On the sidelines of the ongoing NBA season, Media Samosa speaks to NBA India’s Siddharth Chury about the league’s brand sponsorships and the growth of non-cricket sports in the country.
The National Basketball Association (NBA) recently announced a multi-year partnership with HARMAN followed by the launch of the 2020-21 season tip-off campaign video, “Only Here,” featuring the league’s top stars. Siddharth Chury, NBA India Associate Vice President, Global Partnerships speaks at length about the changing dynamics of sports marketing in India, the popularity of non-cricket sports, advertisers’ sentiments towards the league, and more.
What does the nature of the partnership with HARMAN entail?
We are excited to once again collaborate with HARMAN in India following our partnership during the first-ever NBA India Games last year. This partnership will provide fans an immersive experience in the 2020-21 season by providing NBA elements into its retail destinations in the country and make HARMAN and its brand JBL, the official sound partner of the league in India.
Beyond the hardwood, the NBA continues to influence popular culture at large, including music, style, and entertainment.
Through this partnership, we will build on the synergies of our two brands and create new and innovative ways for fans in India to experience the excitement of the NBA.
How do you strategize to leverage the brand’s presence across to amplify the reach of the league?
At the NBA, we have a 360-degree marketing strategy inclusive of digital, social, on-ground, ATL, and outdoor that aims to connect with players, fans, and stakeholders across verticals. However, in 2020, social media has been one of the key tools for us given how universal and inclusive the platform is. The NBA’s fanbase in India is quite young they are very much active on the digital platforms, so we are focused more on that.
Over the 2019-20 season, NBA’s social media platforms in India generated 220M views, 351M reach, and 17.5M engagement across all local social media channels.
The NBA’s Global Instagram page added over 117k new followers from India during the season restart, the largest growth for any country in that span.
Where does India stand in the entire scheme of key markets for the NBA and how?
India is a priority market for the NBA given the tremendous potential and talent pool that it offers. We see an opportunity in basketball, especially with a young population, to build a strong fanbase over time.
At the same time, it also poses its own unique set of challenges, including the local basketball infrastructure. But we’ve taken steps to address these challenges through our grassroots initiative Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA program, our elite development efforts through the NBA Academy among many. Through our efforts, we’ve put basketballs into the hands of boys and girls – from grassroots all the way to elite level – and delivered new live game experiences to our fans.
Our grassroots initiative in India, the Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA program launched in 2013. Since inception, the program has engaged more than 11M youth across 13K schools and trained more than 13,000 physical education instructors nationwide. We also partnered with India On Track (IOT) to launch the first NBA Basketball School in the world in Mumbai in 2017. NBA Basketball School is a network of tuition-based basketball development programs around the world open to international male and female players ages 6-18.
The global account of the league now has 1.7M total followers from India, the 4th most represented country behind the US (10+), Brazil (2.2), and the Philippines (2.0).
The International League Pass gross subscribers grew by over 40% compared to the 2018-19 season. We have had more than 1.7M unique users playing NBA Fantasy on Dream11 in FY20, drawing total entry fees 2.6x of 2018-19 season.
How has the advertiser’s sentiment been looking at the current situation? Currently, how many advertisers have boarded and how do the investments look like?
Over the past six years, football and basketball have been the fastest growing sports in the country, with strong participation and following among urban youth in India.
Just a few days back we announced the extension of our long-standing fantasy gaming partnership with Dream11 by offering the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) and the G League for the first time to users in India. In August, we announced a partnership with Loco to stream NBA 2K League matches in India.
What is the need for the mass-ification of niche sports or non-cricket ones, according to you, and how you as a brand sponsor leading the thought?
The Indian sporting landscape is growing along with the rising interest in non-cricket sports. The country has more than a billion people, with a growing middle class, increasing disposable income, and a median age of 28. We don’t see ourselves as competing with anyone. Cricket, of course, goes way back, but, as with all these additional sporting leagues, there is plenty of room for basketball in India. Our focus is on teaching kids how to play and to enjoy the sport so that they can follow it as they grow.
Last year, during the NBA India Games 2019, we launched Home Court in association with celebrity photographer Rohan Shrestha. This was NBA’s first coffee table book in India capturing unique stories from basketball communities. In 2019, we also partnered with Culture Machine and UBER to locally produce and distribute a four-part lyrical documentary series – Hoop Nation.
Also Read: For massification of non-cricket properties, high entertainment quotient & localization is must: Rajesh Kaul,…
According to you, what has been the growth curve of non-cricketing sports been in India vis-a-vis global?
There’s no denying that India has always been a cricket-loving nation and will continue to be the no.1 sport. However, over the past few years, we have been witnessing a breakthrough in non-cricket sports, which has been long overdue.
While cricket may generate an intuitive passion, sports such as basketball, badminton, boxing, kabaddi, football, and wrestling come with a sense of new culture and community which the younger and new fans are attracted.
What are the revenue sources for NBA in India?
We do not disclose our financials. The NBA’s revenues come primarily from our content syndication across linear & digital platforms, direct to consumer offering, original localised content creation, consumer products via licensing & merchandising, and via marketing partnerships with leading brands.
Pre corona vs. post corona: has marketing during the NBA or sports marketing in general changed dramatically?
We’ve always said 99% of NBA fans never step foot in an NBA arena. During the bubble (in Orlando), we were in a situation where 100% of our fans were not in the arena, so we recognize that it’s critically important that we do everything we can to create immersive, engaging experiences for our fans domestically and internationally. The future of sports will be defined by technology’s ability to bring the game directly to fans on their preferred device – which is especially true about reaching fans outside of North America. We have a three-pronged strategy to help grow the game of basketball globally:
- Creating opportunities for boys and girls to play the game;
- Bringing the NBA experience to fans around the world through live games and interactive fan events;
- Making the game more accessible and delivering localized content to international fans.
In just three years, the NBA has seen a 43% growth in social media views across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok (9.2 billion in 2017 vs. 13.2 billion in 2020). Propelled by the Restart, we established new records across social media during the 2019-20 season with 20 billion total video views (+17%) and 1.7 billion actions (+30%), breaking the 2018-19 season marks.