Electronic Arts has announced that it is to sponsor NBA Europe Live, a new event which will send top NBA teams across the Atlantic to take on Euroleague teams in the NBA pre-season.
EA Sports will be the headline sponsor of the event, which was announced with much fanfare last night by executives from EA, the National Basketball Association and its European counterpart, Euroleague.
Basketball is still something of a niche sport in Europe, which for EA means that 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 to build sales over here 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.