Beyond the Patch: How Harley-Davidson and the Milwaukee Bucks are Capitalizing on Their Partnership

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Activations extend beyond the 2.5in by 2.5in area on the jersey.

Activations extend beyond the 2.5in by 2.5in area on the jersey. (Photo via the Bucks)

The Milwaukee Bucks jersey patch sponsorship with Harley-Davidson boils down to a local connection and a like-minded fan base. According to Matt Pazaras, Senior Vice President of Business Development & Strategy for the Milwaukee Bucks, Harley-Davidson is a great fit due to their authenticity.

“Harley-Davidson is not a benign brand. People LOVE the brand. Even the players think it’s cool,” according to Pazaras.

This is extremely pertinent, as budding international superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo increases the value of the brand whenever he wears the Buck’s jersey, patch included, during commercials. According to the Bucks, the Harley-Davidson jersey patch, “has the potential to receive over two billion impressions globally each year across the Bucks and NBA broadcast video and digital platforms.”

However, it’s not just about the quantitative measures that makes Harley-Davidson a successful brand to market around. “It evokes great passion,” says Pazaras. “People are literally getting their logo tattooed on themselves.” This passion has been ingrained within the surrounding area of the Bucks organization as Harley-Davidson meshes well with the city of Milwaukee.

“They are a local company with global reach,” says Pazaras.

One way that this is exemplified is through the Harley-Davidson Museum. The museum, located in downtown Milwaukee one mile away from the Buck’s home The BMO Harris Bradley Center, is the brand’s way of showcasing its passion for riding.

Visitors are able to get up close and personal with the motorcycles and even saddle on up in their favorite model as they become immersed in Harley-Davidson’s rich history.

The museum also showcases the nitty-gritty side of the brand as visitors can interact with exhibits showcasing engine mechanics and all of the parts that come together to create a classic Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

Knowing that the museum evokes such passion and raw emotion, in Spring 2017, the Bucks set up a contest dubbed the “2017 Legendary Weekend Sweepstakes” to highlight the one-of-a-kind experience that the Harley-Davidson Museum has to offer.

One prizewinner was selected to receive a trip of a lifetime, culminating with four tickets for a behind the scenes tour at the Harley-Davidson Museum, a Harley-Davidson apparel “swag pack”, and four gift certificates for a Harley-Davidson Riding Academy course.

But it goes beyond just the “coolness” factor of the partnership. Harley-Davidson has immersed itself within the fabric of the Bucks organization.

“Harley-Davidson provides many elements for our team. They have a unique brand presence within the starting lineup,” says Pazaras.

Fans will receive a notification from their Bucks app on their phone that prompts them to open the app. Once opened, a Harley-Davidson logo flashes on their screen, flooding their phone will an illuminated Harley-Davidson logo. Fans are then encouraged to raise their phone with others in the arena as the app acts like a light board. The BMO Harris Bradley Center is soon engulfed with a plethora of Harley-Davidson logos.

In addition to the sponsoring the starting lineups, Harley-Davidson also activates in another unique way. As visiting teams arrive to the arena, the walkway from the bus to the arena is lined with Harley-Davidson riders atop their motorcycles. It is a non-traditional way of activating while providing a bit of an intimidation factor towards the other team.

Harley-Davidson and the Bucks also align well with giving back to the community. The motorcycle brand sponsors the Clutch Crew section, a group of supporters that can be found directly behind one of the baskets during every Bucks home game.

The Clutch Crew logo. (Image via the Bucks)

Fans try out before the season with 100 of them being selected for this exclusive, devoted section. Wearing Harley-Davidson gear, the enthusiastic fan group adds a dynamic, personal layer to the partnership.

Another way that strengthens the community aspect of the partnership includes setting up a Riders Academy with fans who are interested in learning to ride a motorcycle.

“We have teamed up with Harley-Davidson to provide our fans a safe environment to test-drive motorcycles near the arena,” according to Pazaras.

For Pazaras and the Bucks, allowing fans to test-drive the motorcycles in a risk-free setting helps to evolve the partnership. Bucks fans who may not be as aware of Harley-Davidson will be introduced to the iconic brand in a hands-on manner. “As the partnership progresses, our goal is to help recruit the next generation of riders,” says Pazaras.

The relationship between the two has been furthered by the charity component on multiple occasions. “We’ve created a gigantic inflatable Bucks jersey with the Harley-Davidson logo that fans can sign at certain games and events throughout the season. Each time a fan signs they pay one dollar, which is donated to the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP).” says Pazaras. According to the Wounded Warrior Project’s official website, since 2015, Harley-Davidson, “has generated $400,000 in support of WWP Combat Stress Recovery Programs.”

The association amongst the two Milwaukee-based organizations works well because the Bucks have