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Inside the Juventus Night Strategy of the Brooklyn Nets

A growing relationship between basketball and soccer launched a partnership between the clubs with a goal of expanding their respective fan bases.

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Nets - Juventus - Basketball - Soccer

In early December, Barclays Center was abuzz with typical pregame energy as the Brooklyn Nets prepared to face the red-hot Toronto Raptors. Around the arena, fans were adorned in black and white jerseys customary to the NBA team, but if you looked closer, not all the apparel looked the same.

Fans dressed in black and white striped jerseys with “Jeep” plastered across the chest were sprinkled through the stands celebrating not the Nets, nor the rival Raptors, but Juventus — a soccer team located nearly 4,000 miles away in Turin, Italy.

The fans were there for Juventus Night, a themed game at Barclays featuring the storied Italian club.

In recent years, the relationship between basketball and soccer has grown, led by players of each sport and propelled by social media platforms like Instagram, which has documented top international soccer players like Neymar Jr. at the NBA Finals or jersey exchanges between American and European players.

The Nets alone have several soccer fans on their roster, including Kenneth Faried, who met with the Juventus squad during its summer tour earlier this year, as well as D’Angelo Russell and Jared Dudley.

READ MORE: Why Stadium Uses AI-Powered Video Highlights to Reach Fans

Mike Zavodsky, the chief revenue officer for the Nets, noticed the growing relationship between the sports and decided to explore that as an opportunity to grow the NBA team’s fan base. A cold call to Luca Adornato, Juventus’ head of marketing, started a conversation which culminated in a watch party for Derby d’Italia at Barclays, followed by Juventus Night during the Nets’ game Friday evening.

Zavodsky’s goal was to find a way to grow the Nets’ fan base both domestically, with New York locals who hadn’t yet been to Barclays, and internationally, with basketball fans looking for a team to support. Zavodsky’s idea aligned with Juventus, a team which, like many other European clubs, was looking to find a way into the American market.

“They’ve played games here and are looking to grow their fan base in America — in New York, in particular,” explained Zavodsky. “So, it was a natural win-win. And then when you add in the fact that we both were black and white, it made it that much more seamless.”

That was a huge selling point, and the synergy between the two teams — not only in organizational goals, but in culture — was undeniable.

Juventus reached out to its larger fan base and local supporters within the tri-state area to inform them about the partnership and offer opportunities for them to partake in the event.

The main event was a watch party at the 40/40 club by Tanduay Rum at Barclays for Juventus’ clash with Inter Milan. With appearances by club ambassador and former Juventus star David Trezeguet and Kerry Kittles from the Nets, a display of the Serie A championship trophy, and giveaways such as a trip to Italy for a Juventus match, the watch party was certainly appealing. 

Later that evening, the Italian club’s branding could be seen throughout Barclays as the Nets took on the Raptors. At various moments during the game, Juventus highlights were featured on the screen, introducing basketball fans to the club’s culture and history. The Brooklynettes were outfitted in black and white striped Juventus jerseys for various performances as well.

Outside of this event, Zavodsky believes there is more opportunity in this space due to similarities between the two sports’ cultures.

“If you look at the fan bases, they are very passionate on both sides; I think that’s the biggest synergy,” he said. “They get behind their teams, they root for those teams and no one else. And that’s the connectivity that we like. So if we can make Juventus fans Nets fans and vice versa, that’s the big goal at the end of the day.”

The preferences of soccer and basketball fans may not be as different as you would initially think. Both basketball and soccer are fast-moving sports that consist of few breaks with athletes whose faces are visible rather than hindered by helmets or facemasks, allowing them to essentially become brands themselves. With dwindling attention spans and fandom that is moving away from specific teams and towards individual athletes, these similarities may bring the fan bases of these sports closer together.

Given this, Zavodsky and the Nets don’t believe Juventus Night will be their only activation in the soccer space. In fact, it’s just the beginning.

READ MORE: How Wayne Rooney Added Millions of Additional Brand Value for DC United and MLS

“We’d love to develop many partnerships in this space,” said Zavodsky. “I think it’s beneficial any time you can tap into a new audience and grow your fan base. I think there’s a mutual benefit across the board.”

The Nets already have many partners in various markets, most notably in London, where their naming rights partner, Barclays, is based, and National Grid, which has a large U.S. and UK presence.

“If we can replicate that same type of connectivity with the local market and work with some local Italian companies who may have an affinity for working with us given their relationship [with Juventus], that would be great, and however we can help Juventus the other way, we would certainly look to do so.”

As for activating in Italy, that’s not out of the question and something the Nets are interested in pursuing through the NBA.

Lucy is a contributing writer for Front Office Sports. A storyteller and brand strategist, she has worked in the sports industry for organizations including the United States Olympic Committee, IMG/WME and the Miami Open, the University of Miami Athletic Department, Florida Panthers, and Minnesota Twins. She spent 2016 living in Colombia where she accomplished a life-long goal of becoming fluent in Spanish while working for the Ministerio de Educación Nacional. Lucy is a graduate of the University of Miami. She can be reached at lucy@frntofficesport.com.

