NBA's big push as lifestyle brand
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson () - January 15, 2012 - 12:00am

The NBA means more to fans than just a league where the world’s best basketball players congregate. It’s also become a household name as a lifestyle brand that relates to a wide range of markets. No doubt, the NBA has a soft spot for the youth which is the foundation for the next generation of followers.

The ascendancy of NBA Cares and NBA Fit is a clear example of where the league is going. While the game is still the focal point, the NBA has metamorphosed into a brand that has an impact on everyday life. Its logo, for instance, is found in merchandise from beddings to high-end pens to watches to footwear and to anything that has meaning to a business partnership with the league.

Yesterday, the NBA launched the fifth edition of the annual Jr. NBA program at the Treston International College on C-5 with 6-10 Marty Conlon taking over from Frank Lopez as the chief coach of the program for kids in the 10-14 age bracket. It’s the first of several NBA events lined up for the country this year.

With the NBA season finally underway after a protracted lockout, NBA Asia senior manager for business development and marketing partnerships Carlo Singson said it’s all systems go for the Philippine calendar. The Jr. NBA launch will consist of Conlon supervising coaching and school clinics in Manila, Puerto Princesa, San Fernando in Pampanga and Cagayan de Oro for a week up to next Friday.

“For the week, we expect to reach out to over 1,000 kids,” said Singson. “Because of the calamity in Cagayan de Oro, we didn’t know if we could proceed with our program but the local government insisted for us to go ahead as part of the normalcy campaign. While it’s a Jr. NBA program, I think our presence will also make an impact with our NBA Cares philosophy.”

Singson said the NBA’s push to become a recognized global lifestyle brand has exciting repercussions. “Regarding the Jr. NBA program, we’re very happy partnering with Alaska,” said Singson. “In fact, we’re already in discussions for a contract extension. We’ve also started talks with prospective partners to explore the possibility of putting up an NBA Café, perhaps to link with an NBA Store. One of our plans is to globalize our 3-on-3 event with its own distinct logo, calendar and activities. We envision 3-on-3 as a FIBA event that may someday make it to the Olympics. For the moment, it is the basketball event at the Youth Olympics. We’re bringing back Miami coach Erik Spoelstra to Manila for another NBA Fit program this summer and that’s always an exciting event.”

Singson said the Jr. NBA program will schedule clinics in Metro Manila schools this month and February before the regional finals in April and the National Training Camp in May. The best 10 players from the camps will be brought to China to witness an NBA pre-season game in October.

Conlon’s presence confirms the NBA’s commitment to the Jr. NBA program. Conlon, 43, played for eight teams in nine seasons, suiting up for Seattle, Sacramento, Charlotte, Washington, Milwaukee, Boston, Miami and the Los Angeles Clippers. The 6-10 forward also saw action in Italy, Greece and Spain and was with the Irish national squad. His vast experience in the NBA and the international arena establishes his credibility as a teacher of the game.

* * * *

Vice President Jojo Binay said recently he will support a plan for Manila to host the World Olympic Memory Championships in 2013. The event was inaugurated in 1991 in London, host of the first 11 stagings of the yearly organized competition of mental sports where participants memorize as much information within a given period of time.

Kuala Lumpur hosted in 2003, Bahrain in 2007 and 2008 and Guangzhou the last two years. England hosted the competition all other years in London, Manchester and Oxford.

Philippine Memory team manager Reli de Leon broke the news of Binay’s offer after he brought the squad to the Vice President in a courtesy call at the Coconut Palace. “The Vice President was impressed by the performance of our team which got the silver medal in Guangzhou last December,” said De Leon. “He gave us instructions to do what we can in hosting the event here in 2013 and we’ll do our best to get the job done.”

The Philippine team was composed of Johann Randall Abrina, Roberto Racasa, Christopher Carandang, Mark Anthony Castaneda, Axelyancy Cowan Tabernilla, Edwin Balinas and Mark Anthony Adario. The competitors were accompanied in Guangzhou by De Leon and head coach Marlon Bernardino, Jr.

China won the gold medal in the event that brought in 121 competitors from 18 countries, including the US, England, Germany, Italy, Japan, Poland, South Africa, India and Canada.

Aside from the silver medal in the team category, the Philippines claimed a bronze from Abrina in the Historical/Future Dates class. Abrina, 29, is a UP sports psychology graduate from Wack-Wack, Mandaluyong.

In the World Olympic Memory Championships, there are 10 classes of competition – One-Hour Numbers, 5-Minute Numbers, Spoken Numbers, 30-Minute Binary Digits, One-Hour Playing Cards, Random List of Words, Names and Faces (world record: 195 names), 5-Minute Historical/Future Dates, Abstract Images and Speed Cards (world record: 21.9 seconds memorizing the order of a shuffled deck of 52 playing cards).

Bernardino, a Philippine and US chess master, said the silver medal in the team event and the bronze medal in the Historical/Future Dates class prove that the Filipino is at par with the world’s best memory athletes. “With ample training and preparation, we can even become world champions,” he added. “We believe that memory games is what the Filipino needs to have a better quality of education. We are very optimistic that memory games will bring honor to our country in future international competitions.”

A team member Castaneda, 23, became the first Filipino grandmaster of memory. The Rizal Technological University graduate student memorized a 1,140 digit number in an hour enroute to his grandmaster norm. He memorized a deck of cards in a minute and 10 seconds for his second grandmaster norm. Castaneda memorized 13 decks of cards, equivalent to 676 cards, in an hour for his third grandmaster norm.

Another member Balinas, 23, took two grandmaster norms. The Polytechnic University of the Philippines graduate student memorized a 1,380 digit number in an hour for his first norm then a deck of cards in a minute and 10 seconds for his second.

De Leon said the participation of the team in Guangzhou wouldn’t have been possible without the support of Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office chairman Margie Juico and general manager Atty. Joy Rojas, Mandaluyong City Mayor Benhur Abalos, Mnadaluyong City Rep. Boyet Gonzales, Bagong Henerasyon Party List Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy, sportsman Hermie Esguerra, St. Francis Square’s Luke Roxas, Bicycle Playing Cards, Accel’s Willie Ortiz, Dra. Regina Canlas of the Makati Medical Center, PBA Legend Sen. Robert Jaworski, Terry Capistrano, Philippine Sports Commission chairman Richie Garcia, PSC commissioner Chito Loyzaga, Philippine Olympic Committee president Jose Cojuangco, Jr., POC secretary-general Steve Hontiveros and Human Plus Pro Biotics.

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