The chance was too good to pass up, an opportunity to do some promotion for the company, to help old friends, to repatriate an athlete if only for a few months.
A website that bills itself as “the world’s leading married dating service for discreet encounters” is trying to get Andrea Bargnani playing basketball in his native Italy.
And if it helps business, well, that’s a nice little bonus for ashleymadison.com.
“This was a chance for some cross-promotion, to call the team Ashley Madison Roma,” Noel Biderman, the chief executive officer of Avid Life Media, the company that owns the dating site targeting married people, said in a telephone interview from Italy, where he is trying to finalize the deal.
“I’m going to try my best to help him. … We’re 90 per cent of the way there.”
All that’s left to gain is approval from the team’s ownership. But without a “name” sponsor at the moment, that could be forthcoming.
Aside from covering the cost of insuring Bargnani’s NBA contact — which has four years and about $41 million (all figures U.S.) left to run — Biderman is putting the final touches on a wide-ranging sponsorship deal that will see the first-division Italian team be known as Ashley Madison Roma, in keeping with European basketball tradition of having corporation as the team name.
Biderman, a Toronto native, is no stranger to sports, though.
He worked as a sports attorney — based in Italy — before moving to the world of websites.
“This pursuit came about for two reasons — I have some good personal connections in Italy having worked for one of Europe’s largest sports agencies (which is based there) and secondly, we have recently launched Ashley Madison into Italy — its 16th country,” Biderman said in an email.
At Interperformances, he managed 45 athletes around the globe while acting as the managing director of the company’s Canadian operations and had much interaction with Italian counterparts.
When the possibility was raised of Kobe Bryant playing at least a bit in the Italian league while the NBA lockout drones on, Biderman saw an opportunity to help a team he knew needed a sponsor and advance the recognition of his company.
While hardly on the scale of global popularity that Bryant is, Bargnani remains a highly-recognized name in his native Rome and being able to facilitate his return to basketball there — if only for a few weeks or months — will help Biderman’s business cause immensely.
As part of the sponsorship deal, ashleymadison.com will not only be the team’s major sponsor, with its name prominently displayed on home and away uniforms, the deal calls for in-arena recognition and a pre-determined amount of advertising time on broadcasts of the team’s games.
This is not the first foray of ashleymadison.com into attempts to reach a wider audience.
The company was rebuffed in efforts to buy naming rights to Phoenix’s Sky Harbour Airport and the new football stadium that’s home to the NFL’s New York Giants and Jets.
“To get naming rights for a major city franchise plus the guaranteed TV spots on their own would make marketing sense,” he said. “Add a homegrown NBA talent in to the mix and I think this could be the best idea since starting a dating website for married people
Bargnani has been in his native Italy since the end of the NBA season and played for his national team in August’s European basketball championships, where Italy failed to qualify for the 2012 London Olympics.
It’s unclear when Bargnani would start playing for Rome, which is 1-1 in Italian league play. The original report detailing his decision to possibly join the team said the cost of insuring his Raptors contract is approximately $2 million.
Raptors officials are precluded from even acknowledging Bargnani’s basketball existence while the NBA lockout is in effect.
Another of Toronto’s European players — Jose Calderon — is keeping busy in his homeland.
Calderon said he’s working out daily with the second-team of the Spanish league giants Barcelona but has no plans to play in games on a regular basis.