Infront Keeps Faith in CBA

November 27, 2012

Swiss-based marketing group Infront Sports & Media has reportedly extended its partnership with the with the Chinese Basketball Association by five years, despite financial losses incurred during the original seven-year contract.

The new deal is reportedly worth US$270 million and Phillippe Blatter, Infront’s President and CEO, said the amount of money involved reflects the league’s huge potential.

“It’s not just increasing financial commitment. It’s also a lot to do with know-how, expertise, innovation and passion that we invest. This is the most important value Infront adds,” Blatter said.

“I believe the next five years will be the time when we can jointly reap the fruits from all the efforts we made over the past seven years.”

“I think it has the potential to be one of the most successful and valuable sports leagues worldwide in the long run.”

Since partnering with the CBA, Infront has played a significant role in marketing the league’s commercial rights, optimising media coverage and developing the league to try to raise its international appeal.

At the end of last season, a cumulative TV audience of over 700 million had been reached, almost a 130-percent increase since 2005.

The league’s All-Star Game has become a big attraction in some of the country’s state-of-the-art stadiums, such as Beijing’s MasterCard Center and Guangzhou’s International Sports Arena. Last season, the game lured a record TV audience for the second consecutive season, reaching 100 million viewers.

Infront has yet to profit significantly but Blatter says the company is thinking ahead.

“We are investing in China for long-term success, not to gain short-term profit,” he said. “It takes time to develop a great product and we are definitely on the right track.”

Blatter has cited the increasing quality of the competition and support from sponsors as reasons for his faith in the league.

“First the product — it’s an exciting competition with national and international stars coming from the NBA, which is proof that the league has been recognized by the basketball world,” he said.

The CBA will have a greater TV presence this season, CCTV-5 will broadcast four live games plus three tape-delayed matches every week, aiming to surpass last season’s total of 2,912 hours of coverage.

More media exposure has attracted 23 sponsors, including Li Ning, which signed a five-year, US$321 million deal.

“The record Li-Ning agreement shows there is no better commercial and communication platform than the CBA today in China,” Blatter said. “With all these ingredients, I am very confident the league will continue to grow stronger. It is already now on par with other major international properties.”

The CBA is delighted to continue to partner with Infront.

“Over the past seven years, the CBA has made progress in terms of athletic performance, commercial value and social impact,” said CBA Vice-Chairman, Xin Lancheng. “Infront has been a key partner in this process and shares the association’s vision regarding long-term development.”

Blatter said the league still has room for improvement over the next five years.

“We want to raise the standard of the sponsor service, we want to improve our sponsors’ connection with the fan base,” he said. “Also, we plan to optimise the media production standards for all games. As a first step, starting this season, the TV production of CBA games will all be delivered with a consistent production standard. For the first time, the lighting in all venues will be the same level, which meets the broadcasters’ demands.

“Based on these improvements, we are very optimistic we can attract a larger audience and further improve viewing figures, also internationally. I am sure the best is yet to come for Chinese basketball.”{jcomments on}