eSports on the NBA's agenda Share PDF Print E-mail
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Lebron_JameseSports - video game competitions that are played in arenas much like athletic sporting events - are currently undergoing a level of growth most traditional sports can only dream of.

It has been transformed from a minor event to a sporting heavyweight - with investment and income to match, attracting online viewers in the millions and crowds of hundreds of thousands in arenas across the globe.

This is something which hasn’t been lost on traditional sports organisations with FIFA increasing their presence in the space and the National Basketball Association (NBA) are hoping to build upon their debut in the field with ‘The Road to the Finals’ being viewed as a success.

Vandana Balachandar, Vice President, Head of Merchandising Group EMEA at the NBA, believes eSports offers the league new opportunities.

Speaking at Brand Licencing Europe, she said: “eSports is one area that is continuing to develop for us. Last year our partner 2K, included a Pro Am mode within NBA 2K16 allowing users to build teams and play against friends, and this evolved into an eSports tournament NBA 2K16: Road to the Finals which was very successful. It's something we are looking to build on and continue to develop globally."

eSports is just one of the areas that seems to be catching the industry leaders’ attention with virtual reality being touted by many as the next big thing in technology.

It’s slowly creeping into sports with organisations keen to increasing fan engagement to an increasingly global fan base.

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Balachandar continued: “The NBA has always embraced technology, virtual reality for example is an area we are looking into at the moment. We streamed the first live professional sports game in virtual reality on opening night last year and created a VR mini documentary about last year’s NBA Finals. On the consumer products side, our video game partners are already working in the VR space across other aspects of their business, so it's only a matter of time before we see how we can take this technology to our licensing business.”

While the growth of virtual reality is certainly an area of interest long term, the NBA is looking at how they can continue to grow globally in the immediate future, as well.

With jerseys, games and more flying off the shelves across the EMEA region, how do Balachandar and her team keep the different areas interested?

She explains: "EMEA is a diverse region and our popularity varies by country as well as what actually resonates with fans in the different markets. In the UK for example, the NBA is a very strong fashion brand as much as it is a sports league. People wear NBA apparel because it is considered fashionable and cool. The Brooklyn Nets with black and white are a cool fashion statement. Having celebrities sit courtside at our games helps as well as we’ve seen at prior Global Games in London, we get a great turnout of celebrities and athletes, and that all plays a part in promoting our brand, game and products to a more casual fan."

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The diverse nature of the different countries in the region means there are many challenges that the NBA face from a merchandising and licensing point of view.

Balachandar was keen to pinpoint one obvious challenge that the league faces when dealing with the international market.

"One of the main challenges is that most of our games are being played in the US. This means that only a small percentage of our global fans and even of the fans in the States can experience an actual live NBA game. Therefore we have to make sure that we get the true NBA experience to those fans. If you play NBA2K 17 for example, it's like watching a game. It is so realistic that a lot of young people get their first touch point on the NBA, players and teams through the game. But there are lots of other ways from a licensing perspective on how we can bring a true NBA experience to our fans. We just opened up an NBA Café in Barcelona and we will be opening NBA Stores in the Middle East next year so we can bring the excitement of the NBA to our fans around the world.”

iSportconnect will be hosting an eSports Masterclass on 22nd November click HERE for more information

 
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