Reviving A Brand – The ABC’S Of The NBL.

The way Basketball Australia has let the sport die here is nothing short of dismal… Back in the early 90’s, Basketball was one of the top 3 or 4 sports in this country and due to some poor decisions by the sports governing body and the National Basketball League it has seen this great sport fall off the radar.

That, mixed with the current situation facing Eddy Groves, one of the countries great entrepreneurs, founder of ABC Learning Centre… and owner of the Brisbane Bullets, who as Brian Kerle pointed out in Sundays Courier Mail, “it’s no secret he has (also) been propping up the NBL for some time” – the NBL is set for a very quick death.

Due to Groves current financial situation, thanks to an over zealous sell-off by the markets and subsequent margin calls… not only are the Brisbane Bullets on life-support, Groves also owns the basketball stadium in Adelaide and is understood to have a significant interest in the 36ers, therefore the South Australian franchise might also be under pressure.

Another of the countries most recognised clubs, the Sydney Kings, are also on the brink of collapse, and word around the camp-fire is that West Sydney Razorbacks and the Wollongong Hawks are also in deep financial trouble.

Acting NBL Commissioner Chuck Harmison said this week the NBL was not in crisis and “We are going through a review process which is going to deliver some findings on how we can become a stronger league and keep teams in the league for a longer term,”

Well Chuck, today’s post is my take on the situation, what caused the deterioration, and what the league, clubs and the sports governing body MUST DO to revive the basketball brand here is Australia.

As Tim Morrissey, so rightly pointed out in the Daily telegraph this week “The NBL should never have pushed Channel 10 into showing games live on a Saturday night.” The league was getting great weekend coverage on free-to-air TV… but in their eagerness to make the sport main-stream they pushed to hard and Channel 10 chose Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks and Melanie Griffiths, over the NBL to entertain their viewers on Saturday nights – and rightly so. The only sport in Australia that has the right to grab prime-time eyeballs is the AFL.

Trying to take on a country’s religion was never going to work… and that’s one of the key rules in business and marketing that they broke -Know Thy Competition. The decision makers at the time completely lost sight of their competition, the other people fighting for their markets attention.

The NBL not only competes for fans (read:customers) against the AFL, NRL, A-League etc, but their target market now have endless options when it comes to entertaining the family… and that’s what the NBL sells = Entertainment. It’s the Nintendo WII’s, the Foxtels and the Facebooks that are stealing the fans away.

It’s not about the sport itself anymore, it’s about making a trip to the basketball an experience the whole family can enjoy. The standard of the competition has unquestionably risen since the NBL’s peak, but given that attendance levels haven’t grown at the same rate, it proves that it’s not just about the sport.

IncredaBULLSThe night out for the family begins when they arrive at the stadium, not when the umpire throws the ball up at the beginning of the first quarter. At a club level, the organisations need to keep this in mind when preparing their game nights.

Get the cheerleaders, mascots and street entertainers out walking the corridors prior to tip-off interacting with the fans – when I was 16 I went on a Basketball trip through the USA, and what I remember more about the Chicago Bulls game was the pre-game atmosphere – not Jordan and Longley on the court.

It’s this interaction with the fans that the NBL has let slip away… As Morrissey mentioned in his article, “the Kings (and all NBL clubs) should not have stopped sending their players out to schools and into the community on a weekly basis.”

Think about all the “hot” new trends that are taking kids away from basketball – Nintendo WII’s, Online Multi-player games like World-Of-Warcraft etc – It’s all about two-way interaction. Kids no longer want to go to get entertained by watching, they want to get involved with the game… and getting back to the grass roots and getting players back into the schools is the perfect way to make this happen.

And why the sports governing body refused to support, endorse and implement the (now) worlds leading basketball development program is beyond me. Billy Bounce is a basketball development program created by one of the NBL’s ex-players Bruce Hultgren, who since receiving little (read: absolutely no) support from Basketball Australia, has taken the program to the India, Dubai and the USA where it has been endorsed by Five Star Basketball – the world leader in basketball education programs.

But for this to happen, the NBL needs to re-think their scheduling, revert back to a winter sport and stop with this mid-week game rubbish. As Sam Mackinnon said in his recent article “It’s hard to get publicity about the new season when it starts right in the middle of the footy finals, and it’s also difficult to pump our finals series when it goes head-to-head with the start of the NRL and AFL seasons.”

