The challenge came early on Monday morning during our Weekly Progress Meeting and the secretary read the email from League Management Company (LMC): “We’re considering GreenHunters Sports International as our marketing consultants in the re-branding of Nigeria Premier League (NPL). Give us a proposal and your recommendations,

And so, our marketing team went to work, researching sports, entertainment organizations and leagues that had gone through similar changes – from poor public image to a first class brand. We knew to re-brand NPL would require more than just a change of name – to ‘Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL).’

We studied various cases such as ‘How Nigeria music became favorite for music lovers in Africa.’ We also looked at ‘How European League took over the Nigerian football market.’ But both cases lacked some vital similarity, until we found this particular case:

How NBA Became One of the Most Successful Sport Brand in the World

When David Stern became commissioner in 1984, the National Basketball Association (NBA) was a struggling enterprise, despite stars like Magic Johnson and Larry King. Teams were playing in Arenas at less than two third capacity; NBA merchandize sales were only about $15 million; network television coverage was limited and corporate sponsors were scared off, in large part because of a poor public image, resulting from drug scandals and labor strife.

Before the elevation to commissionership, Stern had laid the foundation for NBA to become the most successful brand name in sports. He did it by recognizing and utilizing standard marketing tools.

He knew among other things that brand recognition and preference required a more expansive television package. But the broadcast networks demanded a more stable basketball league with a cleaner image. As a Spalding executive concluded: “A good marketing guy knows that he has to get the product right before marketing it” – that’s what Stern did with basketball.

He got team owners and players to agree on several fundamental issues, including that all games must be filmed for live television broadcast; tougher measures for players that failed drug test; revenue sharing formula and salary cap for industry employees.

Once he had accomplished this, Stern began packaging NBA products in a host of forms, including television, video tape, radio, brochures and assorted merchandize.

Stern initiated NBA entertainment and the division was sending a range of contents for TV and radio broadcast: “NBA Inside Stuff,” “Game of the Week,” “NBA Jam,” and “NBA Actions,” to viewers in over 170 countries across the world. Rights fees varied with ability to pay – China got the programs for free. So almost China’s entire television household (250 Million) watched NBA contents.

As NBA began to feed the consciousness of Americans and the rest of the world through expansive TV/ Radio coverage, arenas began to get filled to capacity and sponsors queued up, paying through their nose. By 1997, the NBA was on top of the world as the most recognized sport brand.

The NBA case shares key lessons on How NPL can become first choice for football consumers in Nigeria

Get the NPL Product Right: Sponsors are scared off because of NPL’s poor public image resulting from match fixing scandals, poor security, controversial implementation of rules and regulations as well as incessant leadership strife.

 Poor players welfare package and non-respect of contractual agreements resulting to massive flight of quality players, which lowers the standard of the league generally. LMC should seriously and urgently address these issues.

Expansive TV/Radio Coverage: LMC will require more than SuperSports to deliver NPL in the consciousness of over 80 million football consumers in Nigeria. A more inclusive arrangement and rights that will involve both Satellite and local TV/Radio stations is more appropriate.

LMC must ensure that all NPL Matches are filmed for television broadcast, without disruptions of any form.

Marketing NPL to Consumers through Attractive TV/ Radio Content and Assorted Merchandize: NPL may have to initiate rights for special NPL contents: Match of the Week, Fans Game Show, Stars Parade, Pre-match and Post Match interviews, NPL Actions, Reality TV Show… contents that are attractive and involve both players and fans.

The whole idea is this: ‘If you do what a successful sport league did (Making Adjustment to your own peculiar case), you will also become successful.’

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