By Sarah Coursey, Editor
RIO DE JANEIRO – Yet another American-born sport to conquer fans in Brazil, basketball is making headway thanks to none other than the NBA (National Basketball Association).
The Gringo Times had the pleasure of speaking with Emilio Collins, Senior Vice President of International Development and Partnerships at the NBA. The following interview outlines the associations’ plans to develop the sport in Brazil, including its roots in the country and the challenges moving forward.
Has US basketball always been popular in Brazil?
Basketball is widely recognized as one of Brazil’s most popular sports, thanks in part to the success of its Men’s and Women’s National Teams in the FIBA World Championship (Men’s in 1959 & 1963, and Women’s in 1994) and the accomplishments of legendary Olympic scorer Oscar Schmidt. In fact, 74% of Brazilians surveyed expressed interest in the NBA according to a 2008 study done by Sponsorship Intelligence.
What does Brazil represent for the NBA?
Brazil is a very important market for the NBA, especially because of the three prominent Brazilian players Nenê (Denver Nuggets), Leandro Barbosa (Phoenix Suns), and Anderson Varejão (Cleveland Cavaliers). The NBA has an ongoing commitment to growing the game in Brazil. It connects with fans locally through sponsored activities, community events, game broadcasts, merchandise, and a language specific website.
The NBA was the first US sports league to offer live game webcasts to fans in Brazil in Portuguese with two games per week and sixty games in total. Last season, for the first time ever, the NBA launched live game webcasts of the entire NBA Playoffs and The Finals to fans in Latin America, via NBA LEAGUE PASS Broadband International on www.NBA.com and www.NBA.tv.
What games and events has the NBA organized in the country?
The NBA has conducted numerous events in Brazil. NBA players including Brazilians Anderson Varejão of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Leandro Barbosa of the Phoenix Suns, hosted an NBA Cares/NBA FIT basketball clinic for 150 boys and girls aged eight to sixteen from Basketball of the Future on August 7 at Maracanãzinho. A group of NBA players was in Brazil for the “Basketball Show” Charity Game at Maracanãzinho on August 9. Children who participated in the clinic also received game tickets.
The league has held basketball fans events such as the NBA 3-on-3 Tournament (2003, 2004) and NBA Madness, the league’s basketball lifestyle event that brings NBA players and legends to fans around the world (2005 and 2007).
Basketball without Borders, the NBA’s basketball instructional camp for young people that also promotes leadership, education, sportsmanship and healthy living, came to Rio de Janeiro in 2004 and São Paulo in 2007.
Through NBA Cares, the league’s social responsibility initiative, the NBA has created six places in Brazil where kids and families can live or play, including libraries, technology centers, and basketball courts.
In 2003, Brazilian native Nenê of the Denver Nuggets also participated in a Public Service Announcement with the UN Office on Drug Crimes (UNODC) to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS.
Where would the NBA like to see basketball in Brazil in five years? And in Latin America as a whole?
We have ambitious plans for Brazil over the next few years. We will be opening our first NBA office in São Paulo this season and introducing a series of new grassroots programs to build and develop basketball in schools and communities.
We also work with the Brazilian Basketball Federation and the Liga Nacional de Basquete (National Basketball League). In addition, our Brazilian NBA players will be competing for their national team, which is currently trying to earn a spot at the upcoming Olympics in 2012.
We see many of these trends developing in other parts of Latin America as well, including Mexico, where basketball is the number two sport in terms of participation, and Argentina, whose men’s team won the 2004 Olympic gold medal.
What are some of the challenges for the NBA in Brazil?
For any multinational organization, it is a constant challenge to learn more about the local market and we are planning to open our first office in Brazil this year to help us accomplish that goal.