The NBL thrived as a winter sport, as it got to compete with the AFL and NRL as the only major team sport played indoors over winter, and with scheduling mid-week games, players are never going to have the much needed opportunity to get out to schools. Get them back out to school to do clinics – invite the kids along for free (or at least at a discount) – and they will bring their parents, just like we did in the early 90s.

The week days must be set aside to grow the sport, get the players into the communities and schools (have I said it enough yet?) and revert back to mid-week evening training sessions… where fans can get along to watch the sessions and clubs can build the relationship between kids and families.

And don’t even get me started on ticket prices… I understand the economics of the situation – that they need to charge this to cover player salaries, but every other business in the world works like this: The employees (read: players) get paid in proportion to what revenues they generate… So the better the player = the more well known they become = the more fans they bring to the games = the more merch they sell = the more revenues they generate = and only then are they paid more…

Yes, lowering the contract value of players may mean we lose some to the big dollars in Europe, but I would rather see a financially strong league locally, than no league at all… Plus, as Mackinnon pointed out “we shouldn’t forget that by having a July-to-December season, more of Australia’s top players who apply their trade in Europe could play in the NBL before heading back.”

But the NBL seem to have it round the other way – they need to increase ticket prices to cover players exorbitant salaries. Ask the average joe in the street who the 4 highest paid NBL “stars” are, and I would strongly bet that they wouldn’t have a clue – most Australians still think Andrew Gaze is in the league.

And that leads me on to my final point – Where have the leagues personalities gone? Back in the NBL’s good-old-days, the league was full of characters.. the people who where not afraid to speak their mind and make the league great… Simon Kerle, Bruce Palmer, Ray Gordon, Andrew Parkinson and Tim Morresey. Give some of the league’s characters a voice, just like the NBA has done by embracing the technology the fans have and getting players to blog.

The NBL needs to invest in the players, create characters that kids want to latch on to – where has the Dwayne the D-train gone, or what about Alabama Slammer James Crawford.. I can’t name a single player in the NBL that has a persona… and that’s what’s missing – when it comes to Basketball in Australia there is nothing for the kids to latch onto.

So to the board of Basketball Australia and the NBL;

To fix this sport and revive the brand… follow these key steps:

  • Know Thy Competition – it’s not the other sports, it the internet and Playstaion 3’s of the world.
  • Understand you are selling entertainment, not basketball tickets
  • Interact with your customers – every business must do this to survive.
  • Realise it’s not about the sport (read: product), it’s about the experience.
  • Create some Characters, that kids can latch onto
  • Ask the right questions, to the right people. Bruce Hultgren is the only person in the world who has specialized in the field of junior basketball development since 1991… and not only is he Australian, he’s ex-NBL. The schools program the NBL clubs need to embrace is already developed… Just email him
  • Get me on the board of the league or a club 😉
I have written a follow-up to this post titled: Saving Basketball Australia & The NBL .
  • Ian Stacker


    Thanks for your view on where the NBL has screwed up, I agree on most of your points and would like to add one more. While I agree entertainment is a big part of the NBL experience I think the league in the John Rymarz (I think that was his name) got too much into entertainment and lost the connection the fans have to the game. An NBL game at times is more like a rock concert than a sporting event, with music that is totally inappropriate for the demographic – rap music especially – turned up so loud that it drowns out any impact the crowd can have on a game, I think Perth have realised this now and play less music and involve the crowd more and as you can see their numbers are going up.

    Music has a place at the game but not while the sporting event is taking place –what other sport in the world plays music while the contest is going on? The Pr people say it helps create an atmosphere, well usually only in the empty stadiums I would say.

    Check back to when the crowds were at their biggest and see how much music they were playing then during the game, very little I would suggest.

    So my solution, find the right place for the entertainment and get into involvement, make the crowd feel like a participant in the event, give them a connection to the players and the result and the crowds will start to rise again, full stadiums will bring back the TV and other media, they aren’t coming while 10,000 seat stadiums are hosting 3,000 fans.

    I have had the chance to see the game played all around the World, only in Australia is music played during the game action, it is actually against the FIBA rules, so find the right place for it and see what happens.


    Ian Stacker
    Former NBL Coach

  • Rick

    Hey Pwilli

    Read your blog. Very good. That was the formula for success that we used at the Supercats as you well know it worked fine then and lingers on there today.

    Rick Doherty

  • david

    very well said and hope all take notice of it. Stacks is right about the music ,but u have to get back to basics. Out in the schools and to junior gamnes. well done david

  • Daniel Kogoy

    Read your blog. Some good points. Grassroots marketing as Morrissey wrote about, getting out in the community should never have stopped. Though it shouldn’t obstruct a team from their training schedule like it did the Kings back in the late 80s/early 90s.

