers across India. For example, last season the NBA and Sony Six introduced a customised, local live NBA wraparound programme called ‘Around the Hoop’, which brought Indian viewers closer to the game.”

Digital: Last year, the NBA had announced a partnership with The 120 Media Collective to operate the customised NBA.com in India. “The 120 Media Collective’s expertise in innovative content creation has hugely helped us engage with our fans by creating locally relevant content. Our partnership has helped us grow our expansive digital presence in India by providing our digitally savvy fans with a way to connect with their favourite teams and players.”

The geo-targeted NBA.com offers Indian fans access to all things NBA, such as video highlights, game recaps, scores, stats and more. The responsive and mobile-first digital destination also provide extensive localised content, including podcasts hosted by local basketball personalities and features personalised settings for fans to follow their favourite NBA teams and players. Through the digital destination, fans have access to NBA League Pass, the league’s digital package offering a full season of live NBA games and rich archive of NBA content.

“Viewership of the NBA has skyrocketed in the last few seasons due to Sony Six’s commitment to bring two live games per day and other compelling NBA programmes to our fans,” he says.

Moreover, ‘NBA Slam’, a short-form digital series featuring local celebrities facing off against each other on several NBA topics, was released recently on NBA.com India. “We continue to look at innovative ways to package our content to better engage our fans and have several new initiatives in store, including a new show to be announced later this week,” explains.

For the NBA, digital remains a priority. “We know many of our fans are mobile-first and consuming our content through new media. Earlier in January, we streamed a regular-season game via Facebook Live with a reach of over 2,036,090 viewers.

“It is extremely important for us to be able to continuously engage with our fans. More than 7.5 million fans from India follow the NBA or NBA-related pages, and we will continue leveraging social media to reach and engage with our fan-base. We expect our Indian social media to clock over half a billion impressions for this season.”

He notes that the NBA’s digital footprint is an important part of the fan acquisition and engagement strategy in the market. “Sony Liv is one of India’s premier online digital destination and regularly schedules live NBA games, highlights and other great NBA content for our fans. This, coupled with our other digital partnerships on social media platforms, is an integral part of our digital strategy for India.”

Grassroots: He notes that the NBA continues efforts to grow basketball around the world at both the grassroots and elite levels. “Jr. NBA, one of our grassroots initiative, is the NBA’s global youth basketball participation programme for boys and girls. Through this programme, we have engaged more than 2.7 million youth in the country.

At the elite level, there will be the NBA Academy in India, which will comprise a network of elite training centres around the world to develop the top international male and female prospects. From NBA-level coaching, facilities and competition, the academy will offer a global framework to grow elite-level prospects in India.

Licensing and merchandising: The plan here is to continue to work with global and local merchandising partners to bring the best authentic NBA merchandise to the fans.

“A little over a year ago, we launched NBAStore.in, our local e-commerce site in partnership with Jabong. NBA merchandise has been delivered to over 400 cities across India and our e-commerce sales have grown 200% over the last year. In India, we now have multiple partners that help us grow the game and bring the NBA experience closer to our fans. We currently have fantastic partnerships with Sony Six, Reliance Foundation, ACG, Gatorade and Jabong,” Colaco states.

Last year the company had roped in Neha Dhupia and Rannvijay Singha to spread awareness about the league. “We are privileged to have so many celebrities and stars from all walks of life who are passionate fans of the NBA and the game of basketball. Neha Dhupia and Rannvijay Singha have been extremely supportive in our journey. They both are huge basketball and NBA fans and we welcome them to more of our games and events. In fact, their genuine love for the game has helped in bringing basketball to a larger Indian audience.

Sponsorship: Colaco maintains that the NBA has had seamless partnerships in India, especially because sponsors see tremendous value and genuine potential in the sport.

“The league will continue to engage with like-minded brands to create partnerships to grow the game and bring the NBA experience closer to our fans,” he affirms.

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