You wouldn't think the fact that Rasual Butler, a dance team, and the Heat mascot went to Puerto Rico, Trinidad, and the Bahamas this summer would be such a big deal.
But John Lombardo's story about their trip is on the cover of the current Sports Business Journal because this represents a brand new day in NBA marketing. Before this, all international marketing has been tightly controlled by the NBA itself.This Heat trip is reportedly evidence that teams will be allowed to do some international marketing on their own. The Rockets, for instance, with Yao Ming on board, would like to market more in China. The Spurs have a lot of fans in Mexico they're interested in courting. The Knicks, Bulls, and Lakers are known everywhere. I have to think the Blazers, with Ha Seung-Jin, would like to own the Korean NBA audience, etc.
So, does this trip by the Heat mean it's a free for all? Not yet. In the Sports Business Journal, the NBA is making it sound like this is no news at all:
"The NBA Latin American office is conducting an event, and it involved the Heat," said Tim Andree, NBA senior vice president of communications, in a statement. "We have done and will continue to do international events and involve teams where appropriate."
The Spurs aren't counting on anything major happening yet:
"Right now, we don't have free rein and we are very interested in expanding our marketplace, especially with our international players," said Bruce Guthrie, marketing director for the Spurs. "We've butted heads with the league like everybody else, but now we want to create relationships, especially in Mexico, where we have a lot of fans who come up to San Antonio."