High hoops: National Basketball League gets set to hit multiple screens, tries to tempt naming rights sponsor with growth stats

Next week, the National Men’s Basketball League will begin, with games live-streamed by NZME and broadcast on Maori TV. And now, as the sport continues to grow in popularity. Basketball New Zealand is looking for a brand to get involved as naming rights sponsor.  

Starting 16 March, 37 games will be live-streamed on the NZ Herald website while Maori TV broadcasts 11 live and 15 delayed games throughout the season. On offer is branding across everything NBL and the terrestrial and satellite coverage.

Basketball New Zealand’s commercial director, Chris Simpson, says last year’s 27 live-streamed NBL games each generated an audience of over 4,000 people and he says those numbers are set to grow this year because of both Maori TV’s broadcasted games and because of the sport’s growing popularity.

“The number of New Zealanders playing and watching basketball are going through the roof at the moment,” says Simpson, and the numbers back him up.

According to the New Zealand Secondary Schools Sports Council, basketball saw a 27 percent increase in students playing it between 2011 and 2016, making it the fastest growing major sport in the country (a major sport being one with over 10,000 players).

Right now there are over 23,100 teenagers playing basketball in schools—60 percent being male and 40 percent female—and Simpson says if it continues its current rate of growth, it will be the top sport in New Zealand in a few years.

It’s already the top betting sport in New Zealand by TAB betting turnover.

“The unique thing for a brand is the [audience] numbers are really going through the roof now, and yet as a sport, we’re very unsaturated. Some of our other sports are saturated with brands and there’s a unique opportunity for a brand to be associated with a sport that’s quite unsaturated,” says Simpson.

One brand that has shown a belief in basketball’s popularity is Spark, which two years ago announced  ‘The Boroughs’ project. The aim is to build high-tech basketball courts with Spark Wifi and interactive technology that will help the brand connect with the country’s youth.

So far, Spark has opened four basketball courts in Auckland’s Albany, Avondale, Victoria Park and Otara. There’s also set to be a court built in Glen Innes at some stage this year.

But it’s not just Aucklanders who enjoy basketball. Simpson points out NBL teams—Canterbury Rams, Wellington Saints, Southland Sharks, Super City Rangers, Taranaki Mountain Airs, Nelson Giants and Hawke’s Bay Hawks—have a big following in the regions – and generate extra popularity through Breakers player’s involvement and the players frequently visiting schools.

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