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Volume 21 No. 1
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NBPA sets up separate unit to handle commercial ventures

As it establishes itself as a marketing property fully independent of the NBA, the league’s players’ association has established a separate business unit for commercial activities, including merchandising, sponsorship, events and content.

The new unit, National Basketball Players Inc. (not to be confused with the NFLPA’s Players Inc.), will have its own profit and loss statement and payroll, and was established as a for-profit company.

Earlier this year, the NBPA took its commercial rights in-house for the first time in 20 years. They had been leased to the NBA. Chief Marketing Officer Jordan Schlachter has promised membership better returns for their intellectual property immediately. Now he says “that was less of a dollar-and-cents decision, it was really about having control of their own destiny and who we are in business with.”

Clarence Nesbitt (left), Jordan Schlachter, Que Gaskins and Josh Goodstadt are among those guiding the new effort.
Photo by: TERRY LEFTON / STAFF
Three new hires at the new unit will oversee a staff of eight, expected to quickly expand.

Que Gaskins began this month as PI’s chief brand and growth officer. Gaskins has more than 25 years of marketing and merchandising experience, including 13 at Nike and Reebok, three as general manager of the Allen Iverson brand and three heading Nike’s Eastern territory (Maine to Miami). Most recently he was executive vice president of strategic marketing and brand partnerships at Def Jam Recordings.

Gaskins sees four distinct opportunities for the new unit. “There are obvious commerce opportunities; content opportunities — which every brand is looking for; cultural opportunities at big events like the All-Star Game; and community opportunities, when you think about the growing impact of our players as cultural influencers,” he said.

The other part of Gaskins’ job is to “establish what this brand (PI) means and tell the story about what the union means inside and outside,” said Schlachter, who crafted the strategy of breaking away from the NBA, along with NBPA Executive Director Michele Roberts.

The sponsorship side of the house is also being revitalized. Formerly, the NBPA sold assets around its “One Court” players headquarters at the All-Star Game. Now it is developing year-round opportunities, which will certainly include the now-unbranded full-court on the fifth floor of the union’s Midtown New York City headquarters. Meanwhile, with the next All-Star Game in Los Angeles, this year’s “One Court” at the London Hotel in West Hollywood will be its largest yet. Event opportunities include everything from camps (the NBPA ran a weeklong camp in New York City this summer for more than 100 kids), golf tournaments and instructional opportunities.

Clarence Nesbitt is the new general counsel for PI. He was with Nike for nearly 10 years, most recently as director of global brand business affairs.

Josh Goodstadt joined the NBPA in August as executive vice president of licensing. Most recently, he was vice president of global licensing and retail at HBO.