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Volume 21 No. 13
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Teams turn up marketing around London Game

The Philadelphia 76ers and Boston Celtics are looking for more than a win when they square off in this week’s NBA London Game. Both franchises will use the event to extend their brand and drum up international business.

While Thursday’s game at the O2 Arena in London is a league-controlled event, executives at Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment Corp., which operates the Sixers and the NHL’s New Jersey Devils, the Prudential Center and esports franchise Team Dignitas, and owns a stake in Crystal Palace FC of the EPL, are bringing about 200 people to London in the days leading up to the game.

Among a host of events, the Sixers will attend a VIP reception at Kensington Palace to entertain prospective sponsors and 12 current partners that the team is taking to London.

The Sixers have six international sponsors, including their most recent deal with Four’n Twenty, an Australia-based company that makes beef pies. The team’s business has surged over the last year, with a 50 percent increase in sponsorship revenue and a season-ticket waiting list of 6,400. Team executives see the London game as a prime selling opportunity to build on that growth.

“We expect the game to be another step in being a global brand,” said Chris Heck, president of business operations for the Sixers. “We can reach the other half of the world.”

A key advantage for the Sixers is a combined sales effort with the Crystal Palace staff. On Saturday, Crystal Palace will play against Burnley FC at Selhurst Park outside of London. While Sixers players and coaches will return to Philadelphia after their game, owners Josh Harris and David Blitzer and a contingent of executives including HBSE CEO Scott O’Neil, HBSE President Hugh Weber, Sixers COO Lara Price and Heck will remain in London to entertain current and prospective clients at the Crystal Palace match.

“We are working together and will do everything from hospitality at both events to receptions and other events throughout the week,” Heck said. “It is about globalization and reaching an audience well beyond the U.S.”

The Celtics have about eight partners included in the trip and, along with basketball and business operations and other guests, will have a traveling party of around 100 people. The team will host a welcoming dinner and have private tours at London attractions for sponsors and guests.

“Any time we can extend our brand, it’s fantastic,” said Ted Dalton, senior vice president of corporate partnerships and business development with the Celtics. “We will have meetings when we are there and we look at it as a way to activate with existing partners around the game.”

The 2018 London game marks the 25th anniversary of the league’s first game that was held there during the preseason in 1993.

This year’s game is the eighth regular-season game played in London and Nike is the new presenting sponsor. Cisco, Foot Locker, Gatorade, Harman, Marriott Rewards, Müller, SAP, Tissot, Mitchell & Ness and 2K are the game’s other sponsors.

“The game this year is presented by Nike, and because Europe is such a big market, they are extremely focused on the game,” said Ben Morel, NBA senior vice president and managing director, Europe and Middle East. “There is a nice combination of global partners and local partners to market the game. There has been strong collaboration from both teams. They have seen a great benefit in showcasing their team and brand on an international level.”