When I think back to my childhood years and developing my basketball game, like many others my age, I think of the summers when I attended Five-Star Basketball camps. About 10-15 years ago, Five-Star was the most prestigious grassroots basketball organization and helped develop the skills of players like Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Kevin Durant. The business of basketball camps has changed tremendously in the last 10 years with top players and sneaker companies starting their own camps and tournament circuits, and as a result Five-Star took a backseat. Now under new ownership, Five-Star Basketball is ready to step back into the spotlight and reconnect with the youth with the launch of fivestarbasketball.com, a content heavy site with player rankings, blogs, highlight reels, camp history and much more.
Dime made a visit to Five-Star Basketball’s new digital compound and spoke with CEO Nick Blatchford about their efforts to re-brand the organization and step back into the forefront of the basketball world.
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Dime: What sparked the re-branding of Five-Star?
Nick Blatchford: Five-Star has such a great legacy and brand heritage in basketball dating back to the 1960s. The contribution the company has made to the game has been extraordinary. Before there was AAU, before there were sneaker camps, there was Five-Star. There was a place where teaching never stopped and players and coaches went to learn and play against the best, so it’s always been synonymous with greatness.
When we got our hands on the business and the brand, we were very focused on making it breath greatness and breath premier. We knew we needed to do some things to reintroduce the brand to the younger demographic and the young, competitive, elite player. What Five-Star was to Jordan in 1980, Five-Star really isn’t to the young player playing today. We’re really trying to link the heritage of Five-Star with the current involvement surrounding the game. It’s really important to us to celebrate the heritage but do it in a way that respects the current kid, the current coach, the younger generation of player and coach.
Dime: What kind of changes can we expect to see with Five-Star camps?
NB: Five-Star will continue to run a great on-court teaching product. The curriculum, the stations, all the things that Five-Star has been known for, we will continue to innovate and try to be a best-in-class on-court program. What we do hope to do is began to migrate the teaching and instruction of the game onto a digital platform and really create on-court and online instructional products for kids and coaches. Kids that are competitive and learning the game outside of school are either on the court playing or online, so we want to be able to create an online experience that supports and complements what happens on the court. That’s what you expect to see in the future for our company.
Dime: What kind of tournaments and events are in the pipeline?
NB: What we’re going to do is focus on partnerships with tournament and events operators. There’s a lot of really good ones out there doing a great job already and we can lend our brand to it and we can partner with them to really create this digital and media platform with video capture of games and event highlights – the things that people that are associated with these events really want to experience. Usually the people that participate show up, play games, leave and all they have is the memory. It is our goal and ambition to create content at these events that parents, coaches and kids will want to access. In terms of the event business, we will probably do a big summer event that we’ll run and a big high school event that we’ll run, but beyond that, as far as the large scale travel tournaments, we will try to create experiences that support what they’re already doing.
Dime: Will re-branding include collaborating with sneaker companies and other sports brands?
NB: Eventually it could. Our focus right now is on re-launching the brand and reenergizing the brand. We’re doing that through the digital platform that we’ve launched, the content we’re creating, engaging with the top players in the country that are doing video blogs and really just building our audience online. Beyond that, partnering with the right companies and brands that are active in youth basketball, we’re going to let that evolve and come to us over time. We did inherit some great relationships with Reebok and Gatorade that are still active for camps and we’re going to look at where to build out beyond that in the future.