    Definately listen to Mackinnon regarding switching the league to July-December as long as the season is over in early December before the silly season kicks in.

    I would say the league personalities are still there, its just that people don’t know them anymore.

    Finally, ‘Australia’s Richard Branson’ seems to be a bloke with the funds to put his money where his mouth is. Buy into a team, sponsor the league and i’m sure they’ll take your views seriously.

  • Richard

    You’ve made some good points, but typically assume that it’s easy to fix some of the problems with the sport. The solution of getting NBL players “out into the schools” is a crock. It certainly wouldn’t do much for the game in Tasmania, Newcastle or indeed anywhere that doesn’t have an NBL team. This is a simplistic solution that doesn’t understand the problem.

    What is needed is a presence by the NBL in the schools – that is what AFL does so well. Do you actually think that AFL players are in schools day in day out? No, they are not, but everywhere the Auskick program goes carries the brand, the essence of the AFL. And yes the superstars do go to some events, but it is what happens every day that creates a culture for the sport.

    As for Billy Bounce, it’s a great program and it offers absolutely nothing that Aussie Hoops doesn’t have. The difference is that Aussie Hoops is created for the benefit of associations and not to make money for a private company. The biggest challenge is that uptake of the program is at the whim of associations – that remains the same whether the program is Billy Bounce, Aussie Hoops or something else.

  • Adam

    When kids go to the AFL there is no “experience” as such, there is no pre-game entertainment although the half-time entertainment is interactive to kids as they have the chance to play on their favoutite grounds as part of aus-kick – is it possible to have a similar idea for kids to play at NBL games. Not all kids who play basketball idolise famous basketball players anymore or have a favorite team but kids who play footy idolise their footy heroes.

    Your last point is the most significant to me, as i don’t know any personalities to relate to/admire/market the game. I dont’t think that this is because there is NO personalites as such. Remember when basketball was huge in Austrlia, it was also off the back off a strong NBA product/presence. Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson & Larry Bird opened the door for Andrew Gaze, Lanard Copeland, Leroy Loggins etc.

    Maybe it’s also time to rebrand the game similar to the A-league, where there are less teams and more quality.

  • Chris Stevens

    I think these are all fantastic ideas – no music during actual play would get the fans into it as well.
    I read on a sportal forum someone suggested to have one player per team out of the salary cap to attract crowds as the “excitement machine” so to speak as people go to games to see players like Corey “Homicide” Williams & Bakari Hendrix which is a great idea within $ reason.
    I also feel that something could be done right away to fix and promote the game the Grand Final is on tonight Fourth game Tigers win this one and they take the cup but NO ONE can get tickets as its at a tiny venue that struggles with 3500 strong crowd i know plenty of people that have rang for tickets and been unsuccessful surely the NBL could have put it at Rod Laver or Vodafone arena it ridiculous!

  • Chris Stevens

    I think these are all fantastic ideas – no music during actual play would get the fans into it as well.
    I read on a sportal forum someone suggested to have one player per team out of the salary cap to attract crowds as the “excitement machine” so to speak as people go to games to see players like Corey “Homicide” Williams & Bakari Hendrix which is a great idea within $ reason.
    I also feel that something could be done right away to fix and promote the game the Grand Final is on tonight Fourth game Tigers win this one and they take the cup but NO ONE can get tickets as its at a tiny venue that struggles with 3500 strong crowd i know plenty of people that have rang for tickets and been unsuccessful surely the NBL could have put it at Rod Laver or Vodafone arena it is ridiculous!

  • Scott Fraser

    Hi Pete,

    Mate apologies for replying on here and on Sportal first. I’ll get onto the job now.
    I posted this extensive blog on Sportal some weeks ago and I’ll summarise here:

