The Fiba Europe Basketball Champions League (BCL) will step up sponsorship sales after a record-breaking third season, SportBusiness Sponsorship has learned.
The BCL’s shift in priority from media rights to sponsorship is understood to be driven by its growing body of viewership and exposure data, and the unprecedented success of the Final Four last weekend.
The Final Four is a standalone event within the BCL, where both semi-finals, the final and third-place place-off are played at a single venue over a single weekend.
This year’s Final Four took place in Antwerp, Belgium, where over 17,200 fans filled the Sportpaleis arena for the semi-final match between Iberostar Tenerife and Telenet Giants Antwerp.
It was the biggest attendance ever recorded for a club basketball game in Belgium, and a mark of the BCL’s growing ambition and commercial maturity, according to BCL chief executive Patrick Comninos.
“We are still a very young organisation, so to bring the Final Four to a territory that is not basketball-crazy, and to use one of the biggest indoor sports arenas in Europe was a huge gamble for us,” Comninos told SportBusiness Sponsorship.
“But that’s our mentality – we want to test the barriers, and this was a big opportunity for us to see if our competition has got the legs to stand on.”
The success of this year’s BCL will see sponsorship play a bigger role in the competition over its next three-year commercial cycle.
In the BCL’s first cycle, Comninos said he took a conscious decision not to make sponsorship a priority, given the difficulty of selling sponsorship for an unknown product.
“TV rights are easier because you sell content, and even if the broadcaster does not know exactly the quality of the content, they know that they have a couple of hours to show a local team playing basketball,” he said.
“So it was easy to sell broadcasting rights from the outset, but sponsorship will take more time and more investment.”
Instead, the BCL focused on building its commercial product during that first cycle, and building the tools to track the competition’s impact over time.
“The first thing sponsors ask about is TV audiences, so it’s difficult to go out and sell a product when you don’t have regular statistics on audience numbers,” said Comninos.
“But now we have a lot of valuable data about exposure and impact, and the return on investment that sponsors can expect, so we are aiming to be more aggressive in our sponsorship sales in the coming seasons.”
The BCL’s plan for increasing sponsorship sales is built around two incoming partnership tiers: Global Partners and National Partners.
Global Partners will be visible at all BCL fixtures, while National Partners will be visible only at home games in a designated territory.
This year’s BCL had only one Official Partner, Chinese sports brand Peak. It also had an Official Ball Supplier, Japanese brand Molten.
This year’s Final Four also had three local partners: the Port of Antwerp, Sporting A and Sport Vlaanderen – both local sports authorities based in Dutch-speaking Belgium.
Last year, the BCL recorded over 160 million live TV viewers during the competition, and this year it is poised to surpass 2 million Facebook followers – almost three times more than its rival the EuroLeague.