The Competitive Edge

How a sports pro scores profits for his company

Name: Dan Reed
Title: President NBA Development League
Location: New York
Age: 32
Power Play: Combines technology and key marketing strategies to enhance brand and ticket sales
Will the NBA Development League (D-League) become the source for NBA talent?

I think it already has, and our league will continue to increase in importance and value for NBA teams as our player alumni, who account for 15% of all current NBA players, continue to be successful at the NBA level.

Our goal is to feature the best basketball played in the world outside of the NBA. Right now, there is a steadily improving talent pool in the D-League, and we are the best developers of talent for the NBA. Our league is full of talent that NBA executives increasingly covet—and it’s not just the players either, as we’ve produced 17 current NBA coaches, 25% of the NBA’s referees, and numerous front- office executives at both the NBA league and team levels.

What is your strategy for growth and expansion?
It’s already moving at a rapid pace. We have 14 teams this year, and next season we’ll be adding two additional teams; in Reno, Nevada, and Erie, Pennsylvania. We are always exploring opportunities to bring new teams into the league, but there is no strict timetable for expansion.

Which initiative has been most successful in catapulting the D-League?
One of the most significant initiatives that has helped us is that we are essentially the “R&D” department for the NBA—meaning that we test new rules, equipment, and technologies for potential use by the NBA. We are currently testing video technology. Every single game is streaming online and it is free (www.d-league.com/watch). As far as we can tell, this is the first time any professional sports league—minor or major—has enabled free online video streaming of all of their games in their entirety. We like to be on the cutting edge. This technology has the ability to stream a TV-quality production (with multiple camera angles) using high-quality video directly from the arena, saving tremendous costs and opening up huge opportunities for us.

Have you had much success improving ticket sales, sponsorship, and marketing efforts?
We’ve seen double-digit growth this year in every key business metric that we measure—season ticket sales, group ticket sales, sponsorship revenues. Average team attendance is up more than 20% from last season. Part of the success is that people understand the concept and have embraced it. We are the minor league of the National Basketball Association. We are doing a lot of cross promotions between the D-League and the NBA and bringing the same excitement to the fans. To help improve the economic value and get more publicity, all of our account managers are experts in marketing. If a ticket promotion is working in one city, that information is shared and used in other cities. I believe sharing best practices is critical to growth. We have also created an affiliate partner program and have made formal introductions between the NBA teams and D-League teams. We are using our marketing relationship with NBA partners.

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