Now Heidi Ueberroth has one of the most daring jobs in all sports—to make basketball the most popular game in the world, surpassing soccer, and to make the NBA the most powerful global athletic league.Beat soccer? To most experts, the idea sounds quixotic. Soccer is more popular than basketball practically everywhere in the world outside the United States. According to the Gaskins Company, in any given year three billion fans view soccer games on TV or in person. But soccer’s capacity for growth may not be as broad as basketball’s.
Sitting in a conference room surrounded by huge wall posters of the biggest names in basketball—Yao Ming, Dwyane Wade, and LeBron James of the NBA, and Diana Taurasi and Swin Cash of the Women’s NBA—Heidi Ueberroth uses corporate jargon to explain her strategy.
The key, says the NBA’s 42-year-old president for International Business Operations, is “touch points.”
To supplant soccer as the top global sport, the NBA needs to “touch” fans wherever they go in the world—from the rural communities of China to the urban playgrounds of London, from the barrios of Latin America to the suburban schools of the Midwest. There must be constant promotion of the NBA’s stamp, its corporate partners, and its larger-than-life players. The NBA brand must become as recognizable as Coca-Cola or McDonald’s.
“The goal is to be in every point where our fans can interact with the game,” she says. “Sure, you want them playing the game. But if they’re going to watch TV, you want them watching an NBA game. If they’re going to be playing a video game after watching the game, we want them playing [an NBA game]. Then if they’re going out and buying apparel, you want it to be our apparel. It’s an integrated approach.” Add to that list cell phones beeping with game updates and iPods with video highlights, restaurants and bars beaming NBA games, hundreds of clinics and tournaments for rising and established stars, Coke cans and McDonald’s restaurants celebrating NBA stars, training camps staged all over the world, and an NBA “Jam Van” hitting the road for 25,000 miles. Like fast food, PCs, mutual funds, hip-hop, and Hollywood movies, basketball—the quintessential American sport, invented by a phys-ed instructor at a YMCA training school in Springfield, Massachusetts—is going global.
♠ Posted by Emmanuel in Sports at 2/18/2008 05:58:00 PMAfter a very self-serving article on why football (soccer) is the global sport according to a British Financial Times commentator, what we have here is a return of serve on why basketball may be poised to overtake football by, er, The American. Journalistic jingoism--don't leave home without it: