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How Wayne Rooney Added Millions of Additional Brand Value for D.C. United and MLS

Since Wayne Rooney joined D.C. United during the MLS season, the team garnered millions in new brand value, setting the team up well for the future.

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Major League Soccer’s D.C. United brought in a gold mine when the team signed English soccer legend Wayne Rooney.

According to the company GumGum Sports, the first four months of Rooney in the team’s uniform generated $4.5 million in social media value for jersey sponsor Leidos. That sum was a massive increase over the $130,000 value from the time prior to his signing.

D.C. United is one of GumGum’s clients. GumGum Sports uses computer vision to help rights holders, sponsors, and agencies measure the media value of their sponsorships across TV, streaming and social media. The company is also helping transform an industry previously relying on text and traditional broadcasts to value sponsorship, said Jeff Katz, VP of strategy and strategic partnerships at GumGum.

“They were missing social media, an emerging channel in how sports — even highlights — are shared across thousands of accounts,” Katz said. “There’s massive amounts of value coming in not just from accounts owned by teams or leagues, but out in the wild of social media.”

Rooney was a vital component in D.C. United’s season on the field. In the 14 games prior to his arrival, the team won two games and amassed 11 points. In the 17 games following his stateside arrival, D.C. United won 10 games and garnered 33 points with a +13 goal differential.

READ MORE: NLL Points to MLS as Benchmark for What League Could Become

Those games had some major moments for Rooney, generating much of the added value for the organization.

“Wayne Rooney’s not just a name. His play was huge,” Katz said. “The fact that he performed so well is a big deal as well, from a media value perspective. Because of his fame and social media presence, when he does something exciting, it raises D.C. United’s profile, influence and benefit.”

The June 28 signing announcement generated 3.7 million social engagements, driving a $1.7 million media value for D.C. United partners.

In August, the viral moment of Rooney making a game-saving tackle and then taking the ball the length of the field to score the 96th-minute game-winner resulted in $1.6 million in media value and 11.4 million engagements.

In a September game against Atlanta United, Rooney tied up the game on a penalty kick and then assisted on Luciano Acosta’s two goals later in the 3-1 win. The game drove $1.3 million in media value and 2.4 million engagements.

Increasingly, athletes providing major success on the field are also contributing mightily to the organization’s value. The increase in the brand’s brand value could certainly come in handy when it’s time to sign new deals, like its jersey deal.

Leidos signed the current three-year deal in 2016. With this new information, Katz said D.C. United is well positioned to demonstrate the increased value of its kit sponsorship moving forward. The Athletic reported in October the team was negotiating with Amazon, Qatar Airways, United Airlines and others for the deal in what could be one of the league’s most lucrative. The story reported the current deal is in the realm of $3 million. The next could be worth north of $5 million.

“These valuations help reframe how they see their assets,” he said. “With all the earned media value, the asset is even more so tremendously valuable.”

One worry of having a team relying so heavily on one player for driving media value is the drastic drop if they leave. Katz said the hope, at least for D.C. United, would be Rooney staying long enough to raise the league, team and teammate values enough to insulate it from Rooney’s eventual departure.

“There are a lot of things they can do now to leverage this increased exposure, and continue to drive value,” Katz said. “D.C. United highlight clips getting shared across social media helps the entire organization attract all sorts of attention. By the time in the long distant future when he leaves, they’ve already diversified where the value comes from.”

READ MORE: Superstars Help Showcase Importance of Social Media Value for Teams

It isn’t just D.C. United gaining value from Rooney’s presence, Katz said. The entire Major League Soccer brand does as well, as Rooney’s play makes its viral way across the internet. He also believes the league has received similar brand-value boosts when other international stars arrived — like David Beckham.

“MLS has a real opportunity to capitalize on acquisitions of top talent, drawing more attention and increasing their ability to generate and foster talent internally,” he said. “It’s more attention to build and develop their own stars’ social footprints and value.”

Pat Evans is a writer based in Las Vegas, focusing on sports business, food, and beverage. He graduated from Michigan State University in 2012. He's written two books: Grand Rapids Beer and Nevada Beer. Evans can be reached at pat@frntofficesport.com.

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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.

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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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NASCAR Relationship Demonstrates Credit One Bank’s Broader Strategy

Building on its initial sponsorship in NASCAR, Credit One Bank continues to spread its sports marketing locally and nationally to build customers.

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Photo credit: Chip Ganassi Racing

Credit One Bank approaches its partnerships looking to build customers and attract employees.

The two-pronged approach will be exemplified this weekend as Kyle Larson and his Credit One Bank car will be at the Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. This is the fourth season as a sponsor of NASCAR and Chip Ganassi Racing and, specifically, the primary sponsor of Larson’s No. 42 Chevrolet.

“We’ve seen good improvements in our awareness,” said Laura Faulkner, Credit One Bank vice president of marketing. “NASCAR has been there since the beginning, producing the results we were looking for, so it’s adding on to that.”

The initial jump into sponsoring NASCAR was because the consumer credit card-focused bank was growing fast and the direct marketing campaigns needed help, Faulkner said.

READ MORE: How Two Top Brands Market Products Via Partnership With NASCAR

With NASCAR and Chip Ganassi Racing, Credit One Bank campaigns have been able to be experimental, Faulkner said. The experimenting developed into “Credit One Lap To Go” and has since expanded to other sports, like “Credit One Minute To Go” at Vegas Golden Knights games.

