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NBA eyes more investments with new private equity division

Dick’s Sporting Goods also forms own investment arm for sports startups.

7 November 2022 Steve McCaskill
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  • NBA’s current portfolio is believed to be worth US$1bn
  • League wants to formalise its investment operation

The National Basketball Association (NBA) has created a new private equity division as it seeks to expand its role as a strategic investor in sport startups.

Bloomberg says the league is keen to move away from passive, opportunistic investments in favour of a more formal operation that will look to not only grow the value of its portfolio but identify innovations that can improve the sport.

The division is primarily focussing on early-stage funding rounds in areas including equipment, media and fan engagement, as well as betting and fantasy sports. However, it could look to invest in later-stage deals if there is a strategic alignment.

Bloomberg reports the NBA has nearly 20 companies in its portfolio, with stakes totalling US$1 billion.

This portfolio includes investments in major companies like data provider Sportradar, blockchain fantasy game specialist Sorare and apparel firm New Era. It also covers investments in startups like digital video firm 15 Seconds of Fame and smart fabric developer Nextiles. The league also has its NBA Launchpad accelerator programme, supporting technolgy companies that help it achieve its strategic priorities.

The 2022 intake focused on ankle injury innovation, elite youth player performance, referee training and development, and youth health and wellness.

Meanwhile, US sports retail giant Dick’s Sporting Goods is also formalising its investment operations. DSG Ventures is a US$50 million fund that will initially target athlete-focused startups, with the company stating it wants to be an active investor that provides more than just financial support.

Its initial tranche of investments include online sporting goods marketplaces SidelineSwap, outdoor gear marketplace Out&Back Outdoor, youth sport company EL1Sports, women’s basketball footwear brand Moolah Kicks, and digital sports investment firm Courtside Ventures.

“Dick’s would not be what it is today without the support we received along the way from others who saw our company’s potential,” said Dick’s Sporting Goods executive chairman Ed Stack.

“Now DSG Ventures will enable us to give back and help support entrepreneurs achieve their dreams through our connections, experience and support. We know that DSG Ventures (and our partners) will bring innovative products, services and experiences to athletes around the world.”

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