    – The NBL has lost a lot of focus and is trying to immitate other sports in areas where it need not. In particular I make reference to placing Chuck Harmison as the interim CEO of the NBL. Chuck has done nothing in addressing the problems facing the NBL in his time there except order an independant inquiry which was most likely going to happen regardless. I believe Chuck was given the position with similarity to Andrew Dimitriou but the NBL missed one crucial difference; Andrew was already an accomplished businessman and had been serving with the AFL for some time prior to being made CEO. If the NBL were to be smart about re-building the sport and breathing new life into it, a more honest objective approach is required. E.g. someone like a David Stern. I’m quite sure David can’t ball to save himself but he is one of the MAJOR reasons for the success of the NBA and its expansion into global markets (and yes of course Jordan).
    – As Ian quite rightly pointed out, the NBL lost touch with it’s supporter base some time ago. Leave the rap music, gang banging rubbish to the AND1 tour and make the NBL the family friendly brand it used to be. It’s off-putting to supporters and I’m sure players/coaches when they can’t hear themselves during a timeout or when trying to call a play.
    – Quality, I believe, is only a minor issue and one of the issues the NBL can overcome the easiest. The best suggestion I heard recently was by a fellow Sportal member suggesting a salary cap “free” player or “marquee player” if you like who provides the extra entertainment fans feel they are lacking. That said I never want to see a 7 footer do a layup on a fast break again- DUNKS only please!!!!
    – Whoever scolded Pete for mentioning the grassroots problem needs to re-assess. Your points are valid; there is a product problem BUT there still needs to be a more active approach. I got to the NBL games when I was a kid through nagging my parents. Why? Bcause Michelle Timms or (the then unknown) Jason Smith came to my school/local club and gave me a clinic then did a dunk. This aspect of “marketting” cannot be underestimated and should be persued aggressively in the rebuilding process.
    – Return to winter please!!!!! Yes you’re competing directly with the AFL but it’s still a better time of year for the players AND allows better quality players who are looking for somewhere to workout in the off-season, a place to play. This could see fringe NBA talent become more common in the NBL.
    – Long-term thinking. I need only mention the Shane Heal/Mark Price/Dragons saga and as a Dragons fan, I feel the affect more than most. Sure you need faces when starting new franchises, but you still need intelligence to reign. There are too many band-aid fixes in the NBL and it has become the accepted attitude on fixing problems.
    – Venues. The Cage packed with fans, even though it’s only 3500, has a much better atmosphere than a quarter filled Vodafone arena. Lets be more realistic as the atmosphere at the Cage (haven’t been to other venues though I’m told the Swamp goes off) is enough to make you want to come back.

    Pete well done. I’ve (TheBigFundamental to Sportal members) spoken about this for ages but not gone to the length you have. If you need support mate please feel free to contact me (you have my email now?) as I feel this is almost worthy of a extraordinary general meeting with the NBL. Pete I will pass on the details of this blog to Phil Smythe, Lindsay and Andrew Gaze and the rest of my contacts as well. Ian, if you’re reading, possibly you could do the same.

  • Rob

    Hey guys, firstly I LOVE that Ian Stacker has stuck his nose in this. A former NBL coach is an awesome place to start and having guys like TheBigFundamental with all his contacts as well on board is gonna be perfect for this.

    I agree with everything Pete has said. There is not enough exposure, not enough family friendly atmospheres and too many (well one mainly) idiots running the league. Obviously I don’t promote myself to be able to run the league any better. But someone needs to see (and judging by this blog and responses) people ARE seeing that Chuck ain’t the man for the job.

    I remember a few years back when I bought a season membership for the Wildcats. It cost me $100. Admittedly it was right up the back row of the old Perth Entertainment Centre. But because Andrew Vlahov cut the prices back to get the crowd in, the crowds got better every game and ended up being the loudest place to play in of all the home courts. It was awesome! They turned the night into something special for all that attended and that is lost from what I’ve seen. And that is what needs to be gotten back.

    I don’t have a lot of research to fall on here, I can’t combat with the big wigs of the league, all I know is that as a fan, the league I used to love watching is almost outta my mind. Hell, I even forget when the Cats are playing and most of the time end up reading the results on sportal the next day instead of gettin the live scores on the night.

    So exposure is a HUGE problem, and hopefully this blog can create awareness to the big wigs that they need help and give them the ideas they need to make the league awesome again.

    Cheers for reading!

  • james hoff

    Merge the NZNBL with the NBL, have four teams in NZ,

    Put an AIS team in Canberra which is made up of Aussie players 21 and under, give them a degree so they don´t go to the NCAA so readily,

    Allow Asian players as non-imports as well as all players from the Southern Hemisphere (Argentina/Brazil etc) maybe even players from the commonwealth as non-imports too (W·est Indies, Canadians, Nigerians etc would not have to be imports in Europe).

    Put a team in Darwin and one in Jakarta – (population 8 million)

    Put a team in Tassie,

    Play half of the Hawks home games in Newcastle – rename them the east coast hawks or some such thing.

