Germany is mostly considered as a basketball underdog, either in European Club competitions or in the different Continental championships or Olympics. Of course, they have one of the best basketball players in the world with Dirk Nowitzki but on the other hand, they have some serious trouble to compete with small nations like Slovenia. This week then, I saw two news that really made me think a bit more about what I would call the German Basketball dilemma.
In e latest edition of the German news Magazine "Manager Magazin", there was a Top 50 list published with the most influential people in the German Sports Business. I was wondering if there would be any Basketball related person mentioned. Of course, the list was topped by Soccer persons like Franz Beckenbauer or Joseph Blatter. On the other hand, you had marketing oriented people like Herbert Hainer (CEO Adidas) or Bernie Ecclestone in the Top 10. And then finally, at the 50th spot, I found the first basketball person: Dirk Nowitzki.
What should I think about that spot? Is Dirk really that influential for the German sporting industry? Or was it just worth mentioning him as he is probably the German sportsperson that has the probably highest salary? Additionally, for every selection, the magazine made a short comment, and for Dirk it was: "Since he is playing in Dallas, the Americans know where Germany is located". Quite a strange comment though but it shows how Dirk is seen by non-basketball enthusiast in Germany: like another example of the record tracking Germany export industry; some kind of German version of Arnold Schwarzenegger, the strange guy that made it in the USA.
Of course, Dirk Nowitzki made it possible to give the German basketball a spot in this Top 50 list (neither Handball where Germany has the best league in the World and is the actual World Champion nor any other team sport besides Football made it to the Top list). But without him, Basketball would not be represented at all. On the other hand, the German league is slowly becoming one of the top leagues in Europe if you consider organization and attendance. The structure of the League is improving and the league standards in terms of Arenas are among the highest in Europe. With new rules, there are also tendencies that the huge number of foreign players may get limited and provide more playing time and development chances for local talent. However, when I saw this news today, I had some kind of strange feelings.
For those, who don’t understand German, the Bundesliga is creating a Poker team to compete in the "eSport-Poker Liga". Whatever that is, I must admit I have no clue about eSports, it shows some kind of strange Marketing effort to promote basketball. The German League is in fact looking for players to compete under their brand in a Poker League? In the beginning, I thought that some BBL players would start in that team but in fact no, the league is recruiting 10 Poker player to compete for the German Championship and qualify for the Champions League and prize money of USD 150,000. I really don’t understand this move by the German league. If somebody has an idea about it, feel free to explain it to me, I am looking forward to hear some explications.
So this is really showing to me in which situation the German basketball is right now. They have the best international player and the people see him as a success story of an individual. Neither the league nor the federation can use him as a real impact person to promote basketball in Germany. On the other hand, the League is working into a more professional direction for a few years now. But then, they come up with strange Marketing efforts that are completely out of range.
Sincerely, I am pretty close to German basketball for years now, and I really like also some kind of crazy Marketing efforts. But I really don’t understand this move and still don’t know how the responsible persons still can not market their best asset in a positive way.