Thursday, April 6, 2017

UBA Finals in Goa = A Breath of Fresh Air in Many Ways

The UBA stands for United Basketball Alliance and it’s a property created by a few sports-loving Americans with the objective of developing and promoting the sport of basketball in India.  It launched back in 2015 and, to be honest, I’ve not followed the league too closely during its previous four short format seasons.  That’s all going to change now though thanks to a great initiative I was recently a part of organised by the UBA and their strategic consultants Ernst & Young.

In an effort to introduce the United Basketball Alliance and present franchisee opportunities to “influencers” within the Indian sports industry, the UBA invited a group of us to Goa to experience the Finals of their 4th season.  I didn’t know what to expect but chose to accept the invitation knowing that it would be a good opportunity to learn about a property that may interest my employers DSK Group as well as network with others in the industry.  Plus, who doesn’t want an all expenses paid trip to Goa to watch some professional basketball?

I spent less than 24 hours in Goa but still had a packed schedule where we watched the slam-dunk & 3 point contests, saw the Final match, attended a franchisee opportunity presentation, had a 1 on 1 session with the promoters and attended a dinner with UBA management.  I must say that I came away from the trip with a tremendous amount of respect for Tommy and Todd, the two individuals who have conceptualized and executed this league. 

Every step of the construction of this property has been slow, strategic, professional and executed with enormous integrity – the ideal approach to establishing and building a league in this country.  This doesn’t mean that they have been playing small or cheap, they just intelligently chose to invest in areas that make a difference to the key stakeholders. I’ll share some examples of what I mean below:
  • Ownership Model: They chose to go the single entity model for the first few seasons completely controlling all league and team operations in order to build a solid foundation for the property in its critical infant years vs. selling off franchises to the highest bidders in Year 0
  • Foreign Players: They waited a few seasons until the local Indian players had reached a particular performance level before bringing in former NBA players to join the franchises – thus ensuring the Indian players were not out-shined in their own country
  • Broadcast: They brought a number of experienced basketball production staff over to India to completely oversee the production of each match broadcast knowing that a high quality TV viewing experience is a critical element to building credibility within the target group
  • Infrastructure: The court they use for their matches is the exact same court used for the 2014 NBA All-Star Game – Tommy had it dismantled and shipped to India after the event in order to ensure the highest standards were met when it came to the sporting aspects of the competition
  • Fan Experience: The organizers created a fantastic in-arena experience for spectators taking some of the best practices from the NBA: relevant celebrities sitting court-side, halftime entertainment, high intensity music and even microphones on the court so fans can hear the players shoes squeak when they pivot
It was a breath of fresh air to come across a group of individuals looking to create something in India through strategic planning, professionalism, fun and, most importantly, patience.  It’s hard to say what the future has in store for the UBA in India, but I’m confident that if they continue on this path and secure some genuine groups to come on as franchise owners, the UBA will be one of the more impactful and sustainable sports leagues in the country. 

Former NBA player Alex Scales was one of the foreign stars of the UBA in the 4th season

The key people behind the UBA with 4th season champions Mumbai Challengers

UBA promoter Tommy Fisher taking part in the pre-Finals festivities


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