Euro basketball comp readies UK expansion

The Euroleague, the premier basketball competition in Europe, is readying a major expansion drive to the UK as it looks to raise the profile of the sport.

European basketball chiefs outline commercial strategy to develop the Euroleague basketball brand in the UK.

Organisers are currently in talks with ESPN to broadcast matches with a long-term view of building a dedicated audience for a UK franchise. It has previously held broadcast agreements with with the US-based broadcaster as well as BSkyB.

It will launch several marketing initiatives in partnership with its sponsors and Generate Sponsorship in 2013 to raise awareness for its its annual Final Four competition, which consists of the season’s top four teams battling it out in two semi-finals and a final. It marks the first time the event has been hosted in the UK since 2001.

Despite the lack of competitive British teams at club level, the organisation hopes the Euroleague finals, will continue to raise the sports’ profile.

Jordi Bertomeu, chief executive for the Euroleague, says: “We’re a challenger brand in the UK and so our focus is to grow beyond our core fan base and really raise the profile of the brand. This will not benefit us in the long-term if we just focus on the Euroleague though, we’re working with the British Basketball League to develop the sport in the UK so that there’s a dedicated audience. By being in the UK we’ll also be able to attract new commercial partners looking to reach basketball fans.”

Euroleague chiefs are also in discussions with sport content agency Perform to host the content in the UK online. Earlier this year, the organisation launched its first mobile app to provide fans with live scores and video highlights.

Bertomeu says content will be “very important” to its brand building efforts moving forward with the business planning to increase the amount it produces in its emerging markets. “We’re using our web site, social media and other digital channels to educate people about Euroleague and the brand”, he adds.

Additionally, the Euroleague will launch grassroots initiatives in partnership with schools and local community groups over the next 12 months to target families and younger audiences. An average of 148,000 people play basketball at least once a week in the UK compared with more than 2.1 million who play football, according to Sport England. The Euroleague says it faces a challenge if it is to rival the popularity of other sports in the UK, but adds that the “fans will come” over time.

The league is one of Europe’s biggest and fastest growing sports brands, according to the organisation, with annual revenues increasing by over three and half times for the past 12 seasons. Revenues for 2012 were €27m (£21m), with more than half (63 per cent) coming from TV deals in more than 190 countries and a further 21 per cent from commercial partnerships from the likes of Nike and Turkish Airlines.

Despite the increases, Euroleague chiefs are looking to emerging markets such as Russia and China to offset declines in its core markets of Spain, Greece and Italy, which have all been affected by the eurozone crisis. London, and the rest of the UK, continue to remain an untapped basketball region, and the organisation is looking to steal a march on rival competition NBA by becoming the dominate brand.

The NBA continues to host off-season games in the UK and Euroleague chiefs say the “success” of these events proves that there is interest from the public.

The Euroleague’s expansion comes at a time when the NBA is also looking to exploit the UK market. It is using social media to reach out to young men in a bid to raise the profile of the sport and its stars such as Lebron James and British player Luol Deng.

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