Project Description

Benjamin Morel

Managing Director & Senior Vice President, NBA Europe


After graduating from university, he took a job at the National Basketball Association NBA. He’s been with the company for 17 years and today runs its EMEA region business. Read the full interview here.

  • Can you give us a rough sketch of your career so far?

In 1998, 17 years ago and right after my graduation, I joined the NBA. I never thought I’d still be here 17 years later as MD of the EMEA region.

During university I specialized in international affairs and sport management. Only a few people did this. By coincidence, I saw an offer on the school’s bulletin board for a junior level position at NBA Europe. The headquarter was in Paris at that time and ten days later I was working for them. I started in the consumer products business, but quickly moved to other departments like clothing and eventually, I became the department head after sort of five years. I expanded to other things like sponsorship and events and five years ago became the MD of the region. I spent ten years in Paris and then roughly eight years now in London.


  • What moved you to join NBA Europe in 1998 and never look back?

When I was in school, I always wanted to do something that would allow me to do most of the jobs, which is basically a business school. I always managed not to specialize, and that’s a good idea that worked for me. I specialized in international affairs, which can mean a lot of things.

I’ve always been a general sports fan. Football, rugby, Formula 1, basketball, golf, everything. At ESCP I was in the bureau du sport and was very active. In the end, I was very fortunate to have the offer from NBA, you need a bit of luck I think. I have enjoyed the NBA ever since, it’s a fantastic company to work for.

Video Interview with Benjamin Morel at the SportAccord Convention 2015 in Sochi
  • What does the EMEA office of the NBA do?

This is the Europe, Africa and Middle East headquarter and we basically commercialize the NBA league across our region. London is the hub, then we have an office in Madrid and another one in Johannesburg. From here we pilot and drive all the activities for the whole region, which is quite vast. And it’s not a lot of people, just 70.


  • How do you measure the impact of your work?

Our key indicator is business. So it’s selling media rights, selling sponsorships, selling merchandise. It’s about doing all the marketing, the events, and to be able to drive the value for the brand that will actually show in bigger right fees for TV and digital partners. Lots of people are buying our jerseys and our videogames. Actually we just had the launch of NBA 2K16 here in this office.

So this is how we measure, this is what we do. It’s probably 40 commercial people and the rest here support in terms of marketing, logistics for events, PR and communication as well as finance, legal and HR. It’s a good multicultural, very cosmopolitan group of people, developing the NBA around the world.

“I think that sport and entertainment is such a unique opportunity to work with because you sell fun. And you can’t sell fun without having fun. “
  • What’s your job on a daily basis?

There is no typical day, the thing is that you go from one subject to another about every fifty minutes. So you may discuss the renewal of a TV right in a big market, you may then decide about the copyright issue and the consumer products business and then you talk about the marketing strategy on social media and then you go to Junior NBA event program for Eastern Europe, etc.

So it’s just going from one subject to the other and trying to make sense. You have to find the right balance between being in the office and being out there. I probably travel over one hundred days per year, so where do you go, how do you use your time… it’s a vast region to cover!


  • How does it work internally? What teams are you working with?

I have got multiple direct reports: the heads of television media business, sponsorship, merchandise, basketball operations, marketing, event and communications and then the various countries. Every Monday morning at 8am we have a senior staff meeting where we set the stage for the rest of the week. People need a pretty good reason not to be on it.


  • Can you tell us more about the uniqueness of the sports industry?

We are in a sport and entertainment business but a business at the end of the day. We are not a government body of any kind. We have got clear business objectives, with owners that want to develop the business on a global scale. This for me opens a lot of opportunities.

I think that sport and entertainment is such a unique opportunity to work with because you sell fun. And you can’t sell fun without having fun. This is true whether you work for a football club or whether you work for the NBA. Because it has this fun element you have to realize that a lot of people would die to get your job so you have to wake up every morning realizing the opportunity you have to work in such an industry.

“It’s a cliché but the glass is more full than empty in London. People always put a positive spin on things.”
  • How about the fun in basketball and the NBA in particular?

For sure, attending games and getting close to some of the best athletes in the world is a unique experience. Basketball is a global sport; there is not one school gym in the world that doesn’t have a basketball court. In Germany, you have got Dirk Nowitzki and Denis Schroeder for example. That makes the NBA events popular everywhere.

The fun is obviously to attend some of those events, when the NBA starts the finals in Madison Square Gardens, hosting our clients and making sure they understand what the NBA stands for. Also, we have a lot of meetings at different sport events. It’s a privilege to be invited at other sports and get to experience them. That’s part of the duties but when you are a sport fan, it’s a privilege.


  • What’s your personal background and how did this affect your professional career?

I have franco-english origins, really 50-50. I lived most of my childhood in Paris but worked in both cultures and languages. This is probably why I wanted an international career, maybe not moving out of Paris but going beyond the Parisian area. After ESCP I really knew that I wanted to have an international role and see the world.

I have two kids now and I want to make sure that they will have that opportunity. My wife is half Spanish so they are now true Europeans.


  • What can you say about living in London?

London is one of the very few global cities and everybody feels at home here. It’s very similar in that aspect to a city like New York. For a Frenchman, you know it’s the sixth largest French city by population, I see people from France feel very comfortable in London. There’s more and more of them, quite different from eight years ago when I moved here. My personal experience: It’s very easy to work and live in. It’s great fun; the whole world meets here. For an international career it makes it quite easy.


  • And compared to Paris?

I don’t know, I love both. It’s probably slightly more multicultural. It’s a cliché but the glass is more full than empty here. People always put a positive spin to things. But Paris I have been living in for 35 years, so it’s definitely my favourite city in the world. I feel home on both sides of the channel.