“That’s one of those things we tried out because we didn’t see other sponsors doing it and that worked,” she said. “People know us for that and we can take that to other sports — a focus that’s signature to us.

“We’re appreciative of NASCAR for letting us try different things and adjusting those that don’t work and increasing the things we do.”

Since sponsoring NASCAR and Chip Ganassi Racing, Credit One Bank has expanded to become the official credit card of the Golden Knights, Big 12 Conference and the Triple-A Las Vegas Aviators.

Outside of being the official credit card in name and its activations, athletes like Larson regularly participate in meet-and-greets, “surprise and delights,” and content like interviews with women in NASCAR, which provide a differentiated look inside the bank and the sport.

Faulkner said the sports partnerships offer an ability for Credit One Bank to show a different side of a financial institution and gives fans a way to connect to the company they might not otherwise have with a bank.

Larson is also heavily involved in the bank’s efforts for Meeting Street Academy, a charter school in South Carolina.

“They’ve been with [Chip Ganassi Racing] since the beginning and I’m young, so growing with them and together as a brand is great,” Larson said. “It’s been fun; really laid back.”

With the partners, Credit One Bank likes to activate on two sides — one for customers, but two for employees and potential employees. Larson has spent time at the bank’s headquarters in Las Vegas, as has Golden Knights defenseman Deryk Engelland. The partnerships also allow employees to go to races — there are two NASCAR races in Las Vegas — and hockey games.

READ MORE: ‘Bundle All the Fun Together’: The Art of Sponsorship Activations in Vegas

Attracting employees is a reason the bank is focused on several Las Vegas teams, including the Golden Knights and the Aviators. The Golden Knights gave them a national and local platform simultaneously, Faulkner said.

“We’re growing so fast, we want a local and regional audience of potential employees,” Faulkner said. “Over the last few years, we’ve had some good success and added new sports sponsorships to focus on and enter different parts of the U.S. market.

“Whether it was last year with the Golden Knights, and then this year with a lot of college football, all of these different segments give us different demographics and parts of the country.”

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‘GM School’ Gives Fans an Inside Look at the NBA, SAP Partnership

Powered by SAP, fans with NBA front office ambitions used real statistics while competing on the reality show “GM School.”

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Photo credit: GM School

SAP continues to leverage partnerships in ways to showcase its technologies.

Last week, the company and NBA premiered the series “GM School,” a reality TV show that allowed four aspiring general managers to test their skills.

As the power behind NBA.com/stats, SAP executives were looking at ways to tell the story of the technology they’ve built around that core of statistics and information. Following a brainstorming session with SAP’s sponsorship agency, Momentum, the idea of a reality program emerged.

“We were immediately intrigued,” said Dan Fleetwood, SAP vice president of global sponsorships. “It hit on so many themes, from providing tools to thinking about things in a different way.”

Like any reality show, “GM School” producers Jane Street Entertainment sent out a casting call and presented nearly 30 contestants to the SAP and NBA partners.

READ MORE: Data Is Changing the Way the NHL Does Business

From the NBA standpoint, league representatives were excited about the ability to run a competition to leverage the information in a way to generate interesting content and potentially recruit new talent.

“It’s a great content opportunity to program on NBA TV during a quiet time of the calendar,” said Evan Wasch, NBA senior vice president of basketball strategy and analytics. “More broadly, it’s continuing to build the narrative we’re an innovative and data-savvy league and doing so in a fresh format.

“Lastly, if we can build from there, there is a recruiting and fan development aspect. These were four candidates who, one day, could end up in a front office and there was a lot of commentary saying,  ‘I’d love to be part of it and show what I can do.’”

The show took the four participants through a series of three challenges. The first was a press conference challenge where they had to digest a stat sheet in 30 seconds and explain strategies and reasons for the stats. The second challenge came when they were given blind stats and had to draft two each before the picks were revealed as real players. The final challenge was picking a lineup of five players — all NBA players except MVP-type players were available — while staying under a salary cap, and explaining how they were envisioned playing together.

All the stats were derived from the SAP platform the NBA uses, which provides information from basic stats like points and rebounds to more nuanced items like tracking information, Wasch said.

“We are [advanced] in terms of data we present and use to tell stories,” Wasch said. “That’s what I found most interesting, is we’re letting contestants dig into the most in-depth stuff we have and letting them see how it all works.”

Continuing to level up partnerships beyond just providing the data platforms is important to SAP, Fleetwood said.

“We have done a great job with the NBA and NHL, and other partners like the San Francisco 49ers and San Jose Sharks,” he said. “We always said there has to be an authentic partnership, rooted in real stories. Now we’re telling those real stories around how these guys are using our technology.”

READ MORE: NHL Fan Fair Gives Fans Look at New Coaching Tool in VR Game

The one episode was what Fleetwood called a “successful pilot” and now it’s determining what the future might be for “GM School.” The NBA would be receptive to the idea of extending to a full series, Wasch said.

There is actually a meeting this week to decide what could be in store for “GM School,” Fleetwood said.

“Right now, we’re excited about the initial reaction,” Fleetwood said. “Do we try to partner with broadcast? Go out on our own? It’s been overwhelmingly positive and we want to continue to tell stories like this.

“Maybe we extend the partnerships and do something like this with the NHL.”

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