Beyond the Game: NBA India's Sports and Style Fusion
Beyond the Game: NBA India's Sports and Style Fusion

The National Basketball Association (NBA), in the recent past has seen multiple collaborations with various brands and media organizations. Since 2011, the NBA has played a crucial role in nurturing Indian talent. The brand has enhanced its retail portfolio through multiple licensing deals in collaboration with retail giants like Decathlon and Reliance Retail.

A recent report by the Retail Association of India indicates that the Indian sports retail industry is poised to reach $43.81 billion by 2028, with a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 7.82 percent.

Growth of the NBA in India

In an interview with IndianRetailer.com, Sunny Malik, Business Head – Global Partnerships and Media, NBA India, discussed their licensing and merchandising strategy in India, along with their broadcasting and streaming strategy tailored to the Indian market.

Regarding the NBA's growth in India, Malik stated, “India is a priority market for the NBA, and we have seen tremendous growth in basketball and our fan base since entering the market in 2011. Our initiatives—from grassroots programs and expanded game availability to immersive NBA experiences—are all geared towards nurturing this growth. We focus on engaging kids in basketball early, with our youth programs forming the backbone of our strategy. This pathway allows young talent to develop and progress from Jr. NBA and NBA Basketball School to Basketball Without Borders Asia, and eventually to the national team and professional leagues worldwide.”

Malik added, “We are also transforming the way fans experience the NBA by offering them multiple touchpoints to connect with the brand beyond live games. This includes a variety of original, localized content, esports, fantasy gaming, and expanded merchandising efforts. Moreover, we aim to grow our lifestyle platform, NBA Style, to connect with fans through music, fashion, art, and entertainment.”

Unique Collaborations

In November last year, the NBA announced a multiyear collaboration with Bhaane to launch and operate NBAStore.in. The e-commerce website offers a wide range of authentic NBA merchandise, including player jerseys, apparel, headwear, performance and casual footwear, basketballs, accessories, and more from major brands like Nike, New Era, Mitchell & Ness, Wilson, and NBA Fanwear by Suditi.

Malik elaborated on these collaborations, saying, “We have established several strategic collaborations to expand our reach and offer diverse, high-quality products to our fans. Our association with Bhaane to launch NBAStore.in marked a significant milestone, providing a comprehensive selection of official NBA merchandise. This digital-first approach, complemented by our collaboration with Decathlon and Reliance Retail for our offline retail presence, has helped us extend our footprint in the retail space in India.”

He further mentioned, “We have also expanded our longstanding collaboration with Suditi for licensed NBA fanwear and introduced NBA Style India in 2021 to harness this nexus of sports and style. These initiatives reflect our strategy to meet the growing demand for authentic and stylish basketball merchandise and enhance our brand presence in India.”

NBA Merchandise

NBA’s Broadcasting Strategy

To build a healthy ecosystem for basketball fans in India, the NBA has collaborated with Viacom18 and Prasar Bharati to broadcast live and non-live basketball matches. Malik explained, “There have never been more options for Indian fans to watch NBA games and other NBA programming. Our goal is to reach NBA fans around the world on the devices and platforms they use most. Through our collaboration with Viacom18 and Prasar Bharati, we offer fans easy access to both live and non-live NBA, WNBA, and NBA G League programming in English and Hindi."

“The 2022-23 NBA season was the league’s most-watched ever in India, surpassing 100 million unique viewers across linear and digital media platforms for the first time. For the league, direct-to-consumer is a critically important part of the future of our business. Therefore, we introduced the new and improved NBA App globally at the start of the 2022-23 season, which offers fans more ways to engage with the league through premium content, wall-to-wall highlights, and a new league membership program, NBA ID.”

Additionally, the NBA's association with Loco for streaming the NBA 2K League and with Dream11 for fantasy games helps tap into India’s fast-growing esports market. Malik added. 

India – A Priority Market

According to the Skyquest Licensed Sports Merchandise Market Report, the global licensed sports merchandise market was valued at around $30.8 billion in 2021 and is expected to rise from $32.65 billion in 2022 to reach $52.04 billion by 2030, at a CAGR of 6 percent during the forecast period (2022–2030).

Discussing the opportunities in the Indian market, Malik said, “India is a priority market for the NBA, offering enormous opportunities in the world's most populous country, where more than 50 percent of the population is under the age of 25. Since every market is unique, a ‘one size fits all’ strategy doesn’t work and needs to be tailored to suit local needs.”

Malik elaborated, “India is a price-sensitive market, making it distinct from several of our other global markets. Hence, we offer a range of products at various price points to ensure accessibility while maintaining the NBA’s premium brand image. This contrasts with the West, where consumers are more inclined to spend on premium merchandise. Despite this price sensitivity, the licensing business, particularly in merchandising, has shown visible growth in recent years across various price points, from value to luxury.”

Increasing Global Demand

“The presence of global partners like Nike, Decathlon, and New Era, alongside local partners such as Reliance Retail and Suditi, has enabled us to offer a wide range of merchandise that caters to different consumer segments. Additionally, the market size and maturity levels differ between India and the West. While the NBA has a long-established presence in the West with a large and well-developed fan base, our presence in India is relatively newer, and the fan base is still growing,” said Malik. .

Comparing Global market situation with India, Malik said, "NBA is more than a sports league. Globally, the NBA has had a major influence on popular culture for decades and this phenomenon has made its way into India as well, gaining significant traction over the last few years.  To harness this nexus of sports and style, we introduced NBA Style India in 2021.  The goal of NBA Style is to expand our audience beyond core basketball fans and build a community of enthusiasts that understand and appreciate the personalization of NBA culture and fashion, while also serving as an introduction to the sport through high-fashion merchandise."

He concluded, "Overall, while our goals in India and the West are similar, our strategies in the country focus more on affordability, local partnerships, and cultural relevance to cater to the unique market dynamics.  By doing so, we aim to create a robust and sustainable market for NBA merchandise in India, fostering a deeper connection with our fans and contributing to the overall growth of basketball in the country."

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