The Final Whistle

22.09.2014

The Big V season may be finished, but what better time to talk basketball? The week to week grind may ease up for a couple of months, but you can be assured that every club is working overtime right now in the hope of building towards bigger and better results in 2015, well that’s the plan anyway. You can also be assured that plenty of people will be watching the NBA during our summer months.

Speaking of building to bigger and better things, I’d like to shine the light brightly on Basketball Australia, I wonder what they are up to as we speak? 

No doubt the World Champs have been a high priority, firstly for the men and shortly for the women. Exciting times to highlight our top end talent. Mind you, and certainly no disrespect to those flying the flag on the international stage in such prestigious events, I can’t help but feel another big opportunity requires immediate attention, and loads of it!

From all reports the latest count of Australians set to play in the NBA this coming season is seven, potentially eight if Aron Baynes is locked and loaded at the Spurs (or elsewhere in the NBA) again. Imagine that, eight Aussies rubbing shoulders with the likes of LeBron, Durant, Davis and Kobe. Who would have thought? How often does Hayley’s Comet soar past us?

Between Patty Mills, Andrew Bogut, Matthew Dellavedova, Brock Motum, Dante Exum, Cameron Bairstow, Joe Ingles and potentially Baynes, the Aussie flag will be flying higher than ever before when the NBA season tips off this October. And, if future predictions ring true, it won’t be long before we are adding Ben Simmons and Thon Maker to the Australian contingent plying their trade in the world’s biggest and most followed basketball league.

So, back to my original question, what is Basketball Australia up to at the moment?

Never before in Australian basketball history have we been presented with such an ideal opportunity to leverage the biggest competition in the world with potentially eight Aussies – what an unbelievable gift we are being presented with! If Australian basketball wasn’t on the map before, it sure is now. 

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – hit the playgrounds and basketball gyms across Australia and our passionate grassroots players will talk about the NBA until they run out of air in their lungs, but start talking about the NBL and they’ll run off to the canteen or find something else to entertain them within seconds.

Given that we all acknowledge the shortcomings of our national competition, though to be fair they are certainly heading in a far more positive direction these days, we need to latch on to this NBA phenomenon as quickly as possible. Eight players in the NBA is just incredible. Promote, promote, promote! 

Do we want to grow the game here in Australia? Grow the popularity of the NBL, WNBL, player pathways, local clubs and associations, representative programs, school competitions? Do we want to attract more corporate dollars and more mainstream media coverage? Do we want to get back to the days when basketball was seen as a major player against the football codes?

When Dante Exum was recently drafted the media here in Australia went crazy for it. Same can be said when Mills and Baynes won an NBA Championship with the Spurs. Our media lapped it up, the headlines belonged to basketball. Surely we learnt the potential for more media coverage from those two events, didn’t we?

Every sport craves role models, those chosen few whose names are mentioned endlessly in the playground – Jezza, Ablett, Billy Slater, Kewell and Viduka. Right now we have as many as eight basketball players who we can also make household names by virtue of their incredible talents that has seen them reach the absolute top competition on offer.

We have a chance to get the kids yelling out Mills, Bogut, Exum, Dellavedova, Baynes, Motum, Bairstow and Ingles.

If Basketball Australia isn’t working on a marketing plan right now they are kissing away the biggest gift they have ever been presented with. Ever!

Can’t say I’ve seen a job add seeking someone to lead the Australian NBA Marketing Team as I’d probably send an application in, but that’s the exact role that Basketball Australia should be looking to launch …. immediately! Heck, get two or three people driving this if that’s what is needed.

Basketball Australia needs to place a huge focus on this opportunity. How can they connect with these eight players, leverage off them back to grassroots, promote their local clubs and regions and where each of their basketball journeys started. Give them the credit they deserve and show our future stars the great pathways and opportunities basketball can deliver.

Start working your backside off to get singlets from each of our NBA stars in the stores. Do a deal with Target or K Mart, a merchandise agreement, work together with the NBA marketing gurus, make our Aussies accessible. Promote, promote, promote!

Engage with media every day, promote big games such as the November 3 clash between the Clippers and Jazz which will feature Joe Ingles up against Dante Exum and Brock Motum. Three Aussies in an NBA game, amazing! I’ll actually be at that game and it will no doubt be one of the most memorable sporting events I’ve ever been to. I’ll forever be able to say I was there the day three Australians played in the same NBA game.

Spend the whole year running competitions and giving away the singlets belonging to our Aussie stars. Use this opportunity to engage with the grassroots, after all it is probably the biggest knock on Basketball Australia - not enough connection down the line. Well, here’s your chance!

Get on a plane, use the NBA media days and open training sessions to record interviews and promotional grabs with our Aussie players. Plan ahead, think big. I’m guessing they all have Boomers contracts, so you can’t tell me the lines of communication aren’t open and readily available.

Communicate with the eight players and tell them what you’re doing. Engage with them and ask them for help. Put a marketing plan together, put a person solely in charge of this operation and go hammer and tongs at it. Weekly interviews with the players, video messages back to Australia, set up interviews on leading prime time television shows like The Project. Promote, promote, promote!

Get our kids picking up a basketball at school and telling their friends that they want to be the next Dellavedova, the next Ingles, the next Motum or Exum. Get the kids going home and asking mum to sign them up at the local basketball club because they saw a promotional video on our NBA stars at school today.

Every sport complains about the massive focus given to the AFL and NRL, but both of those sports will largely be in their off-season while the NBA is on, so don’t complain any longer. Here’s your chance Basketball Australia, don’t fumble it. Get posters of our NBA stars made up and put them up in every basketball stadium this side of the black stump, and the other side of it too!

Make these eight players household names. They all play different positions as well, perfect! Be a guard like Patty, be a forward like Motum, be a centre like Bogut. Hey kids, Dante Exum started in the VJBL …… JUST LIKE YOU!

The NBA has a connection with our youth, it’s massive, and right now we can take the sport on the biggest ride we’ve ever seen here in Australia. The NBL and WNBL seasons will be in full swing while the NBA is being played, an absolutely perfect turn of events that simply cannot be missed. I know we like to use current NBL players as the face of the NBL, but why not ask our NBA players to get involved? Leverage every opportunity we can to show how bloody good our game is and how fantastic we, Australian basketballers, are on the world stage.

I’m sick and tired of hearing how big basketball was in the 1980s and 1990s, I want to hear people talking about the 2014/15 NBA season and how Basketball Australia masterminded a marketing campaign like never before. How Basketball Australia leveraged the unbelievable fact that we had eight Aussies in the NBA! How Basketball Australia connected with the grassroots and helped clubs and associations grow like never before. That’s what I want to hear! 

Think about this for a moment – every kid out there under the age of 20 wasn’t alive before 1994, so stop talking about how big the game was back then. It doesn’t matter to them, today’s generation of teenagers have no idea what you’re talking about. Stop talking to a brick wall.

What they do know about is the Cavs, Lakers, Celtics, Thunder and Heat. The Pacers, Clippers, Jazz and Bulls. They crave the NBA, so sell them what they want.

Make it easier for them to connect with what they know. If you want to grow the game, pick the lowest hanging fruit. Right now we have eight ripe apples sitting on the tree waiting to be picked, and they are the juiciest apples Basketball Australia has ever had the chance to reach up and pluck.

So, over to you Basketball Australia – please tell me you have already recognised this ‘Haley’s Comet’ moment that basketball has been presented with and that you don’t need my application or anyone else’s for that matter because you are already three steps ahead of us all. That would be music to my ears.

 

The Final Whistle has blown!


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