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Timberwolves Use Pop Culture to Drive Creative Direction for ‘City Edition’ Jersey

The Minnesota Timberwolves were seen as one of the big beneficiaries of the ‘City Edition’ Jersey campaigns because of their weaving in of local and popular culture.

Aaron Blake

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Minnesota Timberwolves

Photo credit: Minnesota Timberwolves

The NBA “City Edition” jerseys have returned to basketball arenas all across the country, and some teams included concepts that hit closer to home. For the Minnesota Timberwolves, this is particularly true, as the organization is paying tribute to rock legend and Minnesota native Prince.

By no coincidence did the Timberwolves choose to honor Prince in 2018; this year would mark the late icon’s 60th birthday.

“Targeting this season gave us the runway to celebrate that milestone and to work with the Estate and the team at Paisley Park on a few initiatives with enough time to ensure that everything could come to life in a way that Prince would have been proud of as well,” said Lindsay Milne, vice president of marketing for the Timberwolves and Lynx.

The former musician, born and raised in Minneapolis, held deep ties to the city’s sports teams, and the Timberwolves are taking full advantage of the love and opportunity.

“We had a strong feeling it would be a hit with our fans for a multitude of reasons,” Milne said. “It starts, though, with the connection between Prince and the game of basketball. Because of that organic tie, no aspect of the project has felt forced or unnatural which always translates to a win with fans.”

LISTEN: Rob Perez’s Journey from Ticketing Entrepreneur to NBA Personality

The organization exuded confidence about the decision, anticipating fans’ hype for the purple, Prince-inspired uniforms.

The Timberwolves unveiled a unique digital strategy on the day of the launch in Minneapolis to help tell the story of the uniform. But to Minneapolis and the Timberwolves, this “City Edition” jersey concept is more than a uniform, but an entire platform to activate all season.

“We pushed our teams hard to do so in a way that no other team has done before,” Milne said. “Prince was constantly breaking boundaries and we’ve tried to keep that in mind with every tactic we’ve considered.”

On “City Edition” jersey nights at the Target Center, the entire fan experience is transformed. Their belief is to truly celebrate and reflect the moment from when the doors open until the last fans leave.

“Our in-arena experience is second to none; we have custom player intros and custom outfitting for each of our entertainment groups,” said Milne. “Our music in venue has also been curated to be exclusively Prince or Prince-inspired tracks with more than 450 in total.”

As the fan experiences produce good times and the Prince story lives on, the Timberwolves still knew the jerseys had a certain momentum to be capitalized upon. So, they extended team store hours for launch day and subsequent days after, while offering them online.

“We invested in our unveil moment with a dedicated video and photo shoot to support our go to market tactics, and made a point to get the photos from that shoot in the hands of our players knowing how excited they were about the launch.”

In fact, Milne sees the Timberwolves as one of the big beneficiaries of the “City Edition” jersey program.

“We don’t have a 50-year history to lean on,” Milne said. “So, for us, having a program like this means we have a whole new set of tools to explore as we continue to tell our brand story.”

The Prince theme fits perfectly to the brand image the Timberwolves aim to construct, drawing fans from different avenues into support, and highlighting a musical legend proves a great way.

READ MORE: WNBA Teams Find Success Through Creative Partnerships

“This year, we’re using the program to celebrate the greatest of all time who chose Minnesota as his home time and time again, a sentiment which is perfectly aligned with our narrative,” Milne said. “The ‘City Edition’ jerseys will continue to be a great asset as we build on our story for years to come.”

The NBA is inherently tied to culture, passion, and fashion and the “City Edition” initiative is a unique way for each organization to express those themes in an organic way.

“Nike and the league nailed it with the ‘City Edition’ idea,” Milne added. “The ‘City Edition’ jerseys give us the chance to extend our brand reach into new demographics and introduce our experience to individuals who may have not otherwise considered the NBA as a brand that could speak to them.”

Aaron is a Front Office Sports Account Manager for Varsity Partners. He attends UNC Charlotte, loves spending time in the Appalachian mountains, and has interned with IMG-Learfield and ESPN 730. He can be reached at aaron@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.

Ian Thomas

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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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