How NBA Teams Use Mode to Improve Fan Experience – WWD

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When a former Nike Inc executive and Under Armor Inc. Dean Stoyer joined the Phoenix Suns as head of marketing and communications in 2019, the team finished last in the Western Conference.

The Suns have recruited a new head coach, Monty Williams, heading into the first season of Stoyer which was postponed for some time due to COVID-19. The team returned to play in the Bubble that summer and recorded an 8–0 record, setting the tone for the following season, which ended in the NBA Finals where they lost to the Milwaukee Bucks.

In many words, the team was significantly better than the previous season, when NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley joked “Inside the NBA” about the team’s woes, accusing hard seats and stale nachos in the arena. But while the team shone on the field in this year’s NBA Playoffs, where it is now in the semifinals versus the Dallas Mavericks, the off-court collaboration, according to Stoyer, has boosted the team’s merchandising sales to the “upper echelons.” An NBA.com story shows that the Suns are ranked eighth in popular team merchandise, and teams that complete the top 10 include the Los Angeles Lakers, Philadelphia 76ers, Golden State Warriors, Chicago Bulls, Brooklyn Nets, Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks, New York Knicks. and the Memphis Grizzlies.

These projects help increase the franchise’s relevance in other markets and around the world — the kind of relevance that teams like the New York Yankees, with one of the world’s most popular sporting logos, have, and Paris Saint Germain FC, which boasts partnerships with Jordan and the Goats. suitable for young sneaker heads in Europe and abroad.

“When we took over this side of the business we were in the bottom third of the league but about a week ago the league released its end of season sales report and we [in the] the upper echelons over a year,” said Stoyer. “I was very lucky in ownership and top management took the opportunity and allowed me to take all of this. I think they were one of the first teams to bring all their integrated marketing channels together to drive all of our stories.”

Stoyer took over the franchise merchandising business and put together a small in-house design team to manage the designs, believing that T-shirts were powerful when done right. “I learned it from my days at Nike and Under Armor,” he said.

“I learned the importance of emphasizing purpose in everything we create, putting fans above everyone else and athletes at the center of everything we do,” he continued. “When we lead with the voices of our athletes and coaches, we connect with fans in a genuine and authentic way — which extends to the natural collaboration between our artists, designers and players. When we create with purpose, there are never wasted words, stitches, or frames that can distract or detract from the message we want to convey.”

The Suns released a collaboration with Warren Lotas, Jeff Hamilton and LRG, and will launch this month with Kill the Hype.

The NBA and fashion have been synonymous for decades. The sport has gone through many stylistic changes, from the glamorous 1970s to shoe and clothing endorsements, the hip-hop and streetwear eras in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the GQ button-down period of the early 2010s in response to the dress code. leagues, and now the “tunnel style” era where designers are fighting to become athletes’ brand of choice for their tunnel entrances.

Individual athletes get most of the attention, attending runway shows in New York City, Milan and Paris and scoring collaboration deals, endorsements and red carpet moments. But the team is not far behind in the fashion ecosystem.

The NBA franchise releases product collaborations through officially licensed collections involving more than one team. It’s a regular occurrence that goes back years with brands like The Very Warm and, more recently, with Rowing Blazers, Grungy Gentleman, Standard Issue Tees and Keizer Clark, among others. Eyewear designer and manufacturing house Imatta obtained a license for the NBA last year and this month launched sunglasses, visors and eyewear for the league.

“We picked teams that we initially wanted to work with, but as we shared with the NBA and the franchise, more teams reached out,” said Keizer Clark founder and designer Marc Keiser.

His Los Angeles-based brand produces vintage letterman and rugby clothing for the Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, Phoenix Suns and San Antonio Spurs.

NBA capsule collection, Keizer Clark

NBA capsule collection, Keizer Clark.
Honorary Photo

“We’re used to designing collections and knew this was what we wanted to do, so added layers of teams and leagues,” said Keizer. “We’re stuck in the middle of their licensing and partnership and trying to design around that to make sure we don’t step foot.”

Keizer Clark has been photographed on several NBA players over the years and most recently on Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum ahead of the team’s semifinal series against the Milwaukee Bucks. Keizer sees the collection as a full circle moment because Boston is his hometown.

