How the Detroit Pistons Won Over More Than Just Basketball Fans With an Apparel Line
The NBA is back. The stadiums are still empty for now, but teams are doing everything they can to get the fans involved as much as possible.
The Detroit Pistons’ approach to marketing this year has stood out to us in particular. If you were in charge of a sports franchise’s marketing efforts, would you try to appeal to just the built in market of existing fans? Or, would you try to get more people on board with the team, even if they don’t have that die-hard devotion of a season-ticket holder?
A sports team’s identity and its city are linked. The Pistons marketing staff knew that, so they went heavy on Detroit, rather than heavy on the Pistons, on its Pistons 313 Shop.
In addition to the usual fan gear like jerseys and shirts, the site plays off of hometown pride and Michigan themes with the “313” collection (the Detroit area code), and the DET collection.
“We were looking to engage a broader group of fans,” Pistons chief business officer Mike Zavodsky told NBA.com. “We’ve got a core following of fans that’s been long-tenure with the team, and we appreciate their support! As we look to kind of broaden our base, how can we give people more reasons to engage with us? That could come in the form of a new mark that’s a little more contemporary, or new apparel that has different silhouettes, or is more lifestyle in nature that they can wear in their everyday life. That was the driver behind it.”
It works especially well with an NBA franchise, since each team gets a “City Edition” uniform that uses local landmarks or cultural ties to their home on jerseys. But if you’re not already a basketball fan, you’re probably not going to shop for basketball apparel. If you’re just a Detroit native, however, this instantly becomes more interesting.
“We know there’s a great passion for the Pistons,” Tyrel Kirkham, vice president of brand and marketing strategy for the team, told NBA.com. “But equally as important is the city of Detroit and what that represents. A lot of designs were inspired by the city.”
With e-commerce being the primary means of getting fan gear into hands while the arenas remain empty, Zavodsky and Kirkham said they can easily monitor exactly how successful their ideas are.
“When we look at the traffic that’s been generated on our e-commerce site, when we look at some of the commentary as people are talking about it, it’s all been very positive,” Zavodsky said. “And I think people have embraced it.”