The high-profile partnership between Tencent and the USA’s NBA shouldn’t blind marketers to the many other opportunities that exist across Asia to tie their brands to the hugely popular sport of basketball.

Almost half a billion basketball fans in China watched NBA programming on Tencent’s platforms last season, but the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) offers a rather different audience, according to Yuhai Chen, a strategist at Superunion, a brand agency which has the CBA as a client.

“The core values of American basketball are around victory and fighting and sportsmanship. It’s very American-style,” Chen told Campaign Asia.

“The NBA of course has a lot of star players and people like that, but if you think of CBA as a local brand, it really taps into Chinese sportsmanship and culture” and, he claimed, is attracting a young, trendy audience and non-endemic brands.

Furthermore, the NBA might be good for wider coverage, Chen suggested, but the CBA is the better option for engagement and reaching regional audiences.

The NBA is also big in the Philippines, where basketball is the country’s favourite sport and where the Philippines Basketball Association (PBA) was Asia’s first professional sports league.

It’s a big advertising platform for local brands, according to Marvin Espiritu, sports marketing consultant and co-founder of Espiritu Manotoc Basketball Management – not just for reaching the domestic market but also the many Filipinos living overseas.

But the set-up is unique: each of the PBA’s 12 teams is owned by a brand and any new entrants have to prove their long-term financial commitment to the team and its marketing. The new entrant is then voted on by existing members.

“If I am a brand, I cannot simply come in and tell the PBA ‘Here’s a couple of million dollars; in exchange, put my name on my jersey’,” explained Espiritu. “Once you own a franchise, you’re there for the long run.”

And, unlike the NBA’s focus on individual players, “the PBA is an owner’s league … it focuses on the rivalry between the teams instead of rivalry between the players”.

While that puts some limits on the opportunities for other brands, there’s still the option of simply buying ad spots from broadcast networks when games air.

Sourced from Campaign Asia; additional content by WARC staff