There is no doubt about this India Sports are on the rise in India. Over the last 20 years, we have seen an increase in the Indian Premier League (IPL) and more recently kabaddi, soccer, badminton, hockey and wrestling tournaments. Increased participation and follow-up in all these sports. None of this comes as a surprise. We have seen similar trends around the sport across Asia. But a sport has shown the potential to become very popular in India-basketball. As Princepal Singh advances from NBA Academy India to the US-based National Basketball Association (NBA) G League, basketball participation in India has grown exponentially, including growing talent at the elite level and advances in the international and professional fields. As a fan of basketball and the NBA, I am excited to see this increase. I also have the authority to drive the charge for the sport and the efforts made by the NBA across the country as the NBA Asia Managing Director.
Working in international business has always been my focus. Since I entered the workforce, I have moved towards a role that allows me to travel and engage with different cultures. Eventually I moved to McCann Ericsson, a global advertising agency network where I worked as an international advertising supervisor.
Over time, I have become an ‘international expert’, albeit with one big limitation: I develop and recommend strategies for global brands even though I have never traveled outside the US. I know I need to broaden my horizons. It’s time to see the world.
So, I bought a one-way ticket to Beijing and spent the next six months backpacking across Asia-Pacific with my wife. Also, I knocked on the door of everyone I knew through my previous role and spent time learning about the area, its challenges, unique cultures and its potential. When I returned to the US, I was part of an international advertising team at the NBA. When things start to get really interesting.
I was fortunate to join the NBA as international players began to make a significant impact on the league and its global popularity. The 1992 Olympics in Barcelona served as a tipping point for the NBA’s international growth, inspiring an international generation of players such as Dirk Nowitz, Pau Gasol and Yao Ming, who inspired generations of fans around the world. Over time, my paycheck expanded to include programming sales, and my job was to travel around the world representing an asset that I was passionate about and had an international attraction.
In 2009, I took on the role of Managing Director for Asia, overseeing various countries such as Japan, the Philippines, Australia and now India.
It was an amazing ride. I have been living in Asia for over a decade now, and I have been looking forward to my time backpacking all over this region.
Asia has an amazingly sports-savvy population and a growing middle class. Participation and consumption in sports are on the rise. The rise of sporting leagues and university level tournaments has allowed young people in Asia to play more entertaining and competitive sports. This is crucial for sports development as research has shown that if children enjoy playing a sport at an early age, they are more likely to continue playing it for the rest of their lives.
That’s why I’m so proud of our Junior NBA Program, which has so far reached over 24.5 million young people in Southeast Asia, and is home to more than 24.5 million young people in Southeast Asia – the world’s largest junior NBA program since its inception in 2013 with over 13 million boys and girls from over 13,000 schools.
The growing partnership for the use of sports programming has given way. For us, digital and virtual technology are crucial. Wherever fans are, access to live games, off-court and lifestyle content and other connection points such as merchandise and fantasy gaming should be easily accessible to fans on the devices and platforms they use the most.
The global pandemic has hit everyone personally and professionally. 2021 and beyond, we need to redefine relationships with fans through innovative digital solutions that ensure their health and safety and maintain real connections.
Sports brands and properties should aim to provide a range of viewing options for current and future generations of sports fans by establishing a strong presence on the platforms. The best way to reach young people is to meet them where they are, create personal experiences and be authentic.
My hope is that we will soon be able to resume the journey for work and happiness, and not necessarily in that order. While we all need to adjust to the ‘new routine’, the NBA focuses on engaging and inspiring fans around the world by using the transformative power of basketball.
Scott Levy is NBA Asia Managing Director