    Put all teams into divisions regarding their geography – Southern Division (2 melbourne teams, Adelaide, Hobart) QLD (4 QLD teams), E Coast (2 syd teams, Canberra, Hawks), Nth OZ Asia – (Darwin, Perth, Jakarta, Singapore), Nz etc = 20 total teams.

    Play the season in winter as mackinnon suggested.

    Each team plays 3 games against each other team in their division to determine a divisional champion in a league format while also playing each team in the league including in their own division twice = 49 games per team. A Divisional Champion is crowned and that team & the 2nd best team in division advance to playoffs.

    Play West Sydney´s games in the actual West of Sydney, not the inner west (1 hr drive from the far west) and half of Sydney Kings games at the current razorbacks stadium (their ex stadium) which could also be shared by the razorbacks.

    Ideally have a naming rights sponsor, a central logo sponsor for the league, a key sponsor, a jersey sponsor, an mvp sponsor e.g. hummer (and all awards for that matter) etc as well as each team having their own team sponsor.

    Get the players into the community.

    Sell package deals and vary ticketing prices depending on whether the game is a divisional only clash or a league clash.

    If for instance each team had a squad of 10 (with 2 dev´ players) it would be made up of say 5 Aussies (or kiwis in the NZ division), 2 asian players, a south american player and 2 american or world imports, meaning the quality of local players in the leagues would actually increase because there would be the top 100 aussies and kiwis playing (whereas now there is roughly 120 local players spread across only 13 teams.

    Stick it on free to air for goodness sake, with the divisions broken up it heightens local rivalries so individual partnerships with FTA stations would be more feasible – e.g. East Coast div on 9, Southern on 7 etc, even if its on at midnight.

    All star game could be divisional or World, Aus, NZ tri series.

    Why will this work?

    Well assuming someone like frank lowy is backing it (not eddy groves at this stage), the best players in Asia and South America would see it as a better springboard to Europe or the NBA than their local leagues which are inferior. It would become a genuine breeding ground for NBA talent¨.

  • james hoff

    See website above

  • Scott Fraser

    James: I see no link!!!!!!

  • Chella


    I totally agree with everything you said. I have been a kings member for 3 years and it’s disappointing to know that we can’t fill up the entire Entertainment Centre like we used to.
    Getting the players involved again in the communities is a great idea. My son always asks if he can invite Jason Smith to his school (although we reside in the Razorbacks area).
    In regards to memories, my earlier memories are the D-Train and Leon Trimmingham! Hey the Kings have great players Dontaye and Isiah, but they’re not out there with the communities who can get bums on seats!
    Bring back the D-train!!! I know his best friend is still part of the NBL team. I’m sure the Ent Cent will fill up quickly just to see him!

  • Dan

    Hi Guys,

    I’m certainly no big wig or major player in the basketball landscape, but am actively involved in the game as a junior coach.

    I love that this discussion is happening as i totally agree that the NBL could be so much more than it actually is. I think a good start to getting the NBL back into schools and more exposure is to have the NBL as the governing body of basketball, like the AFL is to football.

    Rather than having Basketball Australia, Basketball Queensland, Basketball Victoria, Basketball NSW out in the schools running clinics, and Aussiehoops programs, Hooptime Days, it would create less confusion for the general public if it where all under one brand name.

    Also as i read in Adam’s post, the NBL was helped by the NBA, as the NBA had Jordan, Magic, Bird and the likes… The NBA now has Bogut, and Newly (when he finishes in Europe) with plenty of Talent coming through the NCAA ranks and likely draftees. ( Mills, Ogilvy, Jawai – allthough not in NCAA). So there is plenty of Aussie talent over there, aswell as the likes of Lebron James, Kobe Bryant and more, that we get minimal exposure to. And if the NBL made the switch back to the Winter months, you may see that calibre of Aussie player return home to play which would be huge.
    (like Lauren Jackson playing for Canberra Capitals)

    And as the current Grand Final series is anything to go by, it is still an entertaining game to watch. I agree that the entertainment side of things could improve, pre game, half time, etc… the Dragons did have pre game entertainment, NBA like pre game with performers in the hall ways and entertaining dance, and show while introducing the players. It would be nice to see more of that style on more games, and maybe actually see that on the TV coverage on Foxtel.

    I think there still is the Big Names, your “franchise player” for want of a better term, its just they arent marketed properly. Anstey, Ebe Ere, Corey Williams, Joe Ingles, to name a few, and now with Sean Lampley aswell, they are definatly names that kids could latch onto. instead of having Lebron or Kobe as there favourite player, maybe we see Chris Anstey, or Jason Smith.

    Ticket prices are way to high, thats a given.

