NBA's Benjamin Morel

As basketball takes off as a grassroots sport across Europe, NBA EMEA is ramping up its licensing and merchandising activities after a move to a new London headquarters. Why the move to London from Paris? A quarter of all NB

April 6, 2018

3 Min Read

As basketball takes off as a grassroots sport across Europe, NBA EMEA is ramping up its licensing and merchandising activities after a move to a new London headquarters.

Why the move to London from Paris?

A quarter of all NBA merchandise sales are outside the U.S., and Europe is the strongest region. We've been in Europe for 15 years, since the U.S. fielded an NBA dream team at the Barcelona Olympics. The headquarters covers TV rights, digital media, events, sponsorship, merchandising and public relations and communications. We moved to London to boost the U.K. market, which we believe is underdeveloped, and as basketball is an Olympic sport that's played around the world we see the London Olympics in 2012 as a perfect showpiece. We also want to establish closer links with distribution in the U.K. and develop new apparel categories with very different positioning. i1_532.jpg

What's the licensing strategy?

We have a long-term approach and that pleases licensees and retailers. We have some license deals that have been renewed over 10 and 15 years. We avoid over-licensing because with our long-term approach it means that each licensee has the space to expand. We've segmented our market into sub-brands, including NBA Authentics, which is sportswear; NBA Classics, based on legendary players; NBA 4 Her; and NBA Toons, which is a cartoon characterization aimed at children. i2_245.jpgi2_t_112.jpg

But the key added value for retailers and for licensees is the range of rights we hold—that's all the logos, 30 NBA teams and all the NBA players. That's a huge advantage in the sports licensing industry because the key brands are always available, it works across all seasons and it's a closed league so there is no relegation or new teams joining the pack.

Do you work on direct-to-retail deals?

We're looking at the food industry using the NBA Fit message as a marketing platform. DTR deals work best when they are for specific categories and aim at conveying a specific message. i3_145.jpg

How are you building interest in basketball?

The mission of the NBA is to grow the sport of basketball, and we are doing this through events and supporting grassroots basketball playing—especially in underdeveloped markets such as the U.K., where we have a four-year program running up to the next Olympics.

The events we hold are critical in developing the European market. The next series of NBA Live events is in October and goes to Paris, London, Berlin and Barcelona, and the NBA Five is rolling around Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Turkey and Russia. We held music festivals, the NBA Jam Vans, over the summer where there are appearances from NBA players.

Every EMEA country shows NBA basketball on TV through live games, highlights, magazine programs and re-runs, and NBA.com is a huge destination for our European fans. i4_106.jpg

Which are the important markets?

Our biggest European markets are Spain, France and Italy, followed by Germany and the U.K. The development markets are Turkey, Russia and the Middle East. Basketball is already a major sport in the Baltics. Poland is the European basketball champion, and in Lithuania basketball is the national sport. Russia will soon be the No. 1 market for other sports brands, so we're watching it very closely.

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