The 2009 - 2016 era of the Male Premier Basketball League is one that will always be mentioned in the evolution of the professional basketball league in Nigeria. This era which saw DSTV become the title sponsor and broadcast rights owners, brought the league to satellite television and as expected, the audience increased. With live games, basketball had people`s attention, then curiosity. This in turn led to the spring up of many basketball focused media platforms both traditional and digital.
Although we owe a lot to this era, one thing is certain; the basketball league can only move forward and get better. So, as we patiently wait for the Nigerian Basketball Federation to announce the new sponsors and the dawn of a new era, we should also be excited about the new opportunities, possibilities, prospects and impact on the basketball league.
At the Federation`s Annual General Meeting held earlier this year, the President hinted that the new sponsorship deal is worth $12m over a 5 year period. This is a big leap from the prior deal and this translates to more money for the participating teams, an increase in price money for winners and hopefully, a more elaborate All Star Weekend.
However, asides financial perspective, we expect a lot of activities in this new era. Here is our top five;
1. Active Front Office
In the past, the most relevant set of people in a team are usually the players and coaching staff. Interactions with the public is usually through the coaches and journalists had to speak with the coaches for information. Going forward, we see club employing people to fill front office roles and we see these people becoming the reference point for the public. The popular roles for now include a General Manager and a Media Officer.
A very good example is Rivers Hoopers` General Manager Ifie Ozaka and Media Officer Queen John. We believe that other clubs will follow suit and that these front office executives will play a very active role in the development of the clubs.
2. New Audience
We expect to witness an expansion and extension of the audience/fan base of the basketball league. The clubs and the NBBF have not done so much in the past to attract fans to the live games. This will change in the new era.
The feedback so far indicates that people outside the conventional basketball circles are interested in the league games. We have also confirmed that one of the league teams - Hoops & Read - will adopt the Indoor Court of the University of Lagos Sports Complex as home court. The club also has plans to sign some of the institution`s players/alumni to the team.
One thing we are certain about is that the students of the prestigious University of Lagos love basketball. Hoops & Read will help connect them to the league.
3. Increased Focus on Players
Players are the heart of the club and by extension the heart of the league. Before now, there has been little focus on players` performance, personality and lifestyle. That`s about to change. We have already reported that Dike Azuoma joined the star studded Kano Pillars, that Stanley Gumut has pledged loyalty to Mark Mentors and that Anyebe Ujoh has returned to Rivers Hoopers for a chance to win his 6th championship, the third with the Port Harcourt based club.
Expect more contents centered around league players on this platform and other basketball platforms.
4. Revenue from Merchandise Sales
Lagos Islanders is about the only club that has generated a sizable amount of money from merchandise sales. The club launched its branded t shirts and snap-back caps during the 2015 season when they made the historic move to Landmark Event Centre, Victoria Island. The acceptance probably surpassed the club`s expectations.
If the league attracts new audience and there is increased focus on players as expected, then there will be demand for replica/swing-man jerseys.
5. Expanded media content
The coverage of the basketball league has improved in the last era especially on social media platforms. Regardless, there is so much to be covered, so much content to be generated, so much ideas to be executed. We will see all these come to life in this new era.
The 2017 Season is expected to tip off later this month and we can`t wait.