    I like the idea of having different conferences that may also encourage Free to Air to get onboard there local teams, rather than showing Perth v NZ in Melbourne.

    i think we all agree that exposure is one of the major problems, and hopefully with people like yourselves who have great ideas on how things could change may influence the right people and get the ball moving.

    Thanks for reading.


  • Michael G

    just wanted to say this is the best article i have read for a while. i for one do not go to any perth nbl games anymore because it is expensive (tickets, food, transport). nbl needs to work from the ground up and some people need to stop being fat cats and work for their money.

    PS. Bring back kal bruton and leroy loggins and other legends who need to show us how it is done, AGAIN.

  • Adam

    Eddy Groves?! The same Eddy Groves that got the pure profit/greed bug and nearly sunk hundreds of critical infrastructure facilities(monopolised over-priced childcare centres) into bankruptcy? The same Eddy Groves that got greedy and grew too fast (like his quasi-mullet)?

    Come on, there are better Australian business people than THAT guy.

    As per the game? I loved watching Wildcats Ricky and James do their ally-‘oops at PEC and Shane Heals’ three-throws. MacDonald was great to watch too. Why did the game die? Footy (including rugby) tookover the mindspace whilst basketball got greedy and overly ambitious. After the ‘roo’s World Cup games, soccer has moved up even more.

    I believe James Hoff’s idea could work, then again it’d take a smart person with deep pockets to pull it off. Emirates Airlines would probably pitch in a tonne of money for it (since they want to ‘Emiratize’ the world).

    Interesting though is that with other sports it’s slightly easier for the average school student to aim for making it to the big league in footy or soccer. Twice as many positions available on the field/court and you don’t need to be over 6ft to play soccer or rugby league (yes true it helps though!). Probabilities. Supply and demand. How many basketball courts do you see around? Unless they’ve got the money they build them to fit tennis courts also. Whereas the outdoor grass sports you can play 4 or 5 (AFL, NRL, ARU, Gaelic Football and of course Cricket) on the ovalur MCG, Gabba, school ‘ovals’ ectera. Can you play basketball on grass?! There you go, it’s just too expensive to run the infrastructure, the Perth Entertainment Centre was run down and profitably drained off by Perthite and Channel 7 owner Kerry Stokes. No one really wanted to go to the PEC not even for concerts. It’s an infrastructure issue also. An issue Eddy Groves should steer clear and far away from. 😀

    Maybe it’s a race issue also, how many white guys do you see as the best NBA or NBL players? Andrew Gaze and Shane Heal were the only recent white guys that made it to ‘household names’ and facial recognition on the nightly news. You rarely saw a black guys face or heard their name.

    Other sports are just more univeral too, you have a greater mix of races and nationalities/religions in footy (Hassim El Masri and others in rugby league is Moslem, as was Anthony Mundine) and especially soccer.

  • Daniel Kogoy

    Good on James for his positive thinking.

    I think we should focus on the changes that the NBL can put in place in its current financial situation. We can’t wait around for a Frank Lowy or a Murdoch because one hasn’t come by yet.

    Do everything possible to set up a team in Darwin (Move Singapore there).

    Change the league’s schedule right now, to run from July to the 1st of December starting this year.

    Give the tele rights away (sell them if you can) for at least one game a week on late night commercial tele. Foxsports live coverage could be mentioned in the broadcast to appease any concerns from Fox.

    I like Adam’s idea about an NBL Aus-Kick program in the schools. SHould be started immediately at whatever scale the NBL can afford. Gotta get the kids more involved again. Like people have mentioned, give the tickets to the kids for reduced prices and they drag their parents along at full price.

    Look into merging Sydney with West Sydney. Play half the games in at the entertainment centre and half at Homebush, Liverpool or Penrith. My preference would be for Homebush. It is not the inner west, its the central west. Easily accessible from all parts of the city by car and plenty of parking there.

    I would be cancelling any plans of further expansion into Asia and axing Singapore. The NBL can’t afford it and it would stretch already limited funds. Asia does not have strong domestic talent, does not have a basketball tradition and why would an Indonesian take an interest in the NBL?

    If anything, the NBL should be reducing the number of teams to 10-12. This would strengthen each team financially and talent wise. 10 teams worked for the A-League. Forget any plans for 4 teams from NZ, perhaps there would be a case for an extra team sometime down the track. The Super 12 has what, 3 or 4 teams from NZ, and rugby is their religion!

    The AIS team should definately be investigated to see if its possible. The lure of the NCAA could be too much to keep our best young players here. They already get their tuition paid for at US Colleges.

