What: Three-on-three basketball (3×3) is expanding its footprint to Quito, Ecuador and Mexico City among new locales.
Why it matters: 3×3 has some big business players, including Ice T's "Big3" and 3Ball USA with big marketers like Mountain Dew; the expansion to Latin America opens up many sponsorship opportunities.
As the Winter Olympics wind down, the look to the Summer Games in Tokyo in 2020 slowly start to heat up, and a new discipline, one that has some solid ties in Latin America and growing ones in the U.S., is making some of the first noise with an expanded series of events.
Alfonzo McKinnie (credit: FIBA 3×3)
The sport is 3×3, or three on three basketball, an event that is geared for a market that loves fast, action-packed sports that conform to any device. While Big3 (@thebig3) is the senior sports and entertainment event launched by Ice Cube last year in the U.S. to great buzz and will be back this summer, 3×3 (@3BallUSA) is a different type of game with rules geared to players you may not yet know. Another more streamlined version of 3×3 will also be taking place at this year’s NCAA Final Four with Mountain Dew now signed on as a key sponsor.
How is this version of hoops different, and what’s the appeal? Think rugby sevens, the high octane version of 15’s rugby, which made a solid debut in Rio in 2016. The games end quickly, the action is nonstop, and the audience in countries like Mexico have taken to the game in ways the NBA would love.
So what’s the news? This week, the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) announced it has expanded its 3×3 World Tour with the addition of new events in Quito, Ecuador and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, bringing the total number of events on the 2018 calendar up to 10. The season gets underway in Canada on July 21-22 and concludes with the Bloomage Beijing Final in China on October 27-28; Mexico City returns to the calendar on September 8 and 9 as well.
For an emerging audience that understands basketball but may not yet embrace the NBA, or smaller countries where full court space for traditional five on five basketball is an issue, 3 x 3 has thrived and is growing quite quickly.
FIBA has also unveiled a prize fund of more than US $1 million (€810,000) for the first time in the World Tour’s history. "This is a crucial milestone for us," FIBA 3×3 managing director Alex Sanchez said. "We want to give our current and future stars the financial means to dedicate themselves to the game and bring it to an even more spectacular level."
For an emerging audience that understands basketball but may not yet embrace the NBA, or smaller countries where full court space for traditional five on five basketball is an issue, 3 x 3 has thrived and is growing quite quickly. The discipline is played equally by men and women and has continued to add partners on the media side, with brands like Nike and Wilson using the discipline to expand their basketball footprint even wider than it currently exists. Many of the elite competitions are played in high traffic urban areas; malls are a growing interest, where activations can occur seamlessly with a consumer base that loves basketball and may never get this close to an elite level of play.
And while there is no U.S. FIBA event on the calendar in 2018, the discipline has caught the eye of several groups outside of BIG3, one of which has already dipped a successful toe in the 3×3 proverbial water.
"The opportunity for three on three basketball is a great one for brands and for companies looking to engage in a game that is fast, exciting and designed for a younger audience, or for that matter, basketball fans of all ages,” said Michael Wranovics, a serial entrepreneur who has run successful events in the U.S., and who has been mentioned in a Sports Business Journal article in potentially launching a professional 3 x 3 venture with the FIBA rules in the United States in the near future. “Given the growth of the sport in Latin American nations, and the always expanding growth in the Latino audience in the States, I think that we will be seeing even more interest in 3×3, the FBA version which will be going to the Olympics, in the coming months."
Myke Henry (credit: FIBA 3×3)
A 3BALL Chicago ran by Wranovics won the 2016 FIBA 3×3 World Tour Americas at Perisur Mall in Mexico City. The MVP of the tournament, Myke Henry, is now playing for the Memphis Grizzlies of the NBA. All three members of that 3×3 team are currently playing in the NBA, showing the star power the game could potentially draw while leaving the five-on-five game for current NBA stars to handle.
The expansion of 3×3 into Ecuador is another signal of the growing interest in and around basketball throughout Latin America, where the sport is now second to soccer in popularity. The NCAA recently announced the starting of sanctioning to Universities in Mexico, which follows the 2016 addition of the Latin America Select team game at the Final Four.
All of this is not just great news for fans and competitors. It is solid news for brands like those already engaged to have a new entry into the sport of basketball, at a price point below the NBA or elite colleges. The multicultural slant to 3×3 has proven successful, and Latinos are the fastest growing demo engaging with this mode. As Tokyo approaches, so will a new level of faces and places, all tied to basketball, just a shorter and more engaged version.
top image: 3BALL Chicago, champions of the tournament, being presented “ticket” to the FIBA 3x3 World Tour Finals
Jerry Milani is a freelance writer and public relations executive living in Bloomfield, N.J. He has worked in P.R. for more than 25 years in college and conference sports media relations, two agencies and for the International Fight League, a team-based mixed martial arts league, and now is the PR manager for Wizard World, which runs pop culture and celebrity conventions across North America. Milani is also the play-by-play announcer for Caldwell University football and basketball broadcasts. He is a proud graduate of Fordham University and when not attending a Yankees, Rams or Cougars game can be reached at Jerry (at) JerryMilani (dot) com.