The Importance Of The German And European Markets For The NBA – A Conversation With NBA Europe Associate VP, Mark Osikoya

Photo by Franziska Krug/Getty Images for NBA

The Importance Of The German And European Markets For The NBA – A Conversation With NBA Europe Associate VP, Mark Osikoya


Last Thursday, the NBA and Fanatics opened the first NBA Store in Berlin, Germany. After stores in London, Milan and Paris, it not only is the fourth NBA store in Europe, but also the largest on the continent.

The store comes with a wide range of official NBA and WNBA merchandise on almost 1,000 square meters. Jerseys, athletic apparel and gear, toys and collectibles from well-known brands such as Nike, Mitchell & Ness, New Era and Wilson are also now available in store. The NBA Store also offers exclusive NBA Berlin apparel and accessories, as well as an area where fans can have NBA jerseys and caps personalized for all 30 NBA teams.

During the opening of the store, I had the opportunity to talk to Mark Osikoya, the NBA Europe Associate Vice-President, about the NBA’s goals in Europe, the German market and its importance, as well as potential newly added Global Games.


Len Werle: “Now that we officially have the first NBA store in Germany, how much of a key focus is the German market for the NBA and NBA Europe? What can we expect?

Mark Osikoya: “It’s always been a big focus for us, but I think more recently, with the opening of the store – we’ve also started a commercial partnership with Sport 5 as well, looking for new partnerships in Germany – then obviously with the EuroBasket’s success and the relative success of the German team in the summer… it all helps.

I think there’s a lot of momentum in Germany at the moment, but from an NBA point-of-view, it’s alway been an important market for us. We’ll continue to focus on it. What that will look like down the line is, we’ll have more brand partnerships we can announce, with companies that are working with us and partner with us in Germany, and fans will be able to see more NBA activation in the market as well.

So that’s what it looks like moving forward.”


Len Werle: “I’ll have to as a question about this; in the last couple of years, it seems like the other big ‘N’, the NFL has overtaken the NBA in terms of market shares, in terms of TV time, in terms of merchandise sales and now even with the first regular season game in NFL history being played in Germany, how much of a threat do you think the activities of the NFL in the last couple of years have been, not only in Germany, but also Europe in general?”

Mark Osikoya: “I mean we’ve obviously have our offices based in the UK, we’ve, until recently, had the regular season game in London as well. So we’ve been used to operating in the UK, with the NFL having, I think four games… so it’s something we’re used to and I think that there’s room for the NFL, I think there’s room for the NBA, I think it shows the interest in U.S. Sports in general. I think it’s a healthy situation for us – and you’re right… I think it has changed in Germany, but I think we have to focus on what we’re trying to achieve and on what our objectives are. But having worked in the UK, with the NFL being present there as well, I think there’s place for both of us.”


Len Werle: “You’ve mentioned the London Game earlier, we now have the Paris game as a regular season game in Europe. Let’s address the elephant in the form, do you think there’s room for more European games, not necessarily saying Germany. After Covid, do you think the NBA might find a way back to have preseason games in Europe, like they’ve been working a lot in the Asian market in terms of preseason games; they’ve been in Tokyo, and now in Abu Dhabi as well, do you think that something like that is possible for other European cities? Not necessarily a regular season game, because I know how much scheduling work it takes, with the team being out for one week…

Mark Osikoya: “It’s interesting that you’ve mentioned Abu Dhabi, because Abu Dhabi is part of our region. Our region is Europe and the Middle East, so you know, it was down to us that we’ve brought the games to Abu Dhabi and doing the two preseason games there this year, it’s a new market for us. It’s really important that we take NBA games to the Middle East and that was sort of really groundbreaking.

So that was our focus in terms of the preseason games. It’s more about ‘where can we go’ in terms of a new market, how can we use the preseason games to begin conversations in new regions. I think we… you know, we’re obviously working quite closely with the teams and the New York office and looking at preseason schedule – but as you’ve said, we have games in Tokyo, there’s the Canada series as well, there’s a lot of demands on teams’ time and I think we’re lucky, we’re fortunate to have the regular season game [in Paris] and we’d like to protect that and focus on that. If there are opportunities on preseason games, we would look at it. But, as I said, I think for us, it’s more about trying to use the preseason games to enter a new market, and that’s what the Abu Dhabi games did for us. They were really well received, also by the teams. The teams were really enthusiastic of going down there, the opportunities for them to potential new partners and develop activities on the ground… and that’s a commitment we’re going to go back to next year, so at the moment, I don’t necessarily see an opportunity for more preseason games in Europe. It’s something that could change over the next period.”


Len Werle: “You being responsible for the European and Middle Eastern market, how much did you enjoy watching the NBA in the last couple of years, with the last four MVPs being from Europe, and this year’s MVP likely coming from Europe as well – whether it’d be Giannis or Luka – how much fun is it being responsible for the European market to seem so many European players flourishing in the NBA, compared to 10-15 years ago.”

Mark Osikoya: “It’s fantastic! It helps when we’re having conversations in markets where you have players from that market playing in the NBA. It brings it to life a lot more and I think it’s a real beautiful number of international players in the NBA as a whole. The league has been transformed over the last 10-20 years in terms of number of international players and that is a good thing for the league. It’s a good thing for those markets where those players come from and obviously for us as well. We’re using that to try to develop the game as a whole, so we’re trying to bring Junior NBA leagues into markets as well and having those sort of players that these young players can look up to in terms of playing basketball as well as watch the NBA, all in all it’s something that we’re looking to encourage. It’s a fantastic time to be working for the NBA in Europe with so many players playing.”


Len Werle: “Is that a focus in general? Junior leagues.. within not only Europe, but maybe also huge sleeping giants like China and India? With you already having the Basketball Africa League, maybe a junior program there, because there’s so much hidden talent that might never be developed otherwise?”

Mark Osikoya: “We’ve got a number of different initiatives that are focusing on the next generation of talent. You mentioned India – we have an NBA academy in India, we’ve opened other NBA academies globally as well, we do a Junior NBA program, which is much more about participation, whereas the academies are more about trying to find the next streak of elite players that could go on an play in the NBA. So our commitment is international. And our commitment is to developing the game as well as developing the NBA as a league. And the two sort of go hand in hand…”


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