SBD/Issue 64/Sponsorships, Advertising & Marketing

Spalding Hopes To Rebound After NBA Decides To Replace Ball

NBA’s Switch Back To Leather Ball
Could Deflate Spalding’s Q4 Sales

Spalding is “in damage control mode after the much-hyped launch of its synthetic basketball ... fizzled in embarrassing fashion,” as the NBA decided this week to return to the old leather game ball, according to Stewart & Waldie of the Toronto GLOBE & MAIL. The company yesterday offered $100 refunds on its Web site to customers who bought the new ball, plus $15 for taxes and handling and shipping. Marketing experts predicted that the NBA’s move will “hurt sales for Spalding, and linger as a cautionary tale for others.” TSE Sports & Entertainment President Robert Tuchman: “Not only is it 13 days before Christmas, but they had the entire NBA season they were counting on ... and also the millions of dollars they put behind the marketing of the basketball. ... I wouldn’t put it on the same page as the New Coke fiasco, but it really is an unfortunate situation.” Sporting Goods Intelligence Publisher John Horan added that the ball was “crucial for Spalding because basketball participation levels are trending flat or falling, and the company needed to do something to boost sales.” Horan: “I would assume that Spalding will continue to market the composite ball but it’s definitely not going to have the marketing oomph that it would have had if it were the official NBA ball” (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 12/13). CNBC’s Darren Rovell notes “all the retailers that sold the ball will get to keep the money from the sale” (, 12/13).

THE BALL HAS ITS SUPPORTERS: In an open letter to NBA players, PETA Sports Campaign Manager Dan Shannon wrote, “PETA would like to offer a lifetime supply of cruelty-free hand cream to any NBA siss ... Excuse me, superstar who’d be willing to give the composite ball another shot” (, 12/13).

A LOOK BACK: View a timeline chronicling Spalding’s new NBA game ball.

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