Revolutionizing Traditional Sports Business: The Launch of the SOCIAL INNOVATION HUB Concept in the B.League

The “SOCIAL INNOVATION HUB concept” has been launched, going beyond the framework of traditional sports business.


“B. Innovation” announced this summer. Aiming to become “the world’s most unconventional live sports entertainment,” the organization has set out major reforms that will drive the development of domestic professional sports as a whole. Coinciding with this “B. Innovation” is the newly announced “SOCIAL INNOVATION HUB concept.” Expectations are high for evolution that goes beyond the traditional framework of sports business.

The driving force is a sense of crisis, and the changes in the world push us forward.

The dynamic performance of the Japanese men’s national team at the FIBA ​​Basketball World Cup 2023 has become a big topic not only in the basketball world but also in the Japanese sports world in 2023. The 2023-24 B League season, which started with this strong tailwind, has been so successful that tickets are difficult to obtain, and it appears to be enjoying unprecedented success. Still, managing director Masaaki Sano says that what drives the B.League is a “sense of crisis.”

“We have a lot of customers, and the quality and attention of our entertainment is increasing, but even though Japan’s women’s and wheelchair representatives are doing so well on the world’s biggest stages, we still don’t get enough attention in the rankings of “sports to watch.” However, basketball did not reach 10th place.As the birthrate continues to decline and entertainment content increases, there is a danger that even if the current growth is on the rise, it will drop in the blink of an eye. I have a strong feeling about it.” (Sano)

Sano, who has been leading the newly announced SOCIAL INNOVATION HUB concept, said, “As we discussed and decided on the system design for B. Innovation, we realized that “business, which is the driving force behind the two wheels, must also bring about change more strongly.” I was talking to Chairman Shinji Shimada and saying, ‘We have to do something.”

“Over the past year or two, especially as we have experienced games without spectators due to the coronavirus pandemic, I have had more conversations with sponsor companies about what we can do to add value to sports.B. Innovation alone I don’t think that basketball will become more exciting, including for sponsors.It feels like we have stepped on the gas once again, determined to improve the value of the sport itself.”

Managing Director Masaaki Sano

When solidifying the concept this year, the first thing that became necessary was an analysis of the current situation. Rumi Sugawara, a senior manager in the business planning group who has been in sales for many years, said, “I thought it would be difficult to grow a North American-style business in Japan, where broadcasting rights can be sold for tens to tens of billions of dollars.” In the traditional sports business that we offer, we have felt that there is a limit to the superiority of sports over other industries and media when considering only cost-effectiveness.B.League has always placed activation at the center of its partnerships. ”, he frankly talks about the position of the B League.

“That’s why I once again thought about what the value of sports is.Thankfully, there are people who are interested in sports, and there are also partners who ask me, “What do you want to do in the B.League?” That’s because there were a lot of them.” (Sugawara) It was just a reconfirmation of the foundation for moving forward.

Looking back on the progress so far, Sano says the value of the league has become obvious.

“We took stock of all our contacts with various people and the expectations of many stakeholders, and started by asking ourselves, “What is our core purpose?” We talked about how the B.League’s greatest strength and reason for existence is its role as a hub that connects people and organizations.The value of basketball is only when sponsors and fans are happy. We have redefined the B.League as one of the drivers of value and economic circulation for that purpose.”

Five communities that are the key to a new “economic cycle”

We categorized the communities that should serve as hubs and connect them into five communities. Rather than creating something new, Sano says the work is “aggregation of the results of redefining what we have as our starting point.”

Two of them, “fans” and “basketball families,” are “Ichiban Ichiban, the core of Japanese basketball,” according to Sano. Professional sports cannot exist without people who enjoy them, and without the people involved in the sport, such as coaches and referees, there will be no development. These two communities can be said to be the main premise of the project.

Aiming for the growth of the trinity of basketball, the region, and the company ©B.LEAGUE

Of the other three, Sano personally believes that “regional revitalization” and “global basketball” are the keys.

Sano explains that what these two have in common is that they create a new “economic cycle.”

“An example of what we hear from local residents is how best to utilize idle facilities such as community centers, closed schools, and vacant houses, which are a problem in various regions, and who is responsible for them. If you go, people in the local area will gather together, and I’m sure there are many companies across the country who would like to do something to revitalize the local area, like the “disaster prevention basketball” project we worked on with Japan Post. I think that by coming up with a unified concept and becoming a hub, a new economic cycle will be born.”

Global basketball is also part of the economic cycle. “In order to achieve sustainable growth in Japan, where the population is decreasing due to the declining birthrate, I believe that we must expand the ecosystem through economic circulation, including overseas,” (Sano).

Global basketball has three pillars. “Exporting outbound and inbound league models.” As an outbound track record, it has already been decided this year that the B League will be broadcast on cable TV in the Philippines, where basketball is very popular. Regarding inbound tourism, Sano reveals his idea, “For this year’s All Stars, I’m thinking of trying out inbound hospitality as a new endeavor.”

Furthermore, we have received requests from other countries in Asia, such as “we want our domestic leagues (in Asia) to grow together” and “we want us to work together to enliven basketball in Asia.” In fact, league officials from South Korea and Indonesia have come to Japan. We have begun initiatives such as offering study sessions.

Some clubs are already operating on their own. Based on Kawasaki City’s urban development plan, Kawasaki Brave Thunders operates the Kawasaki Cultural Center, where young people can experience sports such as dance and basketball, as well as artistic activities. The Kumamoto Volters invited a professional basketball team from Taiwan to hold an international exchange game. There are also examples such as Aomori Watts, which has entered into international strategic partnerships with Taiwanese teams and holds events in Taiwan.

“Biz human resources” will be the core of B League evolution

Taking into account the efforts of each club, Sugawara emphasizes the importance of the fifth community, “Biz human resources.”

“I believe that Biz human resources are the source of support for the other four communities.The B League already has departments in charge of the other four, and concepts have existed before. I believe that the best base for achieving this is human resources.”

Sugawara says he is personally interested in away tourism.

“I hope that by combining it with other content, new fans will have an opportunity to go to away games.However, it must be difficult for a single club to promote this kind of away tourism. I think it might be easier to make this happen if the league could become a hub and acquire national sponsors.I often wonder what only the league can do, but it is precisely through this kind of “horizontal” work that the league can do. I think I can demonstrate the value of the league.”

Business Planning Group Senior Manager Rumi Sugawara

By re-presenting guidelines based on the five communities, the direction has become clearer, and existing sponsors and clubs have responded favorably.

Create a vertical path and thread the horizontal skewers through. “We cannot run a big business on our own,” says Sano humbly, but the history of turning the wheels based on the asset of human resources has already proven the value of the B League hub.

■Click here for the SOCIAL INNOVATION HUB special site

■Click here for inquiries regarding the OCIAL INNOVATION HUB concept partnership.

■Click here for B. Innovation special site

2023-11-29 01:04:55
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