    I don’t think that a division system is necessary. Its a foreign concept here in Australia, a very American idea. Thats one thing I hear people talk about when criticising the NBL, too American.

  • james Hoff

    The whole idea of the conference thing is to reduce travel costs and reinstate local rivalries which are limited to the NTh QLD teams, Syd west syd and melbourne teams. There has to be atleast 15 players from Asia who could fill a roster spot on nbl teams and sth america must have over 30, not to mention some african countries. Im not a huge fan of aiming to survive long term alone because i think there is an opportunity for the nbl to be the 3rd best league in the world if the right things fall into place. If you´re happy with Australia being ranked in the top 10 in the world for the rest of our lives and once in a blue moon contending for a medal then so be it, but why isn´t it reasonable to aim higher than that and have more than 1 aussie in the NBA for instance. As for the NZNBL, it is a case of merging 12 teams down to 4, i for one think with the right marketing these teams could be a popular part of the NZ sporting landscape. The 3rd best league in the world of the 2nd most popular sport would surely get people interested. The a league is really just a product of good marketing, the a league in terms of world leagues is very low and is miles and miles away from becoming even as good as the US soccer league which is a 3rd rate league anyway. On a world scale the nbl is already a better league than the a league in terms of quality of the sport (granted that football is more popular than basketball worlwide by a long way).

  • Brett Hood

    Pete Williams has made some intelligent observations and points about where the NBL is going wrong.

    I believe that the NBL has lost its heart. Its not the same game that I used to enjoy. The NBL was full of some very recognizable basketball characters in the 80’s and 90’s that were at times controversial but thats what kept people interested in the game.

    By all means follow the AFL’s lead with what they have done with auskick which is now well know all over Australia. Come up with some creative marketing and advertising which will make people situp and take notice of the sport.

    I agree with the observations of others that the reasoning for moving the schedule to a summer competition was flawed.

    The enormous overheads the clubs have to carry has been an overwhelming burden for many which is the reason so many are in financial stress. Mergingintergration is one way that can help struggling teams survive. I don’t believe the league should be thinking about any more expansion at this stage until they have addressed the problems of existing clubs.

    I know the game is covered by Fox Sports (pay per view) but it would even be better if a free-to-air network can become involved in promoting the game by televising a game-of-the-week each and every week.

    The governing bodies of the sport have to put their thinking caps on and come up some innovative ways to capture public interest by positive promotionmarketingadvertising. I wish them well.

  • Chris stevens

    Now Foxtel is talking about ditching the NBL does this spell the end for our sport and someone said get a team in Darwin top idea they love bball up there

  • Sandi

    Does anyone think they should add an NBL media award for ‘Best Online Contribution’ ?

  • Mike D

    VERY good article, much better than my attempt to solve the NBL’s problems ( You have identified some areas which the NBL definitely need to improve in. Personally I would love to see an A-League-style centralized marketing plan for the league and clubs.

    You mentioned how NBA players blog through the NBA website. There are NBL player blogs out there ( but these are not tied into the NBL website, which is an opportunity.

    Anyway, good luck getting on one of the boards – basketball needs thinkers like yourself!

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  • Dan

    Maybe even getting European Superstars like Papaloukas, Jasikevicius or Gurovic on short-terms contracts here can appeal to some ethnic groups, who are mainly from soccer backgrounds and you just need to look at Melbourne Victory and what guys like Archie Thompson and Fred have created for them. New fans and educating more people to the game.

    Basketball Australia desperately need another “Team USA Olympic 2000 warm-up or 80’s USSR” match series. Bringing Greece for example in a international period to Melbourne will create an atmosphere that will kick the NBL up the bottom. Or even China, as Australia has a large Asian population.

  • Greg

    Wow … so pleased to have stumbled across this conversation.

    I used to be a massive NBL fan, but have not made it to a game for about five years. The last game I went to was a Melbourne Tigers game at Rod Laver arena … lucky to be 10% full! There was zero atmosphere, and way too much cheese for anyone to be able to enjoy the game … too much music, t-shirt giveaways, over-loud court announcements, etc, etc. At the time I though that it was so hard to focus on the actual game that was happening at the time, no one could actaully come away and say that they enjoyed the match.

    The problem (I thought) was that the the home club (or the league) did not believe in their product, and they had to over-sell it with all of the other distractions! I would rather go and see my local BigV team, where I can focus on the game and the match-ups, and I’m sure other basketball fans would say the same.