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Powerade Commits to Building Soccer Fields In New Campaign

As part of the brand’s new “Power Has No Gender” campaign, Powerade is building three mini-pitches with the U.S. Soccer Foundation.

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Photo Courtesy: U.S. Soccer Foundation

With a light on soccer with the Women’s World Cup, Powerade has made a commitment to help continue the growth of soccer in the U.S. by helping create better access to the sport.

The sports drink company has launched its “Power Has No Gender” campaign as the official sports drink of the U.S. Women’s National Team and partnered with the U.S. Soccer Foundation to build three small soccer fields in honor of current players: Alex Morgan in Los Angeles; Crystal Dunn in New York; and Kelley O’Hara in Atlanta.

The “Power Has No Gender” campaign is the first portion of a greater “Power Has No Limit” campaign to discuss the challenges athletes face in sports because of race, age, gender, ability, access or identity, said Jasmine Lipford, Powerade Senior Brand Manager. Lipford cited a Women’s Sports Foundation statistic that girls have 1.3 million fewer opportunities to play school sports than boys, a gap the company wants to help bridge with the pledge of support to the U.S. Soccer Foundation.

“The FIFA Women’s World Cup is a powerful time in women’s sports. It is the one time every four years that women have a dominant presence on the sports page, captivating the entire globe and sports fans everywhere,” Lipford said. “Because this is such a powerful time in women’s sports, and as the official sports drink of the U.S. Women’s National Team, the FIFA Women’s World Cup presented the opportune time to channel the excitement and vigor that surrounds the tournament to help Powerade shed light on the challenges that young female athletes face.”

The new campaign from Powerade is meant to harness the popularity of the Women’s World Cup and help propel women athletes to an equitable level of their male counterparts, Lipford said.

U.S. Soccer Foundation Executive Director Ed Foster-Simeon believes partnering with Powerade on the three mini-pitches is a show of commitment on the brand’s part to actually make a difference in communities.

READ MORE: Concacaf Unveils First-Ever Women’s Soccer Plan

“It’s an opportunity to do something together that has a meaningful impact,” Foster-Simeon said. “Boys and girls face many barriers to safe places to play. Access is one of the major challenges we face to growing the game.”

The fields being built will be a small contribution to the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s goal of building 1,000 mini-pitches by 2026 in its “Safe Places to Play” program, but each small step is powerful in helping bring soccer to more communities in the U.S., Foster-Simeon said. The foundation has already built nearly 300 fields and Foster-Simeon said plans are in place to reach 500 in the near future.

Foster-Simeon said the foundation shifted its focus about a decade ago to reach underserved communities where access to programming and fields are limited. Taking note of similar mini-pitches across Europe and Central and South America, the fields can be built in underutilized spaces not large enough for full-sized fields, often in urban environments.

“It transforms a dead space in a community and turns it into a vibrant, live and accessible space for the entire neighborhood,” Foster-Simeon said. “It creates a hub of activity.”

The U.S. Soccer Foundation does take some steps to help program the fields, but time is quickly filled by community-based programs. The foundation claims fields are programmed an average of five hours daily with 350 children using them regularly.

While the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s goal is to create better access for all children, Powerade’s current focus is on women athletes as it launches the greater “Power Has No Limit” campaign.

READ MORE: Budweiser Signs On as Presenting Partner of Women’s International Champions Cup 

“Sports are crucial for girls, girls who play sports are more confident about their abilities and competencies, and are 14% more likely to believe they are smart enough for their dream career,” Lipford said, referencing a study by Ruling Our eXperiences Inc. “Giving young female athletes access to the tools they need to practice their game – including access to fields – will help these girls not only achieve their soccer dreams but will also pave the way for the next generation of World Cup hopefuls.”

Powerade is currently only committed to the three fields with the U.S. Soccer Foundation, but there could be more in the future with its goal to push these campaigns for access forward.

“Our goal is to show them these three pitches and the impact they can have,” Foster-Simeon said. “Hopefully they’ll be excited.”

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NHL Keeps Running On Dunkin’ With New Deal

Dunkin’ became an NHL league-level sponsor in 2017, which was the company’s first-ever national sports league partnership.

Ian Thomas

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NHL Dunkin' Deal
Photo Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Dunkin’ has signed a multi-year extension of its deal with the NHL, continuing its position as the official coffee, donut and breakfast sandwich of the league in the U.S.

The deal, expected to be announced tonight prior to game five of the Stanley Cup Final in Boston, marks the twelfth major partner that the NHL has signed or renewed its deal with in recent months.

Dunkin’ became an NHL league-level sponsor in 2017, which was the company’s first-ever national sports league partnership. Over the course of the last two seasons, the partnership has seen Dunkin’ become one of the NHL’s most active corporate sponsors in terms of its presence at major NHL events, partnerships with local teams, marketing campaigns and other fan-facing efforts.

READ MORE: Following NBA’s Lead, NHL Taps Massive Chinese Market for Fans

NHL Group Vice President of Partnership Marketing Evin Dobson said that since becoming a sponsor, Dunkin’ has ranked at the top or in the top three of the league’s internal metrics regarding fan awareness or engagement of its partners.

