NBA London 2016: Have the Games Helped NBA’s Global Growth and Basketball in the UK?

January 14, 2016

The National Basketball Association (NBA) returns to London on Thursday for its sixth regular season fixture, ailment with the Toronto Raptors taking on the Orlando Magic at the O2 Arena.

Once again the game is a sell-out and tickets sold out in under an hour, as they did in 2015. So why has the NBA London game become so popular since its inception in 2011?

Benjamin Morel, the NBA’s Senior Vice President & Managing Director, EMEA, puts the success down to momentum and how the game is promoted.

“They’ve [NBA London Games] been terrific and since they started in 2011 the momentum has kept going,” he said, speaking to iSportconnect.

“Most importantly we are seeing growth in the interest and in our following in the country and the games are definitely a key pillar of this.

“Last season the UK was our number one market for our e-commerce in the whole region and our number one market for video games so there’s definitely momentum and we’re very happy to see that.”

The game will be broadcast in the UK via BT Sport, the NBA’s UK broadcast partner in the UK and for the first time will be shown across various Odeon cinemas in the country.

So why London and what are the benefits?

“The reason why we bring an NBA regular season game to London and to Europe is to be able to showcase the authentic NBA experience and we want to do that in a state-of-the-art environment such as the O2 Arena, which enabled us to replicate that authentic experience,” said Morel.


Morel also believes, as well as the game itself, the NBA’s initiatives off the court has helped to grow the game and the sport as a whole in the UK and is a reason why the game continues to be a sell-out.

“The game is one key essential part of it, bringing the game to the country is definitely key, but it’s an aggregate of all the various initiatives that we have throughout the year as well, from the grassroots level when we partnered with Basketball England to do a junior NBA league programme,” he added.

“That for us is key because we really want to make sure we create all the opportunities for boys and girls to play the game.

“But at the same time we need to make our content more accessible and so we launched NBA Sundays to make sure that in every Sunday of the season at 8pm UK time we’ve got a regular appointment with our fans, with a great regular season match-up and all this basically combines all the various activities that we have from our existing partners in the country, whether its merchandising partners or sponsors and helps spark the interest.

“We have to bring the game to our fans and we’re very happy about the success of the London games so far.“


The National Football League (NFL) has staged multiple games in London in recent years and have announced more games in 2016 and beyond, with a first ever game at Twickenham. But Morel says the NBA’s focus isn’t currently to stage more than one regular-season game in London, but rather to tap into the global nature of the NBA and continue to take games to various regions around the world.

“We’re a true global sport, the NBA is a US sports league, but it’s a global sport and when you look at the amount of games that we’ve been staging over the years, whether it’s in Europe or internationally, this game will mark the 87th game we’ve had in Europe since 1984, but also this year this will be the seventh that we’re doing internationally,” Morel added.

“We had two in China, two in Europe for pre-season, one in London, one in Rio and one in Mexico as a regular season game and Mexico and London are our two regular season game features. So the amount of games and our global popularity requires us to be present in multiple countries and that’s our focus.”

The NBA have 10 marketing partners for this year’s London game, including Marriott Rewards (Presenting Partner), Foot Locker (a European partner), Tissot (global partner), Muller Rice (a UK partner), SAP, Cisco, adidas and 2K Sports.

Benjamin Morel admits the game has benefited the NBA from a commercial standpoint, but also sees it as a perfect opportunity for partners to get a return on their investments.

“For us it’s a way to engage new partners so we’re very happy to have Marriott and Muller on board and with our London game, we see that as a very sound investment in our long-term business in having more partners join us to help activate, as well as building our fan base and presenting the right entertainment opportunities to our fans,” he said.

“From a commercial standpoint the game provides the appropriate platform for our partners to activate around their NBA partnership, with a big focus this year on digital and social media which is great because it goes far beyond the people that actually attend the game.”


The Toronto Raptors return to London after featuring in the first ever NBA London game in 2011 against the New Jersey Nets and are currently one of the strongest teams in the Eastern Conference, sitting second in the standings with a 24-15 record.

The game should prove to be an intriguing one, with the Orlando Magic also possessing a winning record in the Eastern Conference (20-18) and are widely regarded as one of the most exciting young teams in the league.

London should be in for a fun occasion.


Read our Featured Profile Interview with Benjamin Morel HERE or watch the BIG Interview on iSportconnect TV.