The National Basketball Association is celebrating its elite players at the annual All Star Game in Chicago this weekend but recently, the league announced a commitment to stage a regular season fixture in Europe for the foreseeable future, following the success of the 2020 Paris Global Game last month, featuring the Milwaukee Bucks and the Charlotte Hornets.
After eight consecutive years of staging a regular season game in London, the NBA elected to move it to Paris this year, marking the first ever regular season match to be played in France. The league will return to Paris in 2021 before venturing beyond France for other European destinations.
Vijay Setlur, a Sport Marketing Instructor at the Schulich School of Business in Toronto, explains the motivating factors for taking the game across the old continent.
“To play in one city or country isn’t really maximizing the opportunity,” explained Setlur. “Countries like France, Italy and Spain have strong basketball cultures. France, in particular, is the top European market for NBA apparel and also a prominent consumer of NBA League Pass, the OTT streaming service.”
The NBA is strategically expanding its footprint across the globe with offices in South Africa, India, Brazil and China. The objective is to open up new markets, cultivate new global partnerships and, as a result, derive new income streams.
But it’s not all about economic gains. The league continues to scour foreign markets to recruit new players. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has indicated that fully 25% of the league’s players were born outside of the U.S. While there is a very talented Canadian contingent included in that group, many others are drawn from the rich European basketball system. In fact, there were 108 international players from 38 countries on 2019-20 opening night rosters, including 60 European players.
“EuroBasket is a major tournament featuring top club teams on the continent where basketball is already entrenched,” Setlur said. “This is also an opportunity for the NBA to leverage player development and encourage player exchanges.”
When it was staged in London, the Toronto Raptors played in the Global Game twice. Now that they are defending NBA champions, Setlur says it’s quite likely Canada’s team will be a more frequent participant.
“The Raptors modus operandi is to be a diverse team and, with their international roster of players and coaches, they embody inclusivity and diversity,” said Setlur. “I think they would welcome the opportunity to build their brand in a new market. Recently, the NBA changed its policies to allow clubs to promote their brands outside their local markets. Teams like the Raptors, Brooklyn Nets, Los Angeles Clippers now have the opportunity to become truly global brands.”
As the NBA’s showcase All-Star event takes centre stage in Chicago this weekend, you can bet basketball fans in France and right across Europe will be following the proceedings very closely knowing they’ll have more opportunities to see the game’s greatest stars live and up close for many years to come.