The NBA Player, an international brand beyond sport

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For the third consecutive year NBPA (the union for current professional basketball players in the NBA) held the program “Branding in the Global Economy” at SDA Bocconi School of Management for current players in the NBA, the world’s most prestigious and spectacular basketball league. Headed by Dino Ruta and Emanuela Prandelli, the program is offered by the International Business Academy (IBA), created by NBPA for its 450 players who increasingly feel the need to gain international insight and experience, in business and management as well.

This year’s participants, in brackets their 2018/2019 teams, included Zaza Pachulia (Detroit Pistons), Josè Manuel Calderon (Detroit Pistons), Cristiano Felicio (Chicago Bulls), Bodgan Bogdanovic (Sacramento Kings), Axel Toupane (Olympiacos Piraeus), Al-Farouq Aminu (Portland Trail Blazers), Moe Harkless (Portland Trail Blazers), Evan Turner (Portland Trail Blazers), Brandon Paul (Zhejiang Golden Bulls), Kyle Anderson (Memphis Grizzlies), Langston Galloway (Detroit Pistons), Rudy Gay (San Antonio Spurs) and Amedeo Della Valle (Olimpia Milano). These champions hail from nine different countries: Georgia, France, Spain, Brazil, Serbia, Nigeria, United States, Puerto Rico and Italy.

“NBA Players are international brands themselves”, explained Dino Ruta, “with fans, media and other stakeholders that follow them in every part of the world. We give them key tools to develop and strengthen their Brands, putting them in contact with successful companies in different markets like fashion and wine.. The international breath of the NBA is well represented by numbers: 25% of the NBA players are not American nationals. This fact has an impact on the teams and the players themselves, who need to learn how to be as cross-culturally agile as they are on court. Athletes who are more conscious and trained can do a better job both in their sports performance and in their career off court.”

IBA was established in 2017 to provide global business training to athletes who live and play in the NBA, an American league that has grown to be truly global, and endorses multicultural values.

“NBPA chose SDA Bocconi,” continued the professor, “because it sees this business school and, especially, the Sport Knowledge Center created in 2013, as a center of international excellence for the development of sports business and management learning, and Milan as a perfect environment for creativity and the intangible values associated with successful brands.”

The program consisted of a combination of lessons, testimonials and tours. In particular, the players met with people from the fashion industry (LVMH, Marcelo Burlon, SSAM, Stone Island), the wine (Frescobaldi Vini) and the Hotel & Resort (Bvlgari Hotels) companies. “The real strength of the program,” said Emanuela Prandelli, “is to give an immersive experience in the luxury branding with the opportunity to link key learnings from the top of the range brand in luxury world with an individual action plan. In this action plan the players immediately implement the insights learned during classroom in order to improve their personal business.”

Matteo Zuretti, Chief of International Relations and Marketing, noted: “This is the third consecutive year for the IBA program, proving how NBPA believes in the value of the formation and in the personal branding of each athlete. The partnership with SDA Bocconi is a guarantee of continuity and innovation, thanks to ongoing evolution built with Prof. Ruta and Prof. Prandelli. The main goal of this initiative is always to put players in the best conditions to be aware of global markets’ opportunities.”

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