Connect with us

Sponsorship

WNBA Teams Find Success Through Creative Partnerships

In a league where TV deals, ticket sales, and merchandising may not bring in the same revenue that other professional leagues enjoy, sponsors open new revenue streams for the WNBA.

Bailey Knecht

Published

on

WNBA-Partnerships-Basketball

When it comes to nailing down sponsorships, the WNBA has long been ahead of the curve.

Nearly 10 years before the NBA started allowing teams to sell sponsorships for their jerseys, the Phoenix Mercury were already sporting LifeLock patches on their uniforms and now feature logos for Casino Arizona and Talking Stick Resort, as well as league sponsors Verizon and Nike. Since then, the rest of the league has jumped aboard, and the franchises have continued to involve their partners by displaying more logos on their jerseys and throughout arenas.

Now, 10 of the 12 WNBA teams’ uniforms include the logo of their marquee sponsor.

“You almost see that we’re the guinea pigs at times,” said Cay Young, director of corporate partnerships for the Los Angeles Sparks, who started with the Farmers Insurance logo on their jerseys in 2009 and have since transitioned to the life insurance company EquiTrust. “We’ve had the prominent logo placement on jerseys for around a decade, and it’s been a great asset for us in getting exposure for companies.”

Much of the WNBA’s innovative sponsorship approach is driven by pure necessity. In a league where TV deals, ticket sales, and merchandising may not bring in the same revenue that other professional leagues enjoy, sponsors open new revenue streams for the WNBA. According to Lyn Agnello, vice president of corporate partnerships for the Connecticut Sun, the team depends on sponsorships for about 40 percent of its revenue.

The key to success in the sponsorship realm is to have something that sets the team apart, according to Young and Agnello.

Like anything to do with sales, companies are bombarded daily with sales inquiries from many sources of sales folks wanting to sell advertising and partnership opportunities,” Agnello said. “So, [from] sending something from the team to get their attention, to having a player call the CEO, we try to separate our approach.”

“The Lakers are a high-investment value, and not everyone can afford that,” Young added. “We pride ourselves on being affordable for fans and small business owners. A lot of companies need to get their foot in the door, and then they stick with us.”

READ MORE: What Goes Into Executing Sponsorships at the Olympic Games

Carlissa Henry, senior vice president of marketing partnerships for the Mercury, emphasized the importance of teaching potential sponsors about what the WNBA can offer them.

“We educate our partners that we’re a thriving league with a different demographic,” said Henry, who is also in charge of sponsorships for the Suns and their G League affiliate. “We’re family friendly, and there is strong loyalty among our fans who support the brands that sponsor the team.”

When searching for sponsors, the teams take into consideration how a company may fit with their core values. Young discussed the Sparks’ partnership with their marquee partner, EquiTrust.

“[EquiTrust is] a company with a lot of women executives,” she said. “They really believe in what we’re doing, they believe in the product… It is culturally relevant right now to get behind a variety of cases that stem from women and LGBTQ.”

“We want the company to have some association within Arizona so there’s that commitment in terms of employees and consumers,” Henry added. “We’d like them to share the same values forward-thinking, integrity, respect, accountable for the goals of the organization.”

Once the teams lock down sponsors, they turn their focus toward planning various programs and events. Together, the Sparks and EquiTrust offer a financial literacy program called Driven2Hoop, which educates underprivileged youth in Los Angeles on weekly budgeting, debt management, credit responsibility and other financial tools.

“We see a lot of companies that use us for exposure but also for the impact and meaning,” Young said. “We are the communities we serve, so we offer community-enriched sponsorship packages.”

The Sparks also come together with their sponsors to offer game day initiatives with themes like Pride, mental health, military service and breast health awareness. They even partner with Nike to present Sneakerhead Night, which taps into Los Angeles’s vibrant sneaker community.

“We work with the presenting sponsor so they’re braided into every part of the evening, so when you walk in, you see them right away,” Young said. “I think the great thing is, as partnerships grow, it allows us to do out-of-the-box activations.”

Executing a sponsorship activation is a comprehensive effort that requires cooperation from the entire team, according to Henry. Staff members from departments like community relations, public relations, and game operations are all involved to help it run smoothly.

“There is lots of collaboration, and we’re really fortunate to work with every single other vertical from a company standpoint,” Henry said.

Despite all that goes into the job, Young concluded that forming strong relationships with sponsors comes down to generating excitement and creating a connection between the team and the company.

“We look to tell our story through [the sponsor’s] current consumers and employees,” she said. “And my job is to take our fans’ passion for the Sparks and WNBA and direct that passion to the brand.”

Bailey Knecht is a Northeastern University graduate and has worked for New Balance, the Boston Bruins and the Northeastern and UMass Lowell athletic departments. She covers media and marketing for Front Office Sports, with an emphasis on women's sports and basketball. She can be contacted at bailey@frntofficesport.com.

Sponsorship

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

Published

on

thunder-love's-jersey

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.”

Continue Reading

Sponsorship

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.

Avatar

Published

on

nascar-credit-one-bank

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.”

Continue Reading

Sponsorship

‘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.”

Avatar

Published

on

nba-sap-gm-school

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.”

Continue Reading

Trending