    Sure … have all of the “entertainment” aspects during the breaks and timeouts, but if the product is good enough, which it clearly is, let it stand alone and sell itself.

    Okay, so I also think there are too many teams … Singapore in particular … what was the NBL thinking? I like the idea of one or two teams per town maximum, to improve the quality and build some long-term rivalries. And I love the idea mentioned above of linking each team with a state-level “farm” team, to build roster strength, and provide a pathway into the NBL.

    Crazy Idea #1: Any chance of an NBA team doing a pre-season here to increase awareness and create a buzz? Maybe a practice game against some sort of all-star team over their off season?

    I would love to see the NBL back on the main pages of sporting news, and am happy to contribute opinions if needed. I love hoops, and hope that my little boy will someday grow to love the game too. The game is beautiful … let it grow and exist without some of the unnecessary hoopla!


  • Nick

    Very good article Pete.

    I was just curious as to a few questions:

    1) What were crowd attendances in the 90s like, in comparison to what they are today?

    2) What was television coverage of the NBL like on FTA (like, how many games were shown on FTA, or were games only shown into local markets (eg Sydney ppl saw Sydney Kings matches, Brisbane saw Brisbane Bullets matches etc.)?

    3) What days/times were games shown at back then?

    4) When did FTA no longer televise NBL matches?

    5) If you were to schedule the matches, on what days/times would you have them and would you have all of them on FTA?

  • Pete Williams

    Hi All…

    Thanks for all the great feedback.

    I’ve jut put up a short video to YouTube which will be the intro to a new post I;m uploading in a day or three..

    Check it out at:

    I’ll post here, when the “open letter to the NBL” is on the blog.


  • Pete Williams

    Hi All…

    I just write a follow-up blog post titled an ‘Open Letter To The NBL’ which I thought you all might be interested in:



  • Time to Shine

    very insightful… way to go!

    hoping you would continue to write wonderful and informative blogs.

  • Maria Hrafn

    I was studying something else about this on another blog. Interesting. Your perspective on it is diametrically opposed to what I read to begin with. I am still pondering over the different points of view, but I’m tipped heavily toward yours. And irrespective, that’s what is so great about modernized democracy and the marketplace of ideas online.

  • @preneur

    @AndrewMBogut Here’s 2 blogs I wrote about the NBL 2 yrs ago, that are still applicable today: +

  • Pingback: Saving Basketball Australia and the NBL | Preneur Marketing Blog - Pete Williams | Author Entrepreneur()

  • @jasonkuok

    @smcphers0n interesting read: Reviving A Brand – The ABC’S Of The NBL.

  • @preneur

    Big Thanks @AndrewMBogut who put some life back into the Bball Aust debate last night with RT’s of

  • @caseystevens

    Excellent article on reviving basketball in Australia by @preneur: I thought the NBL was long dead

  • @caseystevens

    @KKeneally did you see the two articles @AndrewMBogut retweeted last night about reviving the NBL Love your thoughts

  • @caseystevens

    @AndrewGaze10 @AndrewMBogut tweeted this article last night about reviving NBL May be some suggestions there?

  • Bruce Hultgren

    HI Guys, quick update – new email is for Bruce Hultgren – still changing the lives of kids. Now across America since 2006 with my system and not a single kid in Australia since 2003 which was when I got shut down by those who thought better! Sad.

  • Pete Williams (@preneur)

    @DanielEade @aussiehoopla The two articles are at: and

  • @aussiehoopla

    Here are the blogs @AndrewMBogut tweeted about & this one which we discuss on the latest podcast

Pete Williams is an entrepreneur, author, and marketer from Melbourne, Australia.

Before being honored “Australia’s Richard Branson” in media publications all over the continent, Pete was just 21 years old when he sold Australia’s version of Yankee Stadium, The Melbourne Cricket Ground For Under $500! Don’t believe it? You will! Check out the story in the FAQ section (it really is our most asked question).

Since then, he’s done some cool stuff like write the international smash hit ‘How to Turn Your Million-Dollar Idea Into a Reality’ (+ the upcoming ‘It’s Not About the Product‘) and he’s created a bunch of companies including Infiniti Telecommunications, On Hold Advertising, Simply Headsets and Preneur Group.

Lots of other people think he’s pretty good too! He’s been announced as the Global Runner-Up in the JCI Creative Young Entrepreneur Awards for 2009, the Southern Region Finalist in the Ernst & Young 2010 Entrepreneur of the Year, and a member of SmartCompany’s Top 30 Under 30.

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