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Thunder Announce Love’s As Jersey Patch Partner

Oklahoma City is teaming up with a familiar brand to become the 30th and final NBA team to secure a jersey patch partner deal.

Mike Piellucci

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Courtesy: Oklahoma City Thunder

18 months after jersey patches first showed up on NBA uniforms, the Oklahoma City Thunder became the 30th and final franchise to announce a jersey patch partner.

Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores, an Oklahoma City-based truck stop and convenience store company, will advertise on the 2.5-by-2.5-inch space for the next five years as part of an extension of the two entities’ existing partnership, the team announced Friday.

“We really appreciate that this is an Oklahoma brand that continues to see the value of supporting another Oklahoma brand,” says Brian Byrnes, Thunder senior vice president of sales and marketing. “We love the fact that we’re connected like this as two bellwether brands for the state of Oklahoma.”

READ MORE: REP Worldwide Changes The Licensing Conversation For Female Athletes

According to Byrnes, it’s no accident that the Thunder were so deliberate in their approach to fill the ad space. Oklahoma City is the NBA’s third-smallest market, ranking ahead of only New Orleans and Memphis in NBA market size, and with that reality comes a very small margin for error. Each decision must be scrutinized; each agenda, methodical. Everything is done with an eye on the bigger picture.

“As a general operating philosophy, we’ve always taken the long view on building our business,” Byrnes says. “The long view in how we create product, how we create content, how we treat our guests, how we think about investments. It’s always about building sustainability in the team and the organization, because, being in a small market, it really matters.”

To that end, Byrnes spent the better part of 18 months honing in on what partner could best help the Thunder on a national level. He says he was courted by a bevy of brands, with tech startups and consumer product companies being the most aggressive types of suitors. But as the search progressed, he kept returning to a familiar name.

Love’s has been a partner of the Thunder ever since the team relocated from Seattle to Oklahoma City in 2008. Their most visible – and audible – collaboration is on the third level of the Chesapeake Energy Arena, better known in town as Love’s Loud City. Love’s also sponsors the Thunder’s kids camp and has courtside digital signage. The company boasts more than 480 stores in 41 states but, like the team, has designs on increasing its national imprint. The allure of a constant, visible, on-court presence brought them to the table. Ultimately, after what Byrnes calls “several months” of conversations, the two parties reached an agreement.

Courtesy: Oklahoma City Thunder

“We see Love’s on the same level as you would see any other national brand,” Byrnes says. “They align so well with our values of growth and innovation and customer service. We felt that the resources we could provide to them to amplify their story would resonate with us.”

Jersey patch partners have been a boon to the NBA’s bottom line. Partners range from corporate behemoths like General Electric, Disney and StubHub to smaller brands like Bumble, Qualtics and 5miles. No matter their origin, the financial impact has been immense: According to Yahoo’s Daniel Roberts, last seasons’ NBA sponsor spending increased 31% from the year before, ultimately topping the $1 billion mark for the first time in league history. $137 million of that came from sponsor patches, a number that will further increase this season now that all 30 teams have secured deals. Per Roberts, the average patch deal pays $6.5 million annually.

READ MORE: NASCAR Relationship Demonstrates Credit One Bank’s Broader Strategy

Oklahoma City will debut the new patch in Saturday’s home game against the Golden State Warriors. Financial terms were not disclosed, although Byrnes claims that “all of the ways you measure the business, we rank in the top 10 across the league, and this partnership is very much in line with that.”

Ultimately, Byrnes believes the deal’s greatest impact could lie in the ripple effects. “It sends a signal to the marketplace that we are… open for business,” he says, before noting that the team has taken aim at categories including wireless communications, automotive, airlines and the cloud.

“We’re hoping to send the signal to the marketplace that there are other opportunities as well,” he says. “We are a megaphone for the state of Oklahoma.”

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Warriors Surprise Nearly 20,000 Fans with Google Home Minis

In partnership with Google Nest, the Golden State Warriors gave Google Home Minis to every fan in attendance of Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.

Bailey Knecht

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Photo Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

When 19,596 fans entered Oracle Arena for the NBA Western Conference Finals on Tuesday night, they were expecting an energetic atmosphere and high-level basketball. What they didn’t expect was that they would all be leaving with a new Google Home Mini smart speaker.

It seemed like a routine on-court contest as part of the Warriors’ partnership with home technology brand Google Nest: a fan was selected to shoot a halfcourt shot, and if the shot went in, every fan would take home a Google Home Mini. The fans didn’t know that even if the fan missed—which he did—they would still get to take home the prize.

