The ball will begin to shift in color from an orange to a brown color and the feel changes with sweat and oil from the player’s hands.
With the NBA playoffs in full swing, Spalding has released a new digital short highlighting its most popular product. The film shows fans around the world how an NBA ball is constructed and the process it goes through to reach the hardwood floor.
In a conversation with Kenyatta Bynoe, Vice President of Global Marketing and Partnerships at Spalding, she gave me a behind-the-scenes perspective on its leather ball legacy.
MS: How long has Spalding been the official basketball of the NBA?
KB: “For the 2017–18 season will be our 34th year being the official ball. It’s pretty cool; we are the longest standing partner of the NBA. We’re also the official backboard of the league since 2009.”
MS: The new YouTube series showcases the stages of leather from creation and quality control to the finished product. How long does this process take for game ready equipment?
KB: “In all it takes about six months, from a quality control and inspection process we typically start in July leading up to the new season. We have a team that conducts an annual audit of the game balls every year from our distribution center in Alexandra City, AL.
Once all 30 teams balls have passed inspection they are shipped to the equipment managers in August. Then the team managers continue to break in the new balls leading up to the season starting in October or November.”
MS: More on this video that recently hit the web, was this a campaign in the works for a while? Did you want to show your partners and consumers the backstory of how a basketball reaches the court?
KB: “We definitely wanted to take this opportunity and tell a story that we’re very proud of. The attention to detail that goes into this process and the pride our team has in delivering the official basketball of the NBA is important to us as a brand. We know that basketball being a sport that many people love and are engaged in, we felt it was a rich opportunity to tell the story and bring it to life.”
MS: Does Spalding have partnerships with the NCAA, high school or AAU levels across America?
KB: “Yes, we have a variety of partnerships in the basketball space because that is who we are as a company. We’ve been the official backboard of the NCAA since 2009 and we recently extended that agreement through 2021. On the high school level we have 24 state adoptions and we are also the official basketball for the AAU. Internationally we have 72 leagues, including the Euro League, so globally we have a compelling presence.”
MS: What kind of feedback do players and equipment managers provide when breaking in new balls during the season?
KB: “We do get feedback from players and staff that work for each team. There are a couple things they look for specifically in regards to the NBA game ball. It’s generally centered around the look of the ball but also the feel to signify that it’s been adequately broken in.
The ball will begin to shift in color from an orange to a brown color and the feel changes when sweat and oil from the player’s hands get a hold of them and this in turn enhances the grip.”
MS: How long are these basketballs kept in rotation during an NBA season?
KB: “Each team gets 72 balls to start each year that they rotate throughout on-court game play, as well as the practice courts.”
MS: For high profile events like the NBA All-Star Game and the NBA Finals, does Spalding create a special series of product for the league?
KB: “We do for NBA All-Stat Weekend, we make the “Money Ball,” which is used in the 3-Point Shootout. For the actual ASG itself and the NBA Finals we have custom decorations and logos on the balls.”
MS: What kind of campaigns does Spalding aim for on the global scale?
KB: “We definitely feel that the game is a universal sport and to that end, we launched our #TrueBelievers campaign in the market right now. It’s built around this message of inner confidence that we’re able to inspire with our product that enables athletes to play their best game and take them to the next level.
We feel that messaging resonates worldwide and we’re implementing that campaign in the U.S. along with key markets like China, Japan, Australia and Europe.”
MS: Who are your target demographics? What forms of social media do you see creating the most buzz in the sports industry?
KB: “Our primary target are millenials and Gen Z, to that end social media is huge as a channel to reach that audience. We’ve seen Instagram and Snapchat take on a compelling role in the sports industry with its visual story telling they provide. Twitter serves as a news engine, providing a great platform for live sports engagement.”
MS: Are there charities and organizations Spalding has relationships with to give back and help the communities?
KB: “We’ve partnered with NBA Cares that reach a broad group of youth that inspires participation in the game of basketball and teach the fundamentals. We recently partnered with the United States Marine Core Sports Leadership Academy and they conduct over 200 clinics of a wide variety of sports throughout the summer.”
MS: How did you reach the VP of Marketing and Partnerships? What is the best part about your position and working for Spalding?
KB: “I always had a passion for sports and the desire to work in the sports industry. I’m originally from Detroit and began my career in the automotive industry in marketing. I did a lot of lifestyle partnerships with different sports organizations such as the NBA, and when the opportunity with Spalding became available it was a no-brainer.”
For more information on Spalding brand and its products visit their website at www.spalding.com.
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