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NBA Asia exec: More than half of Filipinos are NBA fans

Luisa Morales - Philstar.com
NBA Asia exec: More than half of Filipinos are NBA fans
NBA Asia Managing Director Ramez Sheikh
Philstar.com / Luisa Morales

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines continues to be one of the biggest markets of the NBA outside of the US, as data showed that more than half of the country follows the league.

According to newly minted NBA Asia Managing Director Ramez Sheikh, their data shows that there are more Filipino NBA fans than there are non-NBA fans — giving due to the country's reputation as basketball-crazed.

But Sheikh isn't keen on just relying on Filipinos' innate love of the sport and the NBA, rather, he wants to keep improving the league's relationship with its fanbase in the country.

"Basketball is the number one sport in the Philippines. But I don't take fandom for granted. So that's one of my priorities is to continue to look to nurture basketball fandom. You know, think about ways to bring the NBA even closer to our fans," said Sheikh in a media roundtable on Wednesday.

"There are, according to our data, our research, 55% of the country are NBA fans. That means that 45% are not. So our challenge, a good one, is we can grow. So that's my first priority in the Philippines, really nurturing that fan base." he added.

The NBA has not been amiss in connecting Filipinos to the game with events, activations and partnerships that bring the league closer to the Philippines.

Earlier this year, the NBA Store returned physically to the country as it opened its doors anew in SM Megamall in Ortigas. The newly launched NBA app, meanwhile, offers a personalized and local view of the games and other content for Filipino fans.

Bringing these kinds of experiences to Filipinos, including the possibility of holding the NBA global games here in Manila anew in the near future, will be the secret to keeping the fanbase happy according to Sheikh.

"Broadly, I think it's also about the same philosophy that we must always honor, respect fandom, and how do we continue to do that in our many different countries." said Sheikh.

He also said he plans on deepening more partnerships with local companies like Smart, Cignal and Titan.

"Partnerships [are also] really important, both here in the Philippines and across Asia-Pacific. Having the right partner, having innovative partners who are looking to be bold and ambitious is really important," he said.

Sheikh is currently making his first trip to the country as NBA Asia Managing Director. He took over the reigns from erstwhile long-serving Scott Levy.

Among his agenda in the Philippines is to meet with members of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas to hopefully lay out some plans in helping the country's hosting of the 2023 FIBA World Cup next year where more than a handful of NBA players are set to participate.

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