Publisher Electronic Arts has strengthened its ties with the National Basketball Association with the announcement that it is to sponsor NBA Europe Live, a new event which will send top NBA teams to play in Europe.
EA Sports will be the headline sponsor of the event, which is a partnership between the NBA and European basketball league Euroleague, and will see four NBA teams crossing the Atlantic during the NBA pre-season period to play against Euroleague teams.
Basketball remains a niche sport in Europe, and sales of basketball games are diminutive compared to other sports titles such as football - so this deal looks like a medium- to long-term effort by EA and the NBA to build sales in this region by first building up the popularity of the sport as a whole.
"This is the NBA's most ambitious European basketball competition," according to NBA commissioner David Stern. "NBA Europe Live will exemplify how sports leagues around the world can work together for the long-term growth of their sport."
"As the relevance of basketball continues to grow globally, the NBA and EA Sports share a vision that delivers basketball, entertainment, music and technology to our fans around the world," he concluded.
Although it's working closely with EA Sports on this deal, the NBA continues to work with other game publishers on licensed titles, and recently signed five- and six-year deals with Sony, Atari, Midway and Take Two, along with EA - in contrast to the NFL, which is now exclusively signed with EA.
The NBA Europe Live announcement is obviously good news for EA, but it's not quite what some investors were expecting; speculation that the announcement would involve a buyout of French publisher Ubisoft drove shares in both EA and Ubisoft upwards on stock exchanges in New York and Paris yesterday.