The NBA and NBA G League continually bustle with sustainable and reliable partnership opportunities, making basketball one of the best professional sports for eager collaborators. Look no further than the ROI created from jersey patches.
This swath of opportunity has led Greensboro Swarm President Steve Swetoha into the cultivation of various partnership opportunities in the franchise’s short lifetime. As president of the organization, Swetoha is responsible for ticket sales, corporate sales, marketing, communications, corporate social responsibility, merchandise, and broadcasting.
After successfully leading two startup WNBA organizations, Swetoha is excited about the opportunity to take what he’s learned and guide this new franchise. Founded in 2016 as an affiliate of the Charlotte Hornets, the Swarm play in the NBA’s G League, and while the team is still building talent on the court, its work in the front office has proven to be highly effective.
“We have brought on a number of partnerships that include categories such as banking, credit union, healthcare, orthopedic, hotels, property management, retail, among others,” Swetoha said. “We hope to grow our list between 30-40 percent in the 2018-2019 season.”
One example of a unique collaboration is with Novant Health, which is based out of North Carolina. The two organizations — through a long-term relationship — partnered in creating Time Out for Fitness, a health and wellness school assembly program for elementary students in the Triad.
Swetoha gleans at the social responsibility of this partnership, giving back to the area by helping local elementary students and faculty to form good exercise and nutritional eating habits.
While experiencing success at the G League level, Swetoha also boasted about the NBA’s ability to engage with the world.
“The NBA continues to be a global brand by being creative, innovative and strategic in growing the game of basketball,” he said. “Our league continues to be a leader in driving content through various mediums and technology to reach fans across the world.”
One lesser-known way to the common fan, Swetoha believes, is for teams to invest in partnerships such as jersey patches. A portion of G League and NBA teams have sustainable partnerships already, including the league title sponsor with partner Gatorade. But Swetoha knows the Swarm’s approach must be long-haul oriented, like the sports-themed beverage company’s commitment to the NBA and basketball.
“There are a number of factors that set us apart from others; however, we believe one of the most important factors is our ability to build long-term relationships,” Swetoha said. “Building trust, flexibility, goals and becoming true partners that ultimately will determine our overall success in this space.
“Our goal in any partnership is our ability to at least maintain their level of activity and investment with the organization. It is important to understand for sustainability that we must have a purpose and understanding of the needs and objectives of all our partners.”
Swetoha says he instills a culture of under-promising and over-delivering when it comes to the organizational soundness of the Swarm. Over-delivering allows the Swarm to give back to partners and the community more wholly, all while cordially fostering the needs and desires of their clients.
Cultivating relationships and transforming them into partnerships takes time, and organizations should know which brands and opportunities could be the right fit. Through constant communication with their parent team, the Swarm is able to determine pursuant partners.
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“Part of understanding what may make sense for a potential partner is understanding their needs through the discovery process,” Swetoha said. “Our philosophy has always been and will continue to be a focus on our existing and potential partners in growing our brands together.”
Success, for Swetoha and his team, is growing the Swarm and Hornets’ brand awareness around the Carolinas and the Southeast.
“It is important that we develop a number of strategies that are customized for a particular partner,” Swetoha said. “We are finding more and more partners are looking for different methods to grow their brand.”