News

Rebranding in sports

LAST week the National Basketball League announced a five-year deal with Fox Sports Australia that will see all NBL games throughout the 2015/16 season broadcast live in stunning HD every night from Wednesday – Sunday. NBL executive director Larry Kestelman said that the Fox Sports partnership is an integral part of an ambitious NBL agenda that has been designed to position basketball as sport’s premier entertainment product. “This is a deal that will start a new era in basketball. It’s a vision that myself and the team at the NBL have had since taking over. We’re on a plan of a 100-day transformation of what basketball in Australia and New Zealand will look like,” he said. The landmark broadcast deal follows a number of significant changes, including a new digital partner with upgraded website, a new official game ball and a refreshed logo. The rebrand has been put in motion to enable the NBL to go head-to-head with cricket’s Big Bash League, and follow the success demonstrated by soccer’s A-League, which just celebrated its tenth successful season. Starting in 1977, the National Soccer League (NSL) was the first all-Australian soccer competition in the country, but failed to inspire the nation. In its 26 years of operation, 43 teams had participated in the competition and losses of some $140 million had been reported over this period. In 2003, a task force headed by former Sydney City Chairman Andrew Kemeny scrutinised the league by looking closely at its structure, name, participating clubs and season timelines. Fast-forward two years and the first A-League match kicked off in Newcastle in August 2005. The new national competition sported eight teams and a number of high-profile international stars, such as Dwight Yorke, that had soccer fans salivating. The league’s debut season exceeded expectations with more than one million people walking through the turnstiles throughout the course of the year - an average of 11,600 people per game. This encouraged an eager broadcast partner, Fox Sports, to negotiate a revised 7-year deal. Since their successful debut, public interest in the A-League has soared. Last season, the A-League averaged attendance figures of more than 13,000 per match with 11 sold-out matches and a total season attendance of 1.8 million people. Most encouragingly, average attendance over the past four seasons has risen by 21 per cent. Similarly in the late 2000s, Cricket Australia ran into some problems of their own, with research showing cricket was becoming less relevant and interest was falling among young, female and multicultural segments. Enter the sound and fury of the KFC Big Bash League (BBL): an eight team city-based tournament that replaced the six-year-old Twenty20 domestic competition made up of six traditional state teams. Cricket Australia unleashed a bold strategy, which included new logos, and digital offerings as well as new capital city based teams. Network Ten jumped on board and in 2013 signed a whopping $100 million five-year broadcast deal with Cricket Australia. The move paid off, with the network pulling in an average 910,000 viewers for the 2013/14 season. Australian cricket revenue nearly doubled to almost $296 million in 2013/14 with a surplus of almost $10 million, and the Big Bash telecast deal and the Ashes were ultimately responsible for these overwhelmingly positive results. With the first NBL game of the 2015/16 season tipping off at 7:30pm on Wednesday 7 October, fans don’t have long to wait to see how the new-look NBL stacks up against sport’s other recent success stories. If the NBL’s exciting new Fox Sports partnership is any indicator of the public’s confidence in the new-look NBL and basketball’s popularity, the best is yet to come.
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