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Splintered by rivalries that have stewed for generations, Turkey’s Spor Toto Basketball League is a fiercely
competitive w...
T
hey say there is nothing quite like
the atmosphere at a Turkish soccer
match. Except, of course, there
is. No matter the...
“We have conducted some surveys
with our stakeholders and it comes out
that in Turkey, if there is a strong title
partner,...
Champions League, a bigger share of
the generated income goes also to the
basketball division of the club.”
Other clubs li...
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Bir Spor organizasyonu nasıl pazarlanır/How to market a sports organization?

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The interest of the world press over the best basketball league of Europe is rising. Thanks to our marketing team of Infront Turkey, Infront global communication team and TBF colleagues.

Avrupanın en iyi basketbol ligi seçilen Basketbol Süper Ligine dünya basınının ilgisi hergeçen gün artıyor. Infront Türkiye pazarlama ekibine, Infront Global iletişim ekibimize ve TBF ekibimize sonsuz teşekkürler.

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Bir Spor organizasyonu nasıl pazarlanır/How to market a sports organization?

  1. 1. Splintered by rivalries that have stewed for generations, Turkey’s Spor Toto Basketball League is a fiercely competitive world where emotions run high and team allegiances are for life. Now, a new central marketing strategy implemented by Infront Sports & Media is turning sporting tribalism into collective profits. By Michael Long Hoops fix 90 | www.sportspromedia.com FEATURE | BASKETBALL
  2. 2. T hey say there is nothing quite like the atmosphere at a Turkish soccer match. Except, of course, there is. No matter the sport, no matter the team, Turkish fans are notoriously loud and the atmosphere at domestic basketball games is often no less intense. After soccer, basketball is the second most popular sport in Turkey and the Spor Toto Basketball League is a domestic powerhouse. Now in its 50th season, the country’s top-level national championship is a prominent battleground for long- established rivalries, often fractured along social or political fault lines. Fixtures are ercely contested in packed sweatbox arenas, attended by some of the noisiest and most fanatical supporters around. Team loyalties are both powerful and enduring, and the pro le of the top players and coaches is such that they are among the best-known celebrities in Turkish sport. Such ardent support, combined with Turkey’s multi-sports club culture and a tradition of modest ticket prices, has meant that lling arenas has rarely been an issue for the Turkish Basketball Federation (TBF), which organises the domestic league. The challenge instead has been in capitalising on that following by creating a professional platform that is an attractive sponsorship proposition for commercial partners. To overcome that challenge, the TBF enlisted the services of Infront Sports & Media two years ago, the Swiss-based international marketing agency coming on board as the exclusive global media and marketing partner of Turkey’s top domestic league as part of a long-term strategic alliance. “Let me talk about basketball history in Turkey a little bit,” says Harun Erdenay, a former player who now serves as president of the TBF. “It was not one of the best leagues in Europe for a certain time, in the early 2000s. In the late 2000s, our league started developing very much. The teams’ budgets increased as more sponsors joined into basketball. So in 2013 we started seeking a strong marketing company that can further boost this development. In order to make basketball bigger in Turkey, not only on the marketing side but also with fans, in terms of TV coverage, advertising and promotion – literally to improve in every section – we decided to sign with Infront.” For Infront, partnering with the TBF aligned with its own ambitions of expanding into new geographies outside of its core markets in continental Europe. With its Chinese business, also anchored around domestic basketball, by then well established, the agency was already in the midst of implementing a global growth strategy when the TBF came knocking. It had spent much of 2013 setting up Infront Pan-Asia in Singapore and forming a 50:50 joint venture, AspireInfront LLC, with Aspire Katara Investment (AKI) in Qatar. “Infront is always looking for new business opportunities and market potential, especially in emerging countries,” explains Ender Uslu, who was installed as managing director of the newly formed Infront Turkey subsidiary shortly after the TBF partnership was signed in November 2013. “Turkey has a predominantly youthful population of 78 million and people are really crazy about sports: 85 per cent of the population is claiming to follow sport, so it’s a huge number. Geographically the location also creates a bridge between Europe, Middle East and Asia. This was all taken into consideration, when the Infront Group chose Turkey as a strategic growth market. “It was, of course, key to evaluate the sports market, detect the right areas for investment and nd the right partners. After football, basketball is the second most watched sport in Turkey. Interest is very high: 48 per cent of the population is watching basketball and it has big potential to grow further, especially with the recent international successes. Once we chose basketball as a strategic focus, we de ned our approach together with the TBF board. Our long-term vision is actually becoming the best league in Europe.” Achieving that ambition seemed some way off when Infront partnered