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SBD Global/August 1, 2014/People and Pop Culture

Hangin' With ... NBA India Managing Director Yannick Colaco

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NBA India's Yannick Colaco says grassroots programs are key to growing basketball in cricket-dominated India.
YANNICK COLACO is the managing director of NBA India's Mumbai-based office. Colaco joined NBA India in early '13 after holding previous positions with IMG and Indian sports marketing company Nimbus. Colaco spoke with SBD Global about grassroots programs, NBA viewership and the possibility of a future professional basketball league in India.

On grassroots efforts to promote basketball ...
Yannick Colaco
: The sports market in India is growing extremely fast, but it’s been largely dominated by cricket -- international cricket, domestic cricket and IPL [Indian Premier League]. One of the crucial ingredients for any sport outside of cricket to grow is essentially building from the grassroots up. We’re fundamentally focused on screening the game of basketball in India and growing our fan base. Both are intertwined. We’re focused on running grassroots programs to drive participation and grow the game from the bottom up. We have a large program that we run with a company called Reliance, the largest private company in India. We’ve launched a program with them called the Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA Program, which is completely focused on school kids. It’s a comprehensive, school-based program where basketball is built into the curriculum. We have already completed year one of the program and we ran it only in two cities. The first year of the program we had over 130,000 kids. We’re now taking the program to eight cities across India to reach over 700,000 kids.

On a professional basketball league in India ...
Colaco
: IMG-Reliance has a partnership with the Basketball Association of India. They’ve announced in the past that their partnership includes the conceptualization and launch of a professional basketball league. There’ve been a number of announcements. It could happen in the next year to 14 months. That’s something that [IMG-Reliance] is working on with the Basketball Association of India. From our perspective, anything that helps grow the game of basketball is good for us. We welcome any activities by IMG, Reliance or the Basketball Association of India that continue the growth of basketball in India.

On social media and viewership ...
Colaco: Everything we do is to target the age demographic from 7 to about 38. We start with the youth. India has over 600 million people under the age of 25. There are over 300 million under the age of 18. So the size of the market is so large. Basketball is something we believe we can reach this demographic with. We’ve got about a million followers on Facebook and Twitter all from India. And it’s growing really quickly. So [social media] is a really important platform for what we’re doing. Television is also a really important platform. We have a partnership with one of the biggest sports broadcasters in India called Sony Six. This year, we actually showed 14 live games a week. Every morning from 5:30am until 11:30am there were two back-to-back NBA games throughout the season. We had this promotion that we worked on with our partners, Sony Six. It basically was called #NBAMorningsOnSix. We focused on trying to create appointment viewing with our demographic. You don’t even have to look at the schedule. You tune in to Sony Six every morning during the season and you’re going to get live, entertaining NBA basketball. And it really worked. For example, our games are second only to the English Premier League in non-cricketing sports, which is phenomenal. Our television viewership has gone up by over 200 percent this year. ... In terms of actual unique viewers that sampled NBA live content throughout the season, we grossed 40 million.

On the possibility of a future Indian NBA player ...
Colaco: It would be great if we had an Indian player, obviously, in the NBA. But we’re not basing our plans around that. We’re basing our plans saying that we’re going to focus on growing the game of basketball in India irrespective of that. We’re going to continue working with developing and giving the youth the opportunity to play the sport. We want to continue giving them the correct curriculum, and if they’re good, talented, hardworking and passionate, provide them the possibility to eventually make it to the NBA.
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