Sports Marketing Blog: Week of 10/16/2017

NBA expands reach into Asia with Rakuten partnership

The National Basketball Association (NBA) has partnered with Japanese online retailer Rakuten, Inc. for a multi-year partnership. As part of the partnership, Rakuten will be the global marketing partner of NBA, as well as the league’s exclusive distribution partner in Japan for all live NBA games. The move marks the NBA’s most comprehensive media partnership in Japan and Rakuten’s first with a North American sports league. As its global marketing partner, Rakuten will create NBA and team zones, as well as sell team merchandise globally. Rakuten Viber, the company’s instant messaging platform, will also be the official platform for the NBA and its teams, providing more than 900 million users with access to league content.

Additionally, Rakuten will oversee the league’s premium live game subscription service, NBA League Pass, exclusively to its members in Japan through the NBA website, NBA app and Rakuten TV. In a statement to Marketing, Rakuten’s spokesperson said the company has had a strong relationship with sports. It added that it believes that sports has the ability to improve cultural barriers and inspire consumers. Recently, Rakuten entered a jersey sponsorship deal with the Golden State Warriors. The company also has ownership of Japan’s Vissel Kobe soccer club and Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles baseball team. It also became the main global partner and official innovation and entertainment partner for the soccer team, FC Barcelona. “Our new relationship with Rakuten speaks to the appetite that our passionate fans in Japan have for live NBA games and content, and we look forward to working with Rakuten to provide the most comprehensive NBA coverage to date,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver, said.