Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Q&A Sophie Goldschmidt


Sophie Goldschmidt is the NBA’s vice-president for Europe, Middle East and Africa. You can read more on this in Tuesday’s Herald and Chicago Sun-Times but here’s a transcript of my interview with her in full.

- What return does NBA Europe Live, and other overseas activities, bring on investment for the league’s owners in the UK and Europe?

From an overall NBA perspective, the internationalisation of the brand and basketball has been a huge positive from an exposure standpoint and a revenue perspective, which is something all the teams and the owners benefit from.

- Is it profitable yet?

What we do internationally does generate revenue for the NBA and the amount of revenue is increasing year on year.

- How much of this is driven by the fact that US market is largely saturated?

We continue to grow in the US but we are more mature there. We’re just coming one off our most successful seasons so I think we still see the opportunity to grow. But international is where most growth is expected. It varies market by market. There are some markets where the NBA and basketball is very mature and some where the NBA is in the development phase. We very much take a market-by-market approach. It’s not one size fits all. Fortunately we have so many different events ands marketing platforms that we can take internationally and we can utilise our players and teams in those.

- What is NBA Europe Live’s role?

“It’s very important for us to grow the game at the grassroots level. So we do numerous activities around the world to really engage young kids and fans. Whether it’s Events we’ve done in Europe this year such as Adidas 5United or the NBA Jam Van. And we’ve also fortunate to bring over the true NBA experience with these pre-season games that allows fans to see the best of the best, up close and personal. With the 02 Arena here in London, which is a NBA-style arena, you could be in the States watching a game. It’s very authentic. That’s an important part of the strategy.

- You don’t like to compare the NBA with the NFL but their London games are a way of testing the market for the idea of overseas franchises. Does the NBA see that one coming up on the horizon?

We do see the potential opportunity to have regular season (games) again because we have had them in the past. We did that for the first time in 1991 in Tokyo. So we’ve done that before and I’m sure at some point in the future it will happen again. But for us, at the moment, the pre-season model works very well. It enables us to take multiple teams to multiple markets. The economics and operational issues are slightly different. For us, it’s about going to as many strategic places as we can. So this year we’re playing in London and Madrid, as well as Beijing, Taipei and Mexico City.

- Is the UK all about capitalising on the 2012 Olympics?

We think the Olympics does give us a unique opportunity to take the sport to the next level. But even without that, we do believe the level has improved over the last few years. The level of play as improved. For the first time, GB was in the European Championships. But the Olympics will have the focus of the world on London and basketball will be one of the main events during the Games. So we definitely think it is a unique opportunity to further what we’ve been doing here.

- Is there now greater co-operation between the NBA and the indigenous powers within basketball in the UK?

We have very good relationships with the BBL, Team GB as well as Basketball Scotland, England and Wales. From our perspective, we’d like to help each other. We have common goals if the sport is growing.  It has mutual benefits. We’ve been very pleased with the reception we’ve had here since we set up the (UK) office.

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