David Stern

Driving Brand NBA

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You're coming off one of the greatest seasons in National Basketball Association history. Is there such a thing as Brand NBA, and how do you marry that with the fact that so many great players are individual brands unto themselves?

Yes. Brand NBA is about the players and teams and the best basketball in the world. ... It's an always renewable source of branding as players come and players go.

Do you find the sports world is different from other marketers because of this?

We have something that at the same [time] is branded but has extraordinary content. It is content that is delivered as an extraordinary entertainment experience. It's a very complex brand.

It's complex because I liken our 29 arenas to theme parks, and what goes on there is a brand of some kind. ... It's the ultimate reality show on and off the court ... on a global scale ... everything from over the air, cable, satellite, internet, wireless and video-on-demand. It's a complex series of expressions delivered in the most extraordinary series of ways.

The NBA for years has led the way in tapping into the global market. Any future plans?

We will replicate NBA Europe [training camp] again by 2009. The visit by two teams to China, which we did in 2004, will likely be replicated in 2007 and possibly in 2008. I would say that our business in China, which is expanding at an enormous pace, will lead us to devote immense resources to grow it even faster with respect to marketing partnerships, television, digital media, retail. ... It's a very fertile market.

It's been said that you're the de facto chief marketing officer of this league. You had a VP-marketing who was hired last April and left in August. Are you the CMO?

We have such an extraordinary number of people who come to work every day who do and oversee marketing that it's easy for me to say that I am the de facto marketing person. But I'm not. ... We will be replacing [the VP-marketing post] ... We recognize the value of the job.

How did you tell Spalding that you wanted to go back to the old ball? [A new synthetic basketball was replaced by the old leather ball after players complained.]

We have a high degree of trust. Spalding has been a spectacular partner. We realized there was a problem, and we worked together.

One area where I am spending a lot of my time is the march of technology combined with globalization. One drives the other.
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