BallinEurope’s annual state of the Euroleague piece addresses the broader issues affecting the game and, as Emmet Ryan points out, what the league needs to think about next
There’s an owner who calls the league CEO everything under the sun. The biggest star in the league is about to bolt for the NBA. The divide between Euroleague and FIBA has never been wider. Yet somehow, in all seriousness, this is as healthy as things have looked in a good while.
The Dimitrios Giannakopolous question has been one that simply won’t go away for the league. DG doesn’t really like Jordi Bertomeu. That’s really obvious from any and all things he’s said. He’d really like Bertomeu to be fired and he’s got a few other beefs too. His manner of expressing these views isn’t in the normal corporate boardroom sense. The outbursts of the Panathinaikos owner, irrespective of their merit…and seriously, come on, simply aren’t good for the league.
For once, labelling something a distraction isn’t a euphemism.
When the owner of one of the most storied clubs in the history of the sport is threatening to leave the league and regularly letting his grievances be known publicly, it’s not great for getting anything else done. Naturally, most folk work away behind the scenes at their actual jobs but the goal of this league is to build a broader brand that can bring basketball to a wider audience. When the main headlines week to week are not about basketball and more about various people in positions of power off the court not getting along and/or getting fined, that’s going to stymie the storytelling.
On a pure business level, the biggest damage is not in what DG says, what Euroleague does, or any move by Panathinaikos but in the ongoing lack of resolution to the saga. It needs to be ended so people can get on with far more important things.
There’s really not much to say about this. We’ve gone beyond the point of right and wrong to just get it sorted already.
All of this has been happening while the best product in the mass broadcast age of Euroleague is about to play his final two games in the competition. Luka Doncic has been a winner for league on multimedia because of the attention he draws.
There is always the issue with a player like this however that a big chunk of the narrative is that he’s leaving for the NBA. He’s 19 and it’s time to get ridiculously rich. Good for him. The question for Euroleague is what next. There simply isn’t an obvious story on the table to replace him next season, it’s like WWE having to move on from The Rock and Stone Cold in terms of crossover appeal.
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Instead, the strategy for getting people outside of those nerdy enough to visit this site to tune in more has to be one built around sustainability. The idea of stuff like the 7 Days sponsored Magic Moments series and such is sound but it frankly needs to be bigger, smarter in the awful IT sense of the term, and better supported.
There is no secret sauce for making something go viral and virality is really overrated. What is necessary is getting content turned around at speed and pushed in the right way, all of which means better targeting and more money to help those people doing the targeting.
Spending more on the unsexy backend is the toughest thing to sell in any business but the more put into that, the better the end value for the brand. The content being turned out gets the eyeballs of more potential high value customers and they are constantly having it reinforced in their heads that this thing merits their attention. It’s dogged grinding and far more likely to get people to care than any show that needs to call itself cool.
Speaking of which…
The work being done right now is good but it’s going to get harder when a natural eyeball magnet like Doncic is gone. The next top prospect will have an even shorter window to work off. To grow the product, it takes oodles of dull stuff and no shortage of resources.
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Which is probably why it’s a bad thing that the battle with FIBA is showing no sign of resolution. Now, things were far from perfect before this all kicked off. It’s not like we’re trying to get back to some idyllic past. Still the continued issues around international windows, control, and generally being at war with an organisation that should be a partner isn’t helpful.
The blame lies plenty on FIBA’s shoulders too but the issue being unsettled puts a ceiling on where the league can go. At this point it’s worth going back to the absolute basics. Find the smallest areas each side can get common ground on, really tiny stuff, and work out what to do from there.
That’s particularly relevant when the product is about to change. With the move to 18 teams confirmed and FC Bayern locked in for at least three years from the moment that starts, there’s a clear focus on what Euroleague wants to do. Similarly, Asvel gets Euroleague a foothold back in France which it has been lacking for a couple of years now.
Clear presences in markets that matter are good but there’s more to think about here. How an 18-team league looks is going to require some thinking. The most likely is 34 games with the same format as now, which of course brings up player welfare concerns. A switch to conferences would cut this only to 33 games and not be as equitable.
Then there’s the matter of working out how value is determined. The money may not be significant amongst clubs in the ABA Liga but it has a wealth of young talent and some serious fanbases. When part of what Euroleague is trying to sell is the devotion aspect, the gulf growing between these heartlands and the more monied clubs is bad for everyone when it comes to growth.
Anyone can see Euroleague wants to eventually go beyond 18 and once you start adding more markets, the Adriatic region is going to naturally be one the league wants a foothold in beyond the lone spot going to its league champion annually. The fans in Belgrade, Llubjana, Zagreb, Podgorica, and so on are part of what can be sold as part of the brand. They add something to the league with their emotional attachment to their clubs, their hashtag devotion so to speak.
That’s not to belittle fans of Bayern, Asvel, or any other club coming in. They bring their own flavour which is necessary for the league too. It’s about recognising that a continent wide league needs to think on a macro level about where it is going and how it is going to get there.
Planning is boring but it’s also necessary. Cutting down on the fighting makes it easier to remember what the goal is in the first place.
Enjoy the games.
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