the TBF. At that time, says Uslu, the league lacked the commercial framework to fully capitalise on its undoubted popularity, with the TBF offering “a very limited commercial proposition for their sponsors” due to “unstandardised court layouts” and limited media exposure. “Only pay-TV was broadcasting the league,” he recalls, speaking to SportsPro a fortnight before the start of the competition’s 50th anniversary season in mid-October. “There was no broadcasting abroad and the production quality could have been much better. Teams were marketing all the commercial inventory on their own without any standardisation. As a result, TBF had only one sponsor, which was the title.” On taking up its mandate, Infront set about investing in the creation of a consistent look and feel across the entire season, which consists of up to 265 games taking place over a nine- month period from October to June. Ahead of the 2014/15 campaign, Infront commissioned the London-based creative agency Designwerk to devise a new brand identity for the league, with a redesigned court layout and the introduction of LED advertising boards intended to give sponsors greater visual impact. “A strong sports brand makes it much more attractive to invest in,” notes Uslu. “When you apply this to an emerging market, you can generate immediate results.” Infront’s top-to-tail commercial overhaul of the league – the rst centralised marketing strategy of its kind to be implemented in Turkish sport – has indeed paid almost instant dividends. Marketed by the agency’s international sales network, six of the seven available main sponsorship packages this season have been sold to multinational brands including Sony Mobile, ING Bank, LeasePlan, Metlife and Vivident. The newest addition to the portfolio is Spor Toto, Turkey’s largest sports betting company, which came on board as the league’s title sponsor ahead of the new season, penning a one-year deal having originally signed up for June’s Finals series between P nar Kar yaka and Anadolu Efes. "In Turkey, if there is a strong title partner, the league itself is perceived as a strong asset. People start to trust that organisation" SportsPro Magazine | 91
  3. 3. “We have conducted some surveys with our stakeholders and it comes out that in Turkey, if there is a strong title partner, the league itself is perceived as a strong asset,” Uslu says in reference to the latter deal. “People start to trust that organisation. People think that if a brand invests in a sports organisation then that sports organisation is valuable.” Alongside procuring fresh sponsorship, Infront has also instigated a new media strategy for the league, moving away from a subscription model to enhance the value for sponsors by ensuring games are split domestically across both pay and free-to-air television. This season cable operator Digiturk’s LigTV and free-to- air channel NTV Spor are combining to show a minimum of ve games per week, with both broadcasters having invested in improving production quality through the use of 14 HD cameras at each game, while the league’s digital platforms have also been revamped to re ect the new positioning. Outside of Turkey, meanwhile, broadcasters in a record 13 European countries will show Turkish basketball action this season and Uslu is con dent that Infront will broaden the league’s international footprint further in years to come. “It will increase every season,” he insists. “I think we have a globally competitive and known league which has the potential to be internationalised.” Infront, of course, has history when it comes to this kind of commercial revamp. In recent years the agency has developed a tried and tested formula for optimising the commercialisation of sports properties, rolling out similar central marketing concepts in German soccer’s DFB Cup and ski jumping’s Four Hills Tournament. But perhaps the best blueprint for its Turkish assignment is found in China. Infront entered the Chinese market in 2005 on the back of a long-term strategic partnership with the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) that saw it become the exclusive marketing partner of the Chinese national basketball teams and the CBA Professional League. That partnership is often held up, both internally and externally, as something of a sports marketing success story, resulting in record levels of television coverage and sponsorship for the CBA’s key properties whilst helping to turn China into an important growth engine for the entire Infront group. Barely two years in, Uslu says the Turkish venture is already “on the right track” to emulate Infront’s success in China. And with eight full-time staff working out of its new of ce in Istanbul – a local hub established speci cally to service the TBF partnership – the agency is now eyeing further opportunities to branch out into other areas. “Our main focus is on basketball now but in the mid-term we want to expand and de ne other sports to invest in,” says Uslu, who points to volleyball as another burgeoning domestic sport in Turkey. “We are seeking new opportunities in line with this strategy. I think we are acknowledged in the market for bringing a lot of international sports marketing experience based on the global track record of the Infront group. “I think the government’s interest [in growing the sports sector] is very high,” he continues. “Their aim is to bring the Olympic Games to Istanbul in order to foster socio-cultural development in the country. It might be a challenge in the short term because of current political, economic and security issues, but in the mid term, it’s possible. And it’s obvious that government investment in sport will