Our friends at the BBC Sport have a report on the Association’s hopes for international regular season games. It appears the NBA plans to use their stars, at least initially, to market the live NBA experience. It begs the question of how the NBA plans on adding their brand to the international live event market. Will we some day see an All Star game in Paris? A Finals series?
The long term possibilities are endless. It could be something as mundane as All Star games in the greatest international cities in Europe, presumably making very healthy gates. Or it could be as wild as a full fledged European Basketball Association. Maybe the EBA champs could play the NBA champs every 4 years for the World Championship – think Futball.Whether the Association’s expansion is mundane or fantastic depends largely on the minutia. How will players react to the long trip? How do you fit that into an NBA schedule? How large is your market? How do you keep from over-investing? People already consume the NBA product internationally at an alarming rate. They love the sweet taste. Take for example that the NBA has already been able to establish a reality TV show in China, their largest market outside of the United States.
Ultimately, I think the NBPA will reject the notion of regular season games played in Europe. Sure, they’ll be fine to promote the live experience a few times a year. However, the notion that the current roster of NBA stars will not recoil at the long travel time and ensuing jet lag is laughable. Even more laughable is the idea of an NBA franchise in Europe, playing against franchises in North America. In terms of a sustained presence, the most likely outcome of expansion into the European live market is a kind of NBDL Europe, where native athletes will play under NBA rules in their home continent for a shot of being “called up” to play for an NBA team across the pond.
In this endeavor, the NBA faces challenges beyond their internal issues. There is already a thriving basketball business in Europe – one without a salary cap. This will make it exceedingly difficult to recruit top notch talent. People will choose the higher paying job nine times out of ten. The NBA will need to contrive benefits beyond pay in order to entice top Euro talent.
Whatever happens, it will be interesting to watch the how the NBA approaches expanding into the international market. They have a lot of details to work out. Like any endeavor, there are obstacles and pitfalls. However, the rewards can be great as well. One thing is certain, the NBA is already continuing to penetrate the market through televised events. They are building a solid base for eventual success drawing fans to live NBA events across the world.