As the popularity of basketball grows in Canada, the National Basketball Association's revenues are growing as well. Now, it will add another brand to its growing list of marketers who pay for the privilege of being associated with the NBA.
On Monday, Bank of Montreal will announce that it has signed a multi-year deal to be the first ever official bank of NBA Canada.
BMO is already a sponsor of the Toronto Raptors, as well as a number of teams in the U.S. such as the Chicago Bulls and the Milwaukee Bucks. However, team sponsorships come with certain geographical restrictions. A league sponsorship gives the bank the chance to market itself using basketball and NBA athletes across the country.
"Whereas two years ago basketball was a little quieter among Canadians, now it's like a war for [Raptors] tickets, there's so much excitement," said BMO's chief marketing officer, Joanna Rotenberg. "Canada is experiencing an upswing in energy around basketball – both at a participation level and also at a professional level."
The recent success of the Raptors has been attracting more Canadian brands to basketball. Game viewership is up 102 per cent compared to last year. There are other factors as well: there are now 12 Canadian players in the league, the highest number ever. The NBA All-Star game will be hosted on Raptors home turf at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto next year. And at the grassroots level, participation rates for basketball have been surging. Participation in the sport rose 16 per cent between 2010 and 2012, while hockey has been struggling to grow participation.
In roughly the past five years, NBA Canada has doubled its number of marketing partnerships. Air Miles and BCE Inc. are two other large Canadian sponsors.
"One of the things companies are keen on partnering with us on is [to reach] young, ethnically diverse consumers," said Dan Mackenzie, NBA Canada's vice president and managing director. In countries such as China and the Philippines for example, basketball's popularity has soared.
"New Canadians are coming already with an affinity for the game. In India, the league has put a lot of effort into that market in recent years, and it's growing fast," Mr. MacKenzie said. "What differentiates the NBA in this market for marketers is young, diverse."
BMO's partnership will include the launch of basketball programs for young people in 125 communities in Canada this fall.
"Some of the growth areas in Canada – newer Canadians, young Canadians … there's a segment with big money decisions ahead of them, great potential. If we connect with them, it's a win for everybody," Ms. Rotenberg said..