words // Brandon Richard
The NBA season may be over, but there's still competitive basketball to be played this summer. In late August, Spain will host the 2014 FIBA World Cup, previously known as the World Championship.
Following the Olympics in 2012, reports circulated that FIBA and NBA officials were interested in making the World Championship the marquee international basketball tournament, trumping the importance of Olympic basketball. The tournament was eventually renamed the World Cup, with FIBA looking to piggyback the popularity of soccer’s FIFA World Cup.
The FIBA World Cup will tip off this summer, continuing its usual 4-year cycle. However, to take it out of the shadow of the FIFA World Cup, it’ll skip 2018 and pick up again in 2019. The field will also be expanded from 24 teams to 32.
In 2010, the World Championship set international basketball viewership records with a global reach of 800 million people across 171 countries. The official website also had 30 million views during the tournament. The numbers broke previous marks set by the 2006 World Championship and EuroBasket 2009, a sign of steady growth for the sport.
While those numbers are encouraging, there's still work to be done for the World Cup to match the interest of the Olympics. The 2010 gold medal game reportedly drew an average of 886,000 viewers. In comparison, average Team USA basketball games in the 2012 Olympic games averaged 2.6 million viewers. The final averaged 12.5 million. There's time and network differences to take into consideration, but it's a significant audience gap either way.
There are some concerns about planning, however. As of now, FIBA plans to use a qualifying system that will feature games played in February, June, September and November. As you probably noticed, that would be a problem because three of those months are during the NBA season. Do you think teams are going to pay their players millions (USA and international) and then let them take time off to qualify for a separate tournament? It's highly unlikely.
So, with this information in mind, we're curious to find out if the FIBA World Cup will eventually provide the biggest platform for brands to showcase their newest and best sneakers.
If you're keeping up with the FIFA World Cup, you're aware of the aggressive campaigns footwear and apparel companies are running during the broadcasts to maximize visibility for their respective soccer ranges. The event's official sponsor is adidas, who has billboards on the sidelines flashing throughout each game and outfits the world's greatest player. Nike and PUMA are among several other athletic brands taking advantage of the sport's biggest stage with a variety of ads and boldly colored cleats. For at least the past four years, these brands invested time into product innovation for this specific moment.
Will we see a similar marketing strategies carried out on the hardwood? While the idea of the World Cup being basketball's premier international tournament sounds good, it will all come down to showing and proving for FIBA and the NBA. As always, we'll see special sneaker colorways and a series of social ads, but probably not to the extent that we see it during the Olympics. At least not yet. Also, if FIBA doesn't correct the qualifying schedule conflict for the 2019 Cup, there's a good chance the best players won't even be involved — even less reason for brands to invest resources into marketing for the tournament.
Plus, you're forever competing against the emotional connection basketball players have to the Olympics because of what the 'Dream Team' accomplished in 1992, along with what the 'Redeem Team' did in 2008.
We'll see how FIBA starts putting the pieces of the puzzle together when the World Cup gets underway in Spain on August 30.