On Wednesday, the NBA announced that the Washington Wizards won the league’s International Strategy Award for the 2021-22 season. This comes after the league’s efforts to run campaigns on social media in multiple languages, most notably Japanese, Hebrew and written Chinese. It also comes after the Wizards developed deeper business relations with Japanese and Israeli companies with the drafting of Rui Hachimura in 2019 and Deni Avdija in 2020.
In a statement, Jim Van Stone, Monumental Sports & Entertainment’s Presidentof Business Operations & Chief Commercial Officer said the following.
“Sharing the Wizards and the game of basketball around the world could not be possible without some of our amazing global partners including Alibaba, Etihad Airways, NEC and many others. Through the years, these partnerships have allowed great connectivity with our brand, team and athletes to grow in Europe, Middle East and Asia.”
As Van Stone stated, the Wizards have developed various partnerships with companies based worldwide. The NEC partnership came soon after Hachimura’s arrival to D.C. They developed a partnership with Energix after Avdija’s. Etihad Airways, which sponsors Capital One Arena’s VIP lounge is based in the United Arab Emirates.
The biggest European company that the Wizards work is probably AB InBev, a brewery conglomerate based in Leuven, Belgium. Their flagship brand is Stella Artois, and they also own Budweiser, Michelob and Corona.
Per the press release, the Wizards used a four-prong strategy, in particular for the Japanese and Israeli audiences, to increase their following. They were a “(1) robust international language content platform, (2) building authentic connections overseas, (3) engaging an international audience at home; and (3) maximizing international partnerships.”
This season, the Wizards, who already have a website in Japanese, Hebrew and written Chinese, are expected to add websites in two more languages, Spanish and Arabic for the 2022-23 NBA season.
I also want to take this time to recognize that the Wizards have a good following on social media in other languages besides those that they work or plan to focus on. Wizards fans worldwide have built a robust Twitter following in French (with over 20,000 followers) and Turkish (with over 3,000 followers). Maybe we’ll see some partnerships here as well.
The Wizards may not be a playoff team right now. But it is good to see that they are still building the foundation for a robust following worldwide with a robust strategy. Congratulations to the Wizards’ marketing and business strategy teams!