Do you want to get paid just to show up at a battle? So do we! This post is to start a discussion to make this a reality.
NBL is the world's first Breakin' league with a goal of sharing the intensity, flash, and competitive nature of bboying to the world through a full-fledged professional league. Being crowned the national champion should be the ultimate bragging right, but NBL has lost some steam over the last couple years. While we fully support NBL, the future of NBL was uncertain to us; especially after the size of the event was much smaller than we expected. Why is that? Luckily, we had a chance to speak with Johnny Castro, Chris Couplin aka Ill Skillz, Chris Wright of Freestyle Session and the organizers and owners of NBL.
What we wanted to know was the future of NBL. Will this ever be a professional league on the scale of pro sports? We asked ourselves what it would take to create a National League that professional bboys could compete in and be paid professionally?
To answer that, we need to look at what creates a real professional league in sports and work our way backwards to where bboying is now. First, there is money involved from sponsorship and fans. Sponsorship only comes from having lots of fans and spectators. Whereas bboy events tend to only have bboys, dancers, and a few family at their events. Any national league has thousands of fans and spectators, many of whom do not even compete in the activity they enjoy watching. A fan is someone that is willing to spend their hard earned money on 3 things: 1. Event merchandise (so they have something tangible to take home and share besides just the memory). 2. Tickets to events (obviously). 3. Team or Athlete personalized memerabilia. With this inflow of money NBL can steadily grow. Even the largest events in the world, like Freestyle Sessions, still only attract dancers and the hip hop community.
So, we asked ourselves why is it that bboying has not attracted millions of fans? Here are few obvious differences we came across when looking at the bboy community vs the professional sports community and other large events or shows:
Let's just get things straight. For there to be a pro league, the league will have to host events that are much different than the average jam. We are not eliminating local jams. In fact, the local jam may get 10x as many spectators because people want to get their fill of breakin' and the next league event is not for a few months. Also, because NBL is run by bboys for bboys, the NBL events can help promote the small local events.
If all these things are met a league will be formed. However, isn't there already a league out there that we all know of? We believe that Red Bull BC one is the closest thing to a pro league right now. There are a few key things that Red Bull does that make this event so spectacularly successful. First of all, they do much more than the average bboy event to cater to the spectators. BC1 is run as a show as well as a battle. They follow all the above points mentioned. They run on time. The event is short and to the point, but still epic. And while crews come and go, the same bboys are still there representing his own style and thus can create a fan base year to year. What is also important is for fans to know the line up (competitors) at the event. BC1 announces the bboys early on to create excitement. Red Bull makes sure the competitors are taken care of at the event, just as much as any athlete or star. This ensures the bboys are engaged in the event and not off exploring the city which may lead them to being late to the event. I also wouldn't be surprised if the bboys are paid just to show up to the battle (can anyone confirm this?).
What I have concluded is that it will be difficult to conform bboy crew mentality to the professional level (same uniform, keeping the crew together, etc). So, perhaps a crew vs crew league is not what is needed! Perhaps Red Bull stumbled upon the magic formula, or it was well thought out? I will never know. Perhaps a 1 on 1 league is much more feasible at this time until sponsorship picks up. Perhaps NBL needs to have 1 bboy represent each state. These bboys can be invited or advance to the championships through a local qualifier. This way the championships have 16 states/regions represented, not 8. It is also easier for a single bboy to rep a state jersey (professional gear) as opposed to getting an entire crew to rep the same gear. Not to mention, it is also much less expensive to fly out one bboy and make one custom jersey or outfit.
Just Generation BBOY's two cents. Get down on it,
P.S. Take UFC for example (<<click the link), a once bankrupt brand in the 90s that is now making in hundreds of millions of dollars a year. UFC was originally created by "true" martial artists who wanted to truly determine who was the best fighter. There was no rules and regulations, just an octagon with two fighters (weight class did not matter). Eventually the UFC wanted to grow and they had to do two things: create rules and market so that the general public would come to love the sport. The rules turned away a few of the old school fighters and organizers who believed that the competition lost the "true best fighter" aspect when weight classes were involved. The change in marketing was huge too. UFC was marketed to the general public as a blood sport, which backfired on them and made their life very difficult by conservative groups and politicians. The marketing shifted direction to being more about skill and performance of the fighters and the general public grew to understand the fighters were real people and not monsters. Does any of this sound familiar to bboying?
Bboying has many parallels to UFC. The general public doesn't get what they are going to see, and they don't understand the competition because the rules and judging is vague and not similar from event to event.