“It’s not about money grabbing,” Keizer said. “For us, it’s a big opportunity whether we make money or not. I’ve always thought, as a brand, you have to be validated by retail buyers, editors, and celebrities for consumers to believe in your brand, design and price point. The league was in turmoil when we did the cardigan set, because they had never seen it before.”

Individual teams don’t have to wait for officially licensed collaborations for new products. The Los Angeles Lakers made clothing with artist Takashi Murakami for ComplexCon in 2019 and this year collaborated with Madhappy to benefit the brand’s Madhappy Foundation. Philadelphia 76ers teamed up with retailer Lapstone & Hammer on the “76ers Crossover Capsule” featuring a collaboration product between Needles, Eric Emanuel, Everest Isles and Blackstock & Weber, among others. And Kith and the Knicks have released two Nike Air Force 1 apparel and sneakers to date (the retailer also designed the team’s City Edition jersey).

Keizer believes working with shoppers for NBA stores and arena stores is much easier than selling to fashion retailers because shoppers know what their consumers like and are confident how many fans will enter their stores.

Lotas produced a clothing collection dubbed “The Final Shot,” inspired by the shot of Phoenix Suns star Devin Booker’s buzzer beat over the Los Angeles Clippers. “We looked towards the end of last year’s regular season to do a similarly designed drop from summer 2020,” said Stoyer.

“We treat them like old school sneakers,” he added. “A thousand people started queuing at 11pm for the 9am door. I later found out that people were flying in from New York City, Florida, Texas because they knew this was the only place to get the product.”

LRG launched the outfit with the Suns in April and the team partnered with Jeff Hamilton on the jacket for the NBA’s 75th anniversary. They did a total of 20 jackets to gauge fan taste, and they performed well enough for the partners to launch another jacket this month. They also partnered with Kill the Hype, also launching in May.

Stoyer introduces a unique opportunity for players through Valley Threads, an in-house brand where Suns and WNBA players Phoenix Mercury can design their own capsule collections. Suns point guard Cameron Payne debuted a new line with his own design. His teammates surprised him by wearing his design on their flight.

“We have been able to contribute to the business as a whole,” Stoyer said of the merchandising launch. “The intangibles of expanding your brand have an impact on ticket sales, memberships and revenue. I would be remiss not to shout out how amazing our team is. We have to set the table for being successful off the pitch and make sure our brand is in a good place.”

Phoenix Suns point guard Cameron Payne at Valley Threads

Phoenix Suns point guard Cameron Payne in his Valley Threads collection.
Honorary Photo

But fashion teams and labels have different goals.

For example, Brett Johnson, artistic director of Monumental Sports and Entertainment which operates the Washington Wizards, Capitals and Mystics sports franchises, as well as the Capital One Arena where the team plays, has been tasked with elevating the brand to a luxury profile.

Johnson partnered with Graff Jewelry to compile a selection of jewelry for the Washington Wizards welcoming event, although the company is not their official jewelry partner. The goal of working with a jewelry company was to establish the level of detail he wanted to convey to Monumental players, possessions and VIPs.

The designer also created a luxury travel collection in merino wool tracksuits and travel bags for the Washington Wizards game exhibition in Japan centered around cherry blossoms, a Japanese flower, and for the 110th anniversary of the planting of cherry trees in Washington, DC as a gift from the Mayor of Tokyo for AS This collectible and exhibition game played well for one of Wizards’ star players, Rui Hachimura, who was born in Toyama, Japan.

Luxury collections can be made available to the general public in addition to teams, holdings and VIPs.

Johnson said he is also in talks with a watch company that currently has no presence in the DC, Maryland area and wants to continue their lead in the Capital One Arena.

“What I was tasked with was completely rebranding,” Johnson said. “This is way beyond one time. I come from the luxury sector and want to stay in the luxury sector and want to be the first to market and have a good relationship and relationship with luxury brands. It’s different from what I see everyone doing. I thought it was something cool, different and really hope it inspires and writes a new chapter in the history of the sport.”

When it comes to products, Stoyer and Johnson are taking the leap into different product styles beyond what one might expect from a typical merchandise store with clothes and t-shirts.

Johnson’s collection for the Wizards will debut with the cherry blossom garden he designed for the team’s home games, and the next Suns collaboration will launch in May. Additionally, Keizer Clark released a new collaboration with the NBA in June.

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