Several NBA teams have taken transatlantic jaunts this preseason to help give the NBA truly global reach. One of David Stern’s primary goals for the league — and the sport, indirectly — has been to increase its fanbase throughout the world, no matter the continent. Pretty soon, I bet we’ll see penguins on Antarctica sporting NBA-approved apparel. I hear this little guy is already a pretty big fan of J.R. Smith.
As the NBA seeks to turn casual European fans into diehards, they must find new ways to advertise their product. From all indications, that means they’ll just match basketball players with soccer icons and hope things work out.
For proof, check out the video above — technically an ad for adidas’s new NBA jerseys — in which Dwight Howard and Spanish Barcelona striker David Villa trade shirts. You know, just like in soccer! Villa, who is apparently a deaf mute, puts on DH’s oversized top and proceeds to kick the ball around, do a few between-the-legs dribbles, and even lift the ball into the net with his feet. Change his look just a tiny bit and you’d think he was Rudy Fernandez. (Note: Villa’s Barcelona teammates Xavi and Lionel Messi are very obviously doppelgangers for Juan Carlos Navarro and Ricky Rubio, respectively. Coincidentally, those two play for Barca’s basketball club. Has anyone ever seen them in the same place at once?)
This is pretty much the simplest ad ever. Howard and Villa don’t even appear to be in the same room. The concept is a basic one: if you like soccer, you’ll enjoy basketball too. Just take it from your World Cup hero.
It’s not an elegant way to convince Europeans that the NBA is worth their time, but it’s not necessarily ineffective. It also seems to be a common strategy throughout Europe; Brazilian Inter Milan goalkeeper Julio Cesar and Italian Knicks forward Danilo Gallinari recently faced off in a soccer/basketball skills competition, too. (Although you probably shouldn’t watch that video, because it’s loud and annoying. Much like Americans in Europe, amirite?)
Eventually, the NBA will have to stand on its own as an excellent league and not use an association with soccer as a stepping stone to greater popularity. But at this early stage, the league shouldn’t be ashamed of this tactic. When you’re trying to exploit a large and emerging market, you do whatever you can to get an edge.