Basketball fans don’t have to wait for the NBA season to start on October 28. FIBA, the International Federation of Basketball, has upgraded its world championship series to a stellar World Cup of Basketball event. The highly anticipated championship starts this Saturday, August 30 in six cities across Spain. With the U.S. Open and start of the UEFA Champions League soccer season competing for sports fans’ attention, building an audience for an all new world class sports event has been a challenge. FIBA is pursuing a textbook approach to get off to a good start.
FIBA is building a foundation for future World Cup of Basketball success with selective trial pricing. Standard seats furthest from the court sell for only 12 Euros, about sixteen U.S. dollars. The Los Angeles Clippers offer 300 level seats in this price range for Monday night games to encourage trial and build passion for basketball. The basketball marketing pros also know this is a good way to build e-mail marketing lists to upsell and cross sell in the future. But prices for popular NBA weekend games at the Clippers are twice as expensive and many of the November and December games are already sold out. The FIBA World Cup of Basketball is also matching NBA pricing for premium seats, which are being sold for 200 Euros in the finals matches, comparable to the $250 going rate for NBA weekend games.
FIBA is also augmenting the NBA audience by using the NBA Naismith Cup trophy as the centerpiece of its advance marketing campaign, a global trophy tour combined with fan events co-hosted with national basketball federations from Mexico City to Helsinki. While this has not had the prominence of the Olympic torch relay, the marketing objective has been similar. Pre-event publicity helps build and audience and encourage fans to plan ahead to participate with their own travel and ticket purchases. Of course, many sports fans do not need much more encouragement to plan a trip to Spain, one of the world’s most popular travel destinations. Spain’s newly inaugurated monarch, King Filipe VI, is an avid sports fan who worked together with basketball legend Pau Gasol on the Olympic bid of Madrid.
The hastag “#SPAIN2014” connects fans with Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Fans who want even more inside news can subscribe to the daily FIBA newsletter. The mascots Ole and Hop are animated to appeal to the youth audience. A classic “prestige” sponsorship from Swiss watchmaker Tissot is being matched by an prominent role for a less well known name – Molten Basketballs, which is putting a spotlight on American sports science know-how.
This marketing launch is not perfect. The trophy tour lists the World Cup dates as “(30 August-14 August)” a painful proofreading error that should not happen in a world class organization. But learning from mistakes is an important lesson that well managed sports events teach us all. Taking a classic approach to marketing a new world class sports event is giving FIBA valuable lessons about the 21st Century approach to marketing success. That is to advance beyond building an audience to building a community.