NBA is in India ‘to stay’; but needs an Indian icon

Basketball League,Sports Network,Yao Ming,National Basketball Association,Sports Business News India

NBA has made an impressive footprint in the Indian market. As the professional basketball league of North America, biggest in the world, eyes further expansion in the land obsessed with its cricket icons, what it needs is an “Indian basketball icon representing an NBA club”.

Everything else seems to be falling in place for NBA’s ambitious business plans for the Indian sub-continent. The NBA also has on-going partnerships with Reliance Foundation since 2013 for Jr. NBA program, and Sony Sports Network for live telecast of the NBA games in India.

Former Ten Sports CEO Rajesh Sethi has been hired as the India managing director.

Broadcast partner Sony Pictures Sports Network has recorded 91 million viewers and over one billion minutes of the NBA content consumption in India during the last season of the NBA. For a deeper reach among Indian masses, 78 games were broadcast with Hindi commentary.

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On the social media and digital sphere, NBA’s social media handle had recorded 20 million engagements per month and there were one million paid users for the NBA’s fantasy games.

This healthy scenario ensures a rosy future for the professional basketball league in India. Presence of an Indian star in the NBA ranks can only expedite the growth and commercial base in the country.

As NBA plans its first pre-season games in India – The Indiana Pacers and Sacramento Kings in Mumbai on October 4 and 5, NBA’s vice-president of global business operations  Diane Gotua has told business daily Economic Times that India is a priority market for the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the league will see a surge in popularity in the country once an Indian player makes it to the NBA.

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“We are really excited about the India games. It’s a huge deal for us and the fact that the tickets of October 5 game were sold out on the very day of opening of the ticket sales, was a great sign,” the paper has quoted Diane Gotua as saying.

“We have a mix of global and local partners already for the India games, which is very encouraging. We have long-term plans to bring authentic NBA experience to India, and though it took a long time, this is just the starting,” said Diane, who will be based in Mumbai for the games.

Diane, with a first-hand understating of NBA’s India business as she had served as an interim managing director of India business before Sethi’s appointment, believes that local heroes are the key for the growth of basketball, said that NBA needs to find a player from India. “That will give Indian fans a reason to root for. That will also help us to increase our relevance in India,” she has shared with the business daily in an exclusive discussion.

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NBA had made its best progress in China after Yao Ming became the  who brought China to the NBA and NBA to China back in 2002, making basketball a top team sport in the country. Since 2012, the NBA has been organising pre-season games in China almost every year.

China had witnessed similar growth after Yao Ming joined the NBA in 2002, helping basketball become a top sport in China, where NBA is organising pre-season games every year since 2012.

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