While the history of basketball is often less celebrated than that of baseball, the sport is about to mark the 125th anniversary of its invention by Dr. James Naismith. What started with two peach baskets and a soccer ball, devised as a way for Dr. Naismith to keep his School for Christian Workers (later Springfield College) students active and distracted from the harsh New England winters, has morphed into a multi-billion dollar global industry whose equipment has, shall we say, improved significantly since then.
Spalding, the largest basketball supplier in the world with a fascinating entrepreneurial history as well (founded by 1870’s baseball Star Al Spalding and his brother in Chicago), has been the official basketball of the NBA for 33 years. It has launched “Honor the Game,” an initiative featuring NBA superstar, L.A. Clippers point guard Chris Paul.
SmallBizStar spoke recently with Kenyatta Bynoe, VP of Global Brand Marketing and Partnerships at Spalding for more details on the campaign and Spalding’s place in today’s sporting goods world.
SmallBizStar: Why do you see Chris Paul as the right partner for the ‘Honor the Game’ campaign?
Kenyatta Bynoe: Chris embodies the ideals we embrace as a brand. Hard work, competitive spirit, humble confidence. He leaves it all on the floor every night and makes everyone better around him. Spalding is about the work that goes into the game of basketball as opposed to the hype that surrounds it. Through our #TrueBelievers campaign our goal is to ignite the inner confidence that fuels that work. Chris will be a great asset in helping us achieve that.
SBS: What are some other elements of the campaign and how do you see them benefiting Spalding?
KB: Spalding has been hand-in-hand with the game of basketball for more than a century. No other brand has the history with the game that we do. For that reason, we wanted to do something that truly illustrated our love for the game and the breadth of impact it has had on athletes and fans around the world. As a brand who has basketball at the core of our DNA we felt this was an authentic way for us to honor the game we love. And through our endorsers and social media content we hope to ignite a conversation among athletes and fans alike to share their love for the game with hashtags #TrueBelievers and #125HoopYears.
SBS:Technology is changing many elements of the game, from tracking players to statistics to health to much more. How has Spalding kept up with the new technologies and how is it contributing to that moving forward?
KB: The first basketball game was played in Springfield, MA, with two peach baskets and a soccer ball. In 1894 Dr. Naismith commissioned Spalding to develop the first basketball for official use. It was made with leather panels, a rubber bladder and cloth lining. And we have been with the game ever since. Along the way, we have introduced various cover materials and features like air pressure retention technology. All with the goal of enabling athletes to play their best game. I think Dr. Naismith’s goal when he invented basketball was to create a sport that would be engaging, athletic and competitive. Knowing that the products we make help to enable those things suggests that he would have been pleased with how the game and our products have grown and evolved over time.