SBD/4/Sports Industrialists

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  • NAMES IN THE NEWS

         HBO Chair MICHAEL FUCHS has been named Chair of Warner
    Brothers Music Group.  He will remain actively involved at HBO
    (Mult., 5/4)....DONALD CAMPBELL will manage the new Atlanta
    office of Fantastic Sports Promotions.  Campbell was Dir of
    Sports Promotions for MCI (Rick Schloss Commun.).... Former
    Raiders safety RICHARD DIXON has filed a $1.5M fraud, negligence,
    and breach of contract suit against Newport Beach agent STEVE
    FELDMAN.  Feldman was investigated last month in the recruiting
    of Arizona basketball player DAMON STOUDAMIRE (L.A. TIMES,
    5/4)....The Anti-Defamation League honored Washington Post writer
    SHIRLEY POVICH with their Lifetime Achievement Award (WASHINGTON
    POST, 5/4).
    

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  • NBA EXEC TALKS ON MARKETING PLANS FOR USA WOMEN'S TEAM

         NBA VP of Business Affairs Val Ackerman is leading the
    league's efforts on behalf of USA Basketball's Women's team, as
    NBA Properties has responsibility for marketing both the USA men
    and women.  USA Basketball, which has already hired a full-time
    women's coach, holds trials this month to select the first U.S.
    Women's Senior National Team.  That team will train and play
    together starting September of '95 and be the foundation of the
    squad the U.S. will send to Atlanta.
         THE SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY spoke with Ackerman this week on
    the NBA's marketing plans and the recent boost the sport of
    women's basketball has received.  Excerpts follow:
         THE DAILY:  What attracted the NBA to take on the marketing
    of USA Basketball's Women's team?
         ACKERMAN:  We have been serving as USA Basketball's
    exclusive marketing representative since 1991.  In that capacity,
    our charge is to solicit corporate support and promote -- to the
    extent we can -- USA Basketball and its programs.  For the most
    part, the bulk of our efforts have been directed to the men's
    side, and we really haven't had as much luck as we had hoped with
    the women's program -- principally, among other things, because
    the top women's team have been selected very close to the time
    that the event is taking place.  That doesn't obviously give a
    whole lot of time for a company to develop the kind of program
    that we see on other levels.  With this program, we're affording
    sponsors and licensees an opportunity to buy into something where
    there is a tremendous amount of lead time and a team that will be
    together for a long period of time.  The other side is that we
    think women's basketball is a segment of the sport whose time has
    come.
         THE DAILY:  What are your plans for the year leading up to
    Atlanta to build the interest in the team?  Are fans going to
    know these players by the time the Olympics start?
         ACKERMAN:  I hope so.  We're not doing our job here if by
    this time next year people don't know who the top players on this
    team are. ... From USA Basketball's end, one of the key goals is
    to enhance the chances that the team that goes to Atlanta will
    win the gold medal.  There will be some build-up to the Olympics
    to the extent that the players will use the year as a tryout, and
    that we hope will be an incentive for them.  Over the next year,
    we expect to intersperse throughout the schedule a variety of
    promotional events -- not only stand-alone events, but events
    that will piggy-back on NBA activities.  For example, the NBA
    All-Star Weekend is an event which we've had some discussion
    about internally as a natural to bring some or all of the team
    members in and capitalize on the media and events that go on
    there.  The culmination would be a victory in Atlanta, and yet we
    think that there are a lot of places along the way to bring
    attention to the team, to the very good quality of play people
    will see, to the personalities on the team.
         THE DAILY:  Is it possible to model your marketing strategy
    to the star-driven Dream Team approach?  Are Rebecca Lobo and
    Sheryl Swoopes, for example, big enough stars to sell on their
    own?
         ACKERMAN:  What we're finding more and more is that they
    are.  If you've been to a top Division I women's college game
    lately, you'd be surprised at just how much clamoring there is
    around some of these top players now -- the number of young girls
    who gather around a Dawn Staley or a Lisa Leslie or a Sheryl
    Swoopes when they're doing a clinic.  The kind of attention that
    these women are drawing, among young girls in particular, has
    been really, in my mind, astounding.  There's clearly more and
    more television attention given to the women.  The Final Four