uplift the Turkish sports industry, so there will be many, many opportunities for Infront and other organisations in sport. We at Infront want to add something to the positive development of Turkish sport and further accelerate it, by bringing in our expertise from a variety of sports and contributing our global knowhow in Turkey.” A further bene t of Infront’s centralised approach, says Uslu, is increased nancial solidity throughout the league. By providing the 16 participating teams with an undisclosed yearly guarantee plus a cut of any revenues should commercial income exceed a certain level, the agency is helping to stabilise budgets and foster increased competition both on and off the court. That effort to level the playing eld has, however, brought challenges of its own. Like other national basketball championships in Europe, the Turkish league comprises representatives from multi-sports clubs that have grown powerful and established strong followings over the years, largely on the back of the domestic and international success of their soccer sides. The ‘big three’ Istanbul-based clubs of Fenerbahçe, Galatasaray and Be ikta are the best-known cases, the trio regularly clashing in local derbies that are as well attended and bitterly disputed in basketball as they are in soccer. “These kinds of clubs that have a multi-sport focus, when they become successful in football, they have more income and also invest more money into basketball,” explains Erdenay. “There is a balance. I played in these clubs. If the football goes well, when they play well in the Uefa Ender Uslu, managing director at Infront Turkey Former player and TBF president Harun Erdenay 92 | www.sportspromedia.com FEATURE | BASKETBALL
  4. 4. Champions League, a bigger share of the generated income goes also to the basketball division of the club.” Other clubs like Anadolu Efes – Turkey’s most successful basketball team with 13 national titles – Türk Telekom and Banvit bene t from having corporate ownerships with deep pockets of their own. For each of these wealthier clubs, relinquishing certain marketing rights in favour of Infront’s new centralised model understandably carried less appeal. “Of course it took some time but we explained to them the value of this new structure for all teams and for the league,” says Uslu, who points to P nar Kar yaka’s unexpected title last season – their rst in 28 years – as a sign that competition within the league is thriving. “We had a mutual agreement for the good of the league,” he adds. “We split the league sponsors from the team sponsors, so the league sponsors will have exclusivity within each other and the team sponsors will have exclusivity within each other. We are managing the league and the team sponsors as separate assets so that the clubs keep some autonomy.” With the teams now on board, Uslu is adamant that greater competition in the league will create a virtuous cycle of success, raising the pro le of Turkish basketball both domestically and internationally and, in turn, bringing more brands into the sport. This year a record ten of the league’s 16 teams will compete in European competition, putting Turkey alongside Spain, widely considered to have the strongest domestic basketball league in Europe, in terms of continental representation. “European cups are an investment, but at the same time very important for the teams and the fans,” Uslu notes. “The clubs’ international participation and the glory they can gain will have a positive impact on Turkish basketball and its followership. In order to compete in European cups, a team needs to have a competitive domestic league, and on the other hand, success in the European cups increases the level of competition in the domestic league.” Away from the court, too, Turkey’s in uence in basketball has never been stronger, with Turkish entities now prominent players in the sport outside of their domestic market. Turkish Airlines, for example, title sponsors the Euroleague, ‘the Uefa Champions League of basketball’, while home appliances brand Beko is currently the presenting sponsor of the Eurobasket international tournament organised by Fiba, the global governing body. Others, like Efes Pilsener, Do u Group, Detur and the Turkish tourism ministry, also maintain ties with the sport at the continental level. “It shows the good spirit of business in Turkey because those big companies can afford to invest in sport and they are willing to,” says Erdenay. “Also it’s a government policy to invest in sport because they believe that if the young generation grows up with sport, we are going to be a healthier nation. The government’s politics and also the big companies’ support help to drive the development of the sports sector.” Such strong private and public sector support underlines the appetite that exists for basketball in Turkey. And with the country now able to boast a professional league that has a commercial framework to rival any in Europe, Infront and the TBF have their sights set rmly on usurping Spain as the continent’s number one. With ten teams from Turkey’s Spor Toto Basketball League competing in European competition this season, the country’s status in the sport is growing SportsPro Magazine | 93

The interest of the world press over the best basketball league of Europe is rising. Thanks to our marketing team of Infront Turkey, Infront global communication team and TBF colleagues. Avrupanın en iyi basketbol ligi seçilen Basketbol Süper Ligine dünya basınının ilgisi hergeçen gün artıyor. Infront Türkiye pazarlama ekibine, Infront Global iletişim ekibimize ve TBF ekibimize sonsuz teşekkürler.

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