NBA Int'l Boss Ueberroth Talks About The League's Offensive Into India
NBA Int'l President Heidi Ueberroth tells the TIMES OF INDIA she has the "world's best job." In a wide-ranging interview, she talks about China, India and how the launch of IPL cricket could be a case study for the NBA's effort to expand into the sub-continent. Among excerpts:
Q: How did you crack the code for succeeding in China?
Ueberroth: We invested a lot in areas like recruiting and training people, infrastructure and operations expansion. We're fortunate that Chinese fans are really tech savvy. For example, we already have 52 million followers on the microblogging service Weibo. Today, China is our second largest market outside of the States. So we're doing some pretty unique stuff there, like getting into arena design and 3D telecasts. We're even releasing a feature film there later in the fall.
Q: Popularising basketball in India is no walk in the park. How do you plan to do it?
Ueberroth: We're aware we need a long-term perspective and honestly, we're excited about the untapped potential India offers. There's this increasing middle class here that's looking for entertainment and leisure options. In cities, people want more options for fitness and sport that require very little space. And basketball is ideal, because it is played by both boys and girls. The response is encouraging already. Our customised India pages on nba.com and dedicated India Facebook pages are seeing double and triple percent growth in traffic. On the ground, fans and corporates have been supportive as well.
Q: Has the Indian Premier League (IPL) left room for other high-profile sporting leagues in India?
Ueberroth: Oh yes. We watched the successful launch of the IPL closely and it encouraged us, because we saw a real interest not just in cricket, which already is so popular, but also in the kind of sports-cum-entertainment that the IPL represents. It's creating a great demand for more such entertainment events. And there is no doubt India has the capacity to produce great athletes in multiple sports going ahead (TIMES OF INDIA, 6/8).