    rating that the women achieved this year was, I think, a 5.7.  It
    was the highest rated network daytime sports program that
    weekend.  Which I think is no fluke.  The interest is there.
    This program is going to give us an opprtunity to showcase the
    personalities.  So, to some extent, it will be an application of
    some of the same principles that have been used on the men's
    side.
         THE DAILY:  With the team being in essence a traveling
    squad, will there be more emphasis on local programs?
         ACKERMAN:  There will be a very strong grassroots component.
    We're expecting that the team will play upwards of 15 or 20 games
    this fall against top NCAA schools.  We're planning to turn each
    one of these stops into a couple-day layover where you have not
    only the game but a clinic, a retail appearance perhaps, a
    community outreach event where it's appropriate, media
    availability -- things of that nature that we think are all going
    to work even more toward giving young girls, kids -- anybody
    who's interested -- an opportunity to get close to the team.   We
    want to make the team as accessible as we can in that way.  We're
    in the process of soliciting support for the team.  And I'm not
    really at liberty to give you the details on that right away.
    But the kinds of companies that we've spoken to, at least several
    of them, have a history of these types of events -- clinics and
    skills exhibitions.
         THE DAILY:  Can you speak generally in terms of whether the
    interest comes from NBA marketing partners or newer, different
    companies?
         ACKERMAN:  Our sponsors already have made commitments to USA
    Basketball through 1996.  So, we think that among that group
    we're going to find interest, as well as among existing USA
    Basketball licensees -- many of which also have relationships
    with the NBA.  In addition, we think there is a market out there
    of -- I'll call them non-conflicting sponsors -- in various
    categories that have demonstrated a particular interest in
    women's basketball and women's sports.  We expect we may be able
    to bring them in as well.
         THE DAILY:  Who do you think is driving this new-found
    interst in women's sports and women's basketball?  Is it male
    basketball fans tuning into the women's game, or is it women
    sports fans who are making their presence known more?
         ACKERMAN:  Our research is telling us some interesting
    things.  We've learned that more women watch women's college
    games than watch NBA games or men's college games.  But there are
    still more men that watch women's basketball than women.  It
    should be noted that there are more women watching women's games
    than ever before.  In terms of the in-arena demographics, if you
    were to go to a women's college game you'd see, believe it or
    not, more and more seniors.  It's become a family event, parents
    bringing young daughters.  But the demographic and the target is
    certainly skewed towards females with a program like this.
         THE DAILY:  Are there long-term goals beyond '96 for the NBA
    or USA Basketball in terms of a women's pro league?
         ACKERMAN:  Right now, there aren't.  But -- actually, I
    won't say "but" -- a lot of us here believe this program really
    will tell us a lot about the extent of media and fan and
    corporate and television interest in women's basketball.  I'd
    almost like to have this discussion a year from now because I
    think we're going to learn a lot more in the next year than we
    know now about what the viability is for additional business
    projects in this whole area.
         THE DAILY:  How does all this fit into the NBA's general
    approach toward selling basketball to women? Is this program
    going to be the centerpiece of the NBA's focus in that regard for
    the next year or so?
         ACKERMAN:  First, we believe the program is very consistent
    with our overall mission, which is to help to develop the sport
    of basketball wherever it's played, at whatever level, whatever
    gender.  We think that anything that helps develop the sport is
    good for everybody involved. So from our end, this certainly fits
    in from a long-term standpoint.  As to the centerpiece question,
    within the last year or so we have set up a women's marketing
    division within our consumer products group.  The charge of the
    people in those areas is to focus on ways for the NBA to better
    reach out to women, principally as consumers of NBA products.
    This program will fit in very well with what others in the
    company are trying to do in terms of women's marketing that's
    specific to the NBA.
    

    Print | Tags: NBA, NCAA, People and Pop Culture
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