Dunkin’ has been front and center this Stanley Cup Final as well, as its national advertising campaign starring Eastern Conference Champion Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak has been heavily featured during NBC’s television coverage of the playoffs. The campaign was created by BBDO Worldwide, which was named Dunkin’s new agency of record in April 2018.

“When you have an advertising campaign that even the broadcast talent is talking about on-air, you know you’re creating great fan engagement with what you’re doing,” Dobson said.

Tom Manchester, Dunkin’ U.S. senior vice president of integrated marketing, said much of the deal with the league will be similar to how its current deal is structured – it will continue to hold exclusive rights in those U.S. categories, it will activate around the partnership at NHL league events and it will have a presence across broadcast, digital and social media channels throughout the season, which includes a multi-million dollar partnership with NBC Sports for custom in-game features during games. Dunkin’ will also activate alongside the NHL’s esports tournament, the NHL Gaming World Championship, which will hold its final in Las Vegas later this month.

However, the new deal will see Dunkin’ adding two new local team partnerships in the deal, with the Carolina Hurricanes and the Vegas Golden Knights. Dunkin’ now has 15 NHL team-level deals.

READ MORE: NHL Turns to Corner Ice Placements to Grow On-Ice Ad Revenue

Dunkin’ will also launch a new activation around the league deal ahead of next season, Manchester said, declining to comment further as those plans have only just started.

“Over these last two years, the idea that coffee and espresso is a big part of the hockey world and hockey family’s lives has only been reinforced for us,” Manchester said.

Dunkin’s NHL deal also serves as “the centerpiece” of that outreach to hockey families, Manchester said.

In addition to its league-level NHL deal in 2017, Dunkin’ has also made additional investments into hockey, signing a deal with USA Hockey in 2016 as well as the NWHL in 2015, becoming the women’s league first corporate sponsor.

While both of those deals have since lapsed, Manchester said that on the NWHL front, the company is in talks with the league about renewing it. He noted that Dunkin’ views “women’s hockey as just as important as men’s.”

However, Dunkin’ is not planning on more broadly renewing its partnership with the U.S. governing body. Manchester said that while Dunkin’ had activated heavily around the U.S. Women’s National Hockey Team and players like Meghan Duggan during the 2018 Winter Olympics, it had nothing in place with USA Hockey at the moment – although he said Dunkin’ could potentially do something around the team or its players heading into the next Olympic cycle in 2022.

Both Dobson and Manchester declined to comment on the financial terms of the deal, other to say the multi-year deal’s investment level is in line with the previous deal. Fenway Sports Management, who is Dunkin’s sports marketing agency of record, negotiated the deal on behalf of the company.

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Concacaf Unveils First-Ever Women’s Soccer Plan

In August, Concacaf appointed its first-ever head of women’s football – former Canadian women’s national team player Karina LeBlanc.

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women's soccer
Photo Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Ahead of the start of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, Concacaf has rolled out its first-ever strategic plan to grow and develop the game of women’s soccer.

In August, the confederation appointed its first-ever head of women’s football – former Canadian women’s national team player Karina LeBlanc.

LeBlanc, who presented the plan in Paris this week to all confederation’s 41 members that includes all of the soccer federations across North and Central America and the Caribbean, said that even with two of the top five ranked women’s soccer teams globally coming from this region in the U.S. and Canadian national teams, there is still an opportunity to do even better.

“The mission we’ve set out on is to improve the lives of women and girls throughout our region through the sport,” LeBlanc said. “We need to change perceptions, grow participation and build a sustainable foundation so that we can do just that.”

Concacaf has designed its strategy to grow the sport of women’s soccer around three main pillars – communicating the importance of women’s soccer and advocating for key issues affecting women, development of the sport and creating pathways to develop and empower players both on and off the field, and through commercial means that will build a self-sustainable growth model for the sport.

LeBlanc said Concacaf’s vision for growing the game somewhat mirrors FIFA’s, who launched its own first-ever global strategy for women’s soccer in October. FIFA is holding a two-day women’s soccer summit in Paris, featuring executives and federation officials from across the globe aiming to “make the most of this new era of women’s football,” which FIFA President Gianni Infantino said in his opening remarks at the summit on Wednesday morning.

Other goals for 2019 set by Concacaf include leveraging the hopeful success of the region’s national teams at the 2019 Women’s World Cup, creating a women’s coaching mentorship program and develop a commercial strategy around the confederation’s women’s soccer brand, which is called Concacaf W.

“We believe we can hit some of these targets very quickly, but it was important to create something like this plan so that everyone is on the same page,” LeBlanc said. “We all agree it is critical that we create growth and opportunity for women in the sport.”

LeBlanc said some of the long term goals include creating new women’s soccer competitions across the region, assisting in the creation of women’s soccer-specific digital and social channels for all the federations to help inspire fans, and encouraging the launch of more women’s clubs across the region.

READ MORE: Budweiser Signs On as Presenting Partner of Women’s International Champions Cup

“From our standpoint, we are looking at ways to influence clubs to take a leap of faith and if they already have a men’s team, to also have a women’s team,” LeBlanc said. “Our goal is to change the mindset that women’s football is just a cause.

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