Could the future of basketball, and indeed of sport in general, be female? Like football, the sport seems to be undergoing a serious growth spurt. The latest illustration speaks volumes about the phenomenon.
The International Basketball Federation (FIBA) announced on Tuesday 30 August the signing of a marketing contract, the nature of which, and above all the name of the partner, are newsworthy. The agreement was concluded with the American giant Google. It concerns the Women’s World Cup.
The two parties will make common cause at this year’s Women’s World Cup in Sydney, Australia, which is due to start on 22 September. Under the agreement with FIBA, Google will be the exclusive partner and presenter of the tournament’s “Major 5“, announced at the end of the competition.
As an added bonus, Google and FIBA will collaborate with ESPN for the distribution of the Women’s World Cup in the US and around the world. No less than six games will be broadcast live and exclusively in the US on ESPN2 and ESPNU, a record for the global tournament. The remaining matches will be available on the ESPN+ platform (launched in 2018, it currently has over 22 million subscribers).
Comment from FIBA Secretary General Andreas Zagklis: “FIBA is committed to strengthening women’s basketball and taking it to the next level. This partnership is extremely promising for women’s basketball and for the interest in the sport worldwide. Google and its global network open up countless opportunities to help women’s basketball grow in the future.”
Google is not new to basketball. For the past two seasons, the American company has been participating in the Changemaker programme of the WNBA, the North American women’s professional league. It has made common cause with the league and ESPN to broadcast more regular season games. As part of its initiative, the channel added a segment dedicated to women’s sports on the SportsCenter show.
Since January 2020, Google has put American Kate Johnson in charge of its sports strategy. The former rower, a world champion in 2002 and silver medallist in the coxed eight two years later at the 2004 Athens Games, is currently the director of global marketing for sports, media and entertainment. Prior to joining Google in San Francisco, she spent six years at Visa, one of the IOC’s global partners, where she led discussions on the renewal of marketing contracts with the Olympic body and the NFL.
“At Google, we are committed to equal representation in sport,” said Kate Johnson, quoted in a FIBA statement. “Through this partnership with FIBA and our collaboration with ESPN, we want to continue to increase the visibility and exposure of women’s basketball around the world and give female athletes the recognition they deserve and have worked so hard for.”
Google’s presence in sport has long been limited to the US market. In 2020, the Californian giant was a partner or broadcaster, at various levels, of the Golden State Warriors in the NBA, the NCAA, Major League Baseball (MLB), the North American Football League (MLS).
Google also got a foothold in the Olympic movement, via its Japanese arm, by becoming a third-tier partner of the Tokyo 2020 Games, as “provider of information and web browsing services.” With FIBA, the company is advancing a new pawn. But it is certainly not the last.