“What makes the Warriors so special is their dedicated fanbase, so how can we thank the fans for making wherever the team plays feel more like home?” said Kate Whittington, a partner marketing manager with Google. “That was the objective: thank fans for being awesome, for feeling like home to the team, and to provide them with help for their own homes.”

READ MORE: St. Louis Blues Gamify Western Conference Finals with ‘Enter the Zone’

The giveaway was the largest and most expensive sporting event giveaway of a Google product in history, and it was the Warriors’ first major tech giveaway. With 20,000 Google Home Minis to transport and distribute, carrying out the activation and keeping it under wraps was no easy task.

“We have pallets and pallets and pallets of these things that are extremely expensive,” said Mike Kitts, VP of partnerships for the Warriors. “There’s a level of security and mobilization, and then we have to actually unpack and get them into position for distribution. When we talk about this being the most valuable giveaway ever done, there’s reasons for that. Finding a partner that can execute this—it’s not as easy as putting t-shirts on the back of seats.”

The Warriors were the favorites to reach the conference finals, but their first two playoff series wins didn’t come easily. Although the activation was planned in advance, the execution was not guaranteed until last Friday when the Warriors advanced past the Rockets in Game 6 of the conference semifinals.

“The difficulty of it is to try to plan for a future that is not promised,” Kitts said. “You’re playing in a series, and you can’t get ahead of yourself to assume you’re playing, but you have to appropriately plan the next round…The nature and scale of the platform of the Western Conference Finals provides enhanced amplification here.”

For Google Nest, timing was equally as important. Until recently, Google and Nest were separate brands, but the two organizations joined forces last week in a major rebrand.

“It coincided with the Western Conference Finals, so we wanted to lean into this moment to broadcast the new brand and show some love for our local sports team,” said Whittington.

READ MORE: Dodgers Continue Community Connection with Mexican Heritage Night

The Google Home Mini sells for $29, and although Whittington declined to disclose the exact dollar amount required to provide carry out the giveaway, she called the activation “an investment that indicates the level of importance the Warriors play with us.”

Beyond the giveaway itself, the Warriors and Google Nest spent the evening educating fans on ways they can put their device to use. The fan experience team showed off Google Assistant smart home capabilities in the arena, calling out commands to dim the lights and play music.

“Throughout the game, we’re demonstrating Google technology through the game experience,” Kitts said. “We’re queuing up fan experiences until the big moment so that each person gets the narrative that threads through this, and sees how authentically that Google is layered into the game-day experience.”

Even after the fans left the arena, the Warriors’ marketing efforts weren’t complete.

“With any good activation, we’re looking for the follow-through with shelf life,” Kitts said, explaining that when fans activated their Google Home Minis, they were automatically entered to win tickets to a future Warriors game.

The activation didn’t come about spontaneously. The Warriors’ relationship with Google represents the team’s prime location in the tech capital of the country, according to Kitts.

“We’re very lucky to be in this region of the world,” he said. “I would say the ownership group is reflective of this region, and it manifests itself in the overall culture and willingness and ability to partner with tech companies that we’re proud of.”

And with Tuesday’s giveaway, the Warriors and Google Nest took that cutting-edge culture and turned it into an unforgettable moment for fans.

“We’re all consumers, we’re all experience goers, so we’ve been to a ton of arenas and seen advertising—that’s not what this is,” Kitts said. “This is two brands coming together to think through, ‘How do we change the game-day experience and make it additive and cool and make fans remember and appreciate it?’”

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Oakland Coliseum Scores Naming Rights Partner

Per the San Francisco Chronicle, The Coliseum will now be known as the RingCentral Coliseum thanks to a new three-year, $3 million deal.

Front Office Sports

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Photo Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

*This piece first appeared in the Front Office Sports Newsletter. Subscribe today and get the news before anyone else. 

The Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum is set to have a new name.

Thanks to a three-year, $3 million deal, the Coliseum will now be known as the RingCentral Coliseum, according to Phil Matier of the San Francisco Chronicle

What do you need to know?

1. The deal is for three years with an option for a fourth year.

2. The Coliseum has been without a naming rights partner since Overstock.com pulled out of its $1.45 million-a-year deal with the Coliseum after the Raiders announced plans in 2016 to leave.

3. The $1 million-a-year deal represents a discount from the old one based on the fact that the A’s will be the only professional team playing in the venue past this season.

Who is RingCentral?

Founded in 1999, RingCentral is a publicly traded provider of cloud-based communications and collaboration solutions for businesses. The company has 2,500 employees with offices in the U.S. in Denver, Charlotte, and Boca Raton. 

Late last year, the company became a foundational partner for Chase Center, the new home of the Warriors. Estimates have that deal pegged at $1 million per year for 10 years.

Tale of two venues…

While only 16 miles separate Oracle Park and RingCentral Coliseum, the future of both couldn’t be more different.

Earlier this year, the San Francisco Giants signed a 10-year, $200 million dollar deal with Oracle to rename their home to Oracle Park.

With the A’s expected to leave the Coliseum in the coming years pending developments with their bid to get a new stadium, RingCentral was able to get a deal for a venue with two pro sports teams (at least for this year) at 1/20th the cost of what Oracle is paying the Giants.

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Kansas City Royal Whit Merrifield Highlights Boulevard Brewing Campaign

Kansas City brewery Boulevard Brewing has tabbed Royals second baseman Whit Merrifield for a rebrand that was as natural as partnerships get.

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Photo Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas City Royals second baseman Whit Merrifield is a major piece of a significant beer campaign by Kansas City’s Boulevard Brewing.

Merrifield, who led MLB in hits and stolen bases last season, has partnered with the craft brewer for its Unfiltered Whit campaign that promotes one of its flagship products, Unfiltered Wheat. The campaign features advertising, merchandise, a sweepstakes and plenty of player appearances. Boulevard has made the beer for 25 years, and now the brewery’s best-seller is getting a modern makeover.

According to the brewery, it’s one of the first endorsements between a Major League Baseball player and a craft brewery despite plenty of athletes loving beer and some, like former Boston Red Sox infielder Kevin Youkilis, owning breweries.

READ MORE: Crawford Bock Brings Beer and Baseball Together for Astros

As the brewery realized the “beer that built Boulevard” needed a refresh, it turned to an athlete who knows the brewery and the Kansas City community well, Boulevard CMO Natalie Gershon said. A witbier is a type of Belgian-style wheat beer, so Whit Merrifield’s name fits well even beyond the similarity to wheat.

“We joke that the campaign wrote itself,” Gershon said. “However, Whit is an amazing baseball player and a true fan of the brewery. When we got the chance to work together, the partnership came together very quickly as we both knew we wanted to do something fun, authentically Kansas City and charitably driven.”

As part of the campaign to introduce the rebranded Unfiltered Wheat, the Boulevard team and Merrifield came up with “Whit-icisms,” ultimately recording videos of the player and his life as a baseball player in Kansas City. Likewise, Merrifield’s likeness will be used on billboards throughout the Royals’ region, most notably on Boulevard’s outfield wall sign at Kauffman Stadium.

“Boulevard is an essential part of Kansas City,” Merrifield said in a statement. “I’m so proud of these iconic Kansas City partners and the opportunity to raise money and awareness for this incredible organization.”

A sweepstakes will give fans the chance to win a VIP experience for an on-field meet-and-greet with Merrifield in September plus tickets to the Royals’ Dugout Suite with Boulevard representatives. Boulevard also created new ad spots for the Unfiltered Wheat for Hulu and the Fox Sports Royals Live Postgame Show.

Finally, as part of the deal, Boulevard has partnered with Kansas City’s Charlie Hustle Clothing Co. to make Unfiltered Whit t-shirts, with a portion of the $35 tees going to the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Kansas City.

READ MORE: Less is More: How Andrew Luck Handles Off-The-Field Partnerships

“We are thrilled to team up with Boulevard Brewing and Whit Merrifield to create our spin on Unfiltered Whit and to support a great cause,” Charlie Hustle CMO Katie Martincich said. “This collaboration is near and dear to us as it embodies three things we love: synergy among KC brands, enthusiasm for local sports, and charitable contributions to a great KC foundation.”

The partnership with Merrifield deepens longstanding ties between the brewery and the baseball team. Boulevard became the “Official Craft Beer” of the Royals in 2017, which established six Boulevard-centric destinations within Kauffman Stadium and the brewery’s Smokestack in the outfield. Additionally, the brewery has rolled out the Mexican-style lager ¡Vamos! for the second year, a beer made as a salute to the Royals, complete with the branding. Royals imagery has also been used on some of Boulevard’s packaging in Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Oklahoma and Arkansas.

Several other teams have “Official Craft Beer” sponsorships with breweries, so it might not be long before more players are jumping on board with endorsement deals. It’s hard to imagine any brewery, though, partnering with a player whose name lends itself toward easier branding.

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