- Basketball is UK’s fastest growing sport, according to the league
- “Possible” that competition could have new teams as soon as next season
- CEO Aaron Radin “very confident” about ability to attract investment
The British Basketball League plans to position itself as an entertainment product in order to boost fan and commercial interest during the 2023/24 season.
The league’s new campaign tips off on 14th September, arriving with a new brand look, including a redesigned logo, as part of fresh efforts to bring in new audiences. Speaking to media, including SportsPro, ahead of 2023/24, British Basketball League chief executive Aaron Radin said that content would be a cornerstone of the league’s attempts to reinvigorate basketball in the UK.
According to Radin, the BBL is in a unique position in that, unlike properties such as soccer’s Premier League, people are not “born into” supporting a club. Instead, fans are more likely to discover the British Basketball League through a piece of content, meaning, as he put it, the league’s output needed to be “world class and entertaining” in order to grab attention.
While Radin acknowledged there had been “missteps in the past” which had stifled progress, he believed “upscaling” content would “bring joy” to fans old and new, citing the league’s huge potential.
According to the British Basketball League, basketball is the UK fastest growing sport and 11 million people in the country are interested in the game. Radin also championed the league’s young audience, stating that 70 per cent of its fanbase is aged between 13 and 34. This, he says, gives the competition a younger fanbase than soccer, Formula One and tennis. The BBL also says that basketball is the second most played team sport in the UK after soccer with 1.3 million participants.
Radin, who was appointed British Basketball League executive in December 2022, wants to completely overhaul the league’s content output, noting that pre and postgame content had, up until now, been minimal. Instead, he felt everything should “build up to a crescendo” that incorporates “all the buildup and excitement” before tip off. Content will not be confined to on the court action either, with other storytelling, often athlete-led, being prevalent to try and create an emotional connection.
A key element of the retooled strategy is the British Basketball League’s new production studio which, among other things, has the technological capability to create multiple sets to offer an immersive experience Radin believed would take the league’s live broadcasts to “a whole new level”.
“Everything to do with the British Basketball League we will produce,” added Radin, who also said there was scope to use the studio for other sports, meaning it could become a production hub for more leagues. In addition, British Basketball League players will be encouraged to join broadcasts and contribute other content of their own, including long-form articles.
The bulk of the British Basketball League’s games will be shown on YouTube but Radin said there is ample opportunity for the competition to get “shelf space” on a lot of different streaming outlets. He cited the availability of the British Basketball League’s live content and its young demographic.
Radin also conceded that the BBL’s sports rights being comparatively cheap would appeal to over-the-top (OTT) platforms, though hoped broadcast packages wouldn’t stay modestly priced “for much longer”. This season, he continued, would be about “experimentation” in terms of distribution.
Despite being about to get its 37th season underway, expectations for the British Basketball League have ramped up since it secured a UK£7 million (US$8.8 million) investment from 777 Partners in December 2021. Radin said the fact the league is now in a “build stage” represented “a rare opportunity” albeit one that was also “incredibly hard”. He said success would be clear to see.
“I want kids imitating guys that play in the British Basketball League,” he explained. “The way that we’re going to get there is through the content experiences that we create.”
Radin also gave an update on teams, with bids for the Manchester Giants due at the end of the month. The BBL currently has nine clubs in England and one in Scotland, though remains without a presence in Wales or Northern Ireland. More external investment into the league will also be necessary.
“I’ve been on record before saying I want to get the infrastructure in place so that these clubs have an opportunity to be successful right from the outset,” said Radin. “I think it’s possible that we could have new clubs as soon as next season. We’re starting to have some of those discussions.
“In terms of investment, I feel very confident that this is a very investable business. We’ll see in terms of the developments there.
“I think this is a business that’s going to, over time, require more capital. I feel very confident about our ability to attract capital.”
Extra backing will also be given to the Women’s British Basketball League, a competition that Radin said “screams opportunity”.
“Our shareholders are committed that eventually each of our clubs will have a women’s club,” he continued.
“One of the things that’s clear, and you see it in different women’s leagues, whether it’s the Women’s Super League here or the NWSL in the United States, is there’s very little overlap in the audiences that go to these different leagues. To me, that screams opportunity and ways that we can connect with a different type of audience.
“Infrastructure is critically important. Once we have infrastructure in place, we have the ability to scale and go after these other types of opportunities, which we certainly intend to do.”