Nike Launches Basketball Event in NYC To Boost International Basketball

Carlos G Giron@@carlosgironnycContributor IIIJuly 27, 2010

LAS VEGAS - JULY 24:  O.J. Mayo #5 of the 2010 USA Basketball Men's National Team dunks during a USA Basketball showcase at the Thomas & Mack Center on July 24, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Following perhaps its most successful FIFA World Cup marketing campaign ever, Nike is now focused on boosting basketball’s equivalent competition, the FIBA World Championship.

The first step in the comprehensive promotional program is the launch of a new international competition to be held next month in New York City.

The Big Apple will be the center of the basketball universe in August when some of the best national teams in the globe come to the world's media capital to compete in the inaugural Nike World Basketball Festival. The four-day competition will feature the national basketball teams from the United States , Brazil , China , France , and Puerto Rico.

It promises to be a terrific exhibition featuring a number of American and international stars, including Kevin Durant, Rajon Rondo, and O.J. Mayo of the United States, and Tony Parker of France.

Ostensibly, the tournament will primarily serve as a tune up for the upcoming FIBA World Championship taking place in Turkey from Aug. 28 to Sept. 12. But Nike’s purpose goes way beyond organizing a good training event. The sports shoes and apparel company wants to add glamour and coolness to the international game.

Enhancing the image of the global game is the bigger picture Nike is trying to change. The Nike World Basketball Festival is designed to generate more interest in the U.S. for international basketball. The goal of Nike and its partners is to grow the game globally to bring it up to par with soccer.

A tall order for sure.

But Nike has the tall players (pun intended) to make it happen. Moreover, they have the unparalleled marketing savvy to generate the buzz and excitement that the global basketball game needs.

At a recent press conference in NYC , USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo said that basketball is the second most popular sport in the world, after soccer, and that the gap is narrowing. Colangelo also revealed that he personally issued a challenge to Nike Brand President Charlie Denson to do more for basketball. “Nike has done a great job to promote soccer, now I am challenging Charlie to do more for our game,” Colangelo added.

Another element of the Nike strategy is to change the name of FIBA’s top competition. Denson said there are conversations to change the name of the FIBA World Championship to the FIBA World Cup to capitalize on the stronger brand associated with the top soccer tournament.

In short, Nike is now working to dramatically close the gap between basketball and soccer as the two top sports in the planet.

If any company can do this, it's Nike.

The World Basketball Festival will begin at Radio City Music Hall on Thursday, Aug. 12th.

Training and scrimmages by some of the national teams, as well as fan activities and grassroots basketball will be held at Rucker Park in Harlem on Aug. 13 and 14. The festival will conclude with a doubleheader at Madison Square Garden on Aug. 15, featuring the United States playing France followed by China taking on Puerto Rico .

The current roster of Team USA (subject to change) includes Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder), Rondo (Boston Celtics), Chauncey Billups (Denver Nuggets), Tyson Chandler, Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors), Tyreke Evans (Sacramento Kings), Rudy Gay (Memphis Grizzlies), Eric Gordon (Los Angeles Clippers), Danny Granger (Indiana Pacers), Jeff Green (Oklahoma City Thunder), Andre Iguodala (Philadelphia 76ers), David Lee (Golden State Warriors), Brook Lopez (New Jersey Nets), Kevin Love (Minnesota Timberwolves), O.J. Mayo (Memphis Grizzlies), Lamar Odom (Los Angeles Lakers), Derrick Rose (Chicago Bulls), Gerald Wallace (Charlotte Bobcats), Robin Lopez (Phoenix Suns), and Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder).

LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and Dwayne Wade are among the stars not expected to play for the U.S. team.

The USA has won 10 medals in the World Championship—three gold medals (1954, 1986, and 1994), three silver medals (1950, 1959, and 1982), and four bronze medals (1974, 1990, 1998, and 2006).