Branding 101: How The NBA Brand Built A Global Presence

From the outside, basketball seems like a truly universal game. It exists across communities. Wherever you go, you can see a kid dribbling a ball and practicing a shot. 

So it might seem like it’s partly inevitable that the NBA became such a successful brand – one of the most popular sports brands in the world.

But building a sports brand is one of the most challenging tasks across industries. Within the sports industry, many categories exist, which makes finding a widespread customer base difficult. 

So it’s all the more impressive that the NBA is not just the largest basketball league. It is one of the world’s largest sports leagues. 

From its origins in the U.S. to garnering one billion viewers worldwide, the growth of the NBA has been no simple feat. But it happened, and the NBA’s marketing team made it happen with finesse.


Well, building an audience that will travel with you for years, irrespective of their background, location, and culture, requires a lot of planning. And strategic marketing. Well-thought-out strategies and an innate understanding of the sports world helped the NBA immensely.

That’s why the Kimp team feels that the league’s branding and marketing teams are the real MVPs. 

And that’s why we’re breaking down how the NBA built one of the largest global sporting leagues, conquering new markets with style. 

The NBA Brand: History and globalization plans 

The NBA dates back to 1949 when the National Basketball League and the Basketball Association of America merged. It is the largest basketball league in North America, in which 29 teams from the United States and one team from Canada come together to compete in a series of 82 games.

Almost 70 years later, the NBA is one of the most respected and coveted sports leagues worldwide. NBA athletes are some of the highest-paid across sporting categories. 

And increasingly though the NBA has a home base in North America, it has a global appeal. The league had its first international game in 1978, and two years later saw a large influx of athletes from around the world joining the teams. 

These globally acclaimed, non-American, basketball players were not just a sporting asset for the teams, but they helped globalize the league itself. They brought in basketball enthusiasts from their countries. And this propelled the popularity of the NBA to new heights. Since then, the volume of international players entering the league has only increased.

As we mentioned before, it took a lot of hard work for the NBA to establish the global presence it has today. 

The strategies that the NBA employed can teach us a lot about what it takes to build a global brand and make headway in unfamiliar new markets.

So keep reading, and take inspiration from the greats as you work on building, and expanding, your own brand!

New Market Strategies that transformed NBA brand into a global brand 

Entering a new market is challenging but not impossible as the NBA’s conquest of global markets has so clearly shown us. As a business, it is important to set clear goals and keep your eye on the big picture. 

Even if the going looks tough now, small consistent steps taken daily will get you to your goals.

So without further ado, let’s take a look at the most important go-to-market strategies you can take from the NBA’s global success.

A strong Branding Foundation 

No matter what your business goals are, you need a powerful brand to succeed. A brand defines your company’s purpose, values, and brand personality. It helps you frame the messaging and helps your audience relate to you as well.  

If you look at the NBA, you can see that this sports league has spent a lot of time becoming a brand.

Right from the visual identity to its value and messaging, everything has been in place for decades now. Once they landed on the branding that resonated most deeply with their target audience, they have tweaked here and there but never wavered. This conviction and deep understanding of their brand made it easier for the league to tell the world about themselves. 

To make its branding more effective, the NBA brand ensures that:  
  • Each sub-niche, such as WNBA, NWBA, NBA Europe, and NBA China, has distinct branding and visual identity that is connected to the NBA brand.
  • All the pro-league teams have a meaningful and captivating brand identity that are distinct but clearly co-branded with the NBA. 
  • All products such as team jerseys, advertising collateral, stadium designs, and display banners carry the appropriate branding at all times.

Such a strong branding ethic also helps the brand become omnipresent in all its major markets. And it often involves a 2 step process. The NBA gets target audiences familiar with its brand. Audiences are able to spot merchandise, advertising, and brand collaborations right off the bat.

Kimp Tip: A strong brand identity can help your business in numerous ways. When looking at entering new markets, it is important to have strong visual identities and branding for all verticals, sub-niches, and products too. Since consumers operate on visual memory more than anything else, focusing on memorable branding designs pays off big-time.

A Kimp Graphics subscription can help you create an attractive, meaningful, and memorable branding identity for your business so that building brand awareness becomes a slam dunk. 

Source: Sports Logos
Co-branding the right way 

We just discussed how the NBA brand uses collaborations to improve brand awareness and brand visibility in new markets. As you’ve probably noticed, ads and partnerships that come via the NBA, the league teams, or even individual players are always right on the money.

While the league makes it look easy, it does take an immense amount of planning. 

When two brands (especially big brands) collaborate, there is always a fight for attention and an overwhelming worry from both sides to not get outshined by the other. That is why co-branding is still a challenge for even the biggest brands. 

But all NBA brand collaborations have only helped further the brand visibility for the NBA. The key to getting co-branding right is to design a combined branding identity that complements both the collaborating brands. It takes time but yields significant results when done right.

Below, you can see that while the design style is native to Louis Vuitton, the NBA’s logo is front and center.

NBA X Louis Vuitton
Source: Louis Vuitton

Kimp Tip: If you feel intimidated to venture into co-branding, consult a design team with a clear design brief. Include the project details, individual company branding, and expected aesthetic. Tease out a few mood boards and get feedback from all members in the collaboration.

You can always find the balance between your brand and your collaborators. All you need is an open mind and a talented design team. Speaking of which, did you know you can make unlimited revisions, for a flat monthly fee, with a Kimp Graphics subscription?

The Customer is the MVP 

The NBA has been planning and preparing for its feat of world domination in sports leagues for decades. And if there is one market sentiment that unites the world, it is that the customer is the real MVP. Especially if you are trying to gain more customers. 

Understanding this also means that you have to expect your customers’ needs and cater to them even before they are openly asking. As much as possible, anyway.

Going global was not an effortless task for the NBA. The company had to revisit its broadcasting strategy, camera angles, streaming options, and even post-production processes to cater to audiences from different localities.

Moreover, as you move out of North America, customers opt for mobile devices to watch these games rather than traditional large screens. 

To counter all these issues and enhance viewer experience across the globe, the NBA brand:
  1. Ensured that its team optimizes all the video content they stream via their app, social media platforms, and website for mobile devices. 
  2. Brought in additional cameras to later repurpose the same video for different audiences, fan bases, and platforms. For example, out of 11 cameras, 1 is the NBA mobile view and collects content for social networks. 
  3. Allowed individual teams to bring in their camera crews and production managers to present custom live feeds to their fans and fanatics. 
  4. Worked on location-specific content such as alternate commentary options (akin to the local television channel), subtitles, and no-ad streaming for places where advertising is an issue. 
  5. Created an Esports league to rope in younger audiences.  

Now you must be thinking that these are very NBA-specific strategies. So, how is it possible that they can work for your business too? It is a fair worry. But, you must understand the intent behind all this. 

Formatting your content, resizing your packages, or even redesigning your website to make it user-friendly will achieve the same objectives as what NBA did. It helps your user get a better value from you. It just happens to be on a different scale and with a different audience.

Source: ESPN
Playing the Social Media game 

Digital marketing can get you entry into places you physically cannot be. And so it was a must that the NBA brand incorporated social media marketing into their global brand building. When you want to enter new markets, the first thing you do is improve your visibility and let people know of your existence. 

What better way to do it than social media?

Providing importance to Social Media also helped the league communicate with their fans directly and establish a rapport. In new markets, the NBA creates separate profiles for each sub-niche on social media so that they can target the right audience demographic. 

When it comes to the content, the NBA portrays itself to be a very progressive brand and that is obvious from its posts too. Each team has the mandate to have an active social media profile. 

In fact, during games, you can even see rival teams post content trash-talking each other or post related content to generate interest among the fans. The NBA also runs custom campaigns across platforms to improve the reach of their pages. Right from the NBA playoff classic moments campaign on Pinterest, to the “Hoops around the world” campaign on Twitter, the company knows how to hold attention on social media. 

Source: NBA

Kimp Tip: Social media is one tool you should not take lightly. By creating content that goes with the tone of the platform and your brand value, you can connect with the right audience. Also, the more you put out there about your company, the better your chances are for market penetration. Looking for social media content ideas for your business? Check out this guide by Kimp for inspiration. 

Content marketing and distribution 

The NBA does not just excel at bringing talent together and organizing one of the best COVID-19 bubbles. It is also quite good at its digital marketing efforts. And yes, that goes well beyond social media marketing. 

Digital marketing can help businesses secure leads, generate brand awareness, and carve a presence in all the right places on the internet. But how does the NBA ace the game of digital marketing?

Well, by being just as agile as the players are on the court. The NBA’s website has a stellar lineup of match schedules, curated content pieces, statistics about the game, and so much more. It is a basketball haven, and it is so easy to lose track of time with it. This means the SEO scores for the website go through the roof. Genius, right?

The NBA takes this content marketing strategy and enhances it further with its distribution strategies.

Some of the tactics that generate an especially high ROI for the NBA brand are: 
  • Streaming games on Twitch and YouTube to capture out of home audiences and the mobile users. 
  • Creating meaningful and interactive content on Facebook and Instagram. The NBA puts out recaps, compilation videos, and inspiring content on these platforms taken from actual game footage. 
  • Building an email list by providing curated content on the website. 

These content pieces across platforms unite fans all over and make them part of the same experience, irrespective of their location.

Digital marketing grows a business by leaps and bounds. However, it takes a lot of work for digital strategies to work. But keep at it and content marketing and distribution can make it happen for your business too, just like it did for the NBA brand. 

Kimp Tip: Content distribution is as important as creation. So make the most of your content and repurpose them across platforms. To conquer new markets, you don’t need to start from scratch. You have to refresh a lot of your old social media posts, blogs, articles, and PR pieces and bring them under the limelight.

Wondering how to do that without making your feed look repetitive and boring? Get Kimp! 😉

Conquer new markets with Kimp 

Do you want to make a stellar first impression on every new market that you enter? Is your brand identity strong enough to help your business scale? And acquire new customers? No matter the size of your business these questions can be hard to answer. But that’s where A/B testing with the help of Kimp comes in.

Marketing and advertising play a major role in any business’s successful expansion. And you need a trustworthy design partner for both. 

Kimp Graphics and Kimp Video subscriptions can help you scale your business in a faster, more efficient, and affordable way. Our unlimited design and revision requests delivered at a flat monthly fee help brands around the world scale and grow. 

You can be one of them too.

Sign up for the free trial today.