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Exclusive | How NBA is expanding its footprint in India!

The National Basketball Association (NBA) is a global league that is committed to growing the game of basketball and increasing participation worldwide. The Basketball Federation of India (BFI), which came into being in 1950, is the governing and controlling body of basketball in India, responsible for the development and promotion of the sport at all levels. BFI oversees all the national level basketball operations in India. 
NBA and BFI have developed a long-standing partnership to develop basketball across India, including administration of the country’s largest, multi-city,community-based basketball league, the Mahindra NBA Challenge. Now in its third year, the Mahindra NBA Challenge has grown from three cities to five, doubled in participation, and has helped identify participants for the national team.
Currently, NBA has marketing partnerships in India with Adidas, Coca-Cola, HP, Mahindra, Nike, Reebok, and Spalding;which have enabled it to increase its fan base in India and grow the game of basketball.
In its third year,NBA has launched the Generation Adidas Players program which provides gear and a year of special training to the top 40 players in the Under 16 and Under 13 age divisions across India. The NBA Biggest Fan contest & NBA JAM were some of the other attractions that were offered by NBA this year.
Elaborating on the marketing  initiatives, Akash Jain, Senior Director, Business Development & Partnerships, NBA India said, “NBA Jam; which happens to be NBA’s  largest fan event  in India attracted 150 teams and concluded with a National Championship. Also,  the first ever NBA Biggest Fan Contest was implemented  this year in which fans answered trivia during NBA broadcasts via sms and the two winners  won an all-expense paid trip to the NBA Finals as NBA’s Biggest Fans. The move was initiated to drive tune-in to our game broadcasts.”
The Mahindra NBA Challenge attracted more elite participants and featured 20 members of the National Team.  In its third season, the program had leagues running in five cities with approximately 7,000 players participating that made up 600 teams.
NBA launched its widest assortment of NBA merchandise in 200 Adidas stores last year; which included player jerseys for the first time. As an extension to the same, an expanded selection of jerseys is now available this season. NBA is also in talks with various Indian brands  for promotion purposes.
NBA seeks to grow the game at a grassroots level. It intends to provide more NBA content to fans through TV and digital offerings, and work with partners to bring more authentic NBA experiences to Indian fans. Interestingly, Bollywood celebrities like Lara Dutta and Ranbir Kapoor have been a part of NBA games abroad . Fans in India have  also shown tremendous interest in the league’s globally recognized personalities such as Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, and LeBron James; who  are tremendous ambassadors for the game of basketball. 
Viewership of NBA games and consumption of NBA content has grown significantly over the last several years. Talking about its partnership ventures; Akash Jain says, “We have great broadcast partners in Ten Sports and Sony, which signed on last season.  These partnerships have helped us achieve our widest reach ever this season through TV and digital offerings including six live games per week with replays in prime time. We are constantly working with our partners to find innovative ways to bring NBA programming to our fans.” He also stated that they are pleased with the growth in viewership and online traffic and expect it to continue to increase as fan base in India grows.
NBA has seen tremendous success in all areas of business that it ventured into, be it the growth of the Mahindra NBA Challenge,  or  the expansion of Adidas NBA merchandise offerings, and also the Biggest Fan contest run in association with broadcaster Ten Sports.
“With the popularity and visibility of our game on the rise, we are constantly meeting with parties interested in leveraging basketball and the NBA to drive their business objectives,” added Akash.
The future objective is to grow the league to 10 cities in the next several years; a vision that is shared by both Mahindra and the BFI.
Talking about the longstanding association with Basketball Federation of India(BFI), Akash said, “ Our strong partnership with the BFI has been critical to the back-end work that has been done to establish our programs in India. When we began to lay out our long-term plan a few years ago, the knowledge and network of the BFI was essential to defining our strategies. The BFI is now our operational and logistics partner across all our development programs.  We have conducted over 300 coaching and player clinics across India in the last three years and are now hosting grassroots events in eight cities, which have become premiere platforms to identify talented and aspiring youth. These initiatives are rapidly accelerating grassroots participation in basketball.”
Over 15 current and former NBA and WNBA players have visited India in the last three years. These players are great ambassadors for the game and allow fans in India the rare opportunity to interact with NBA stars.
NBA has also engaged the digital and social media platforms  to pursue tech-savvy Indian youth.  Over 200,000 fans from India now follow the NBA on Facebook and Twitter. They currently have a localized NBA India Facebook page as well as a Mahindra NBA Challenge page. These pages are used to engage fans on a daily basis through contests, polls, videos, photos, etc.  The feedback and response received  by the NBA on these pages is fantastic.
On an end note; Akash said, “We believe there is a tremendous amount of untapped potential for basketball in India.  There is a growing appetite for sports and entertainment, and the game is perfectly suited for the country as it’s easy to play, inclusive and requires little space.  We are extremely proud of the results we have seen to this point and the future is bright.” | By Aditi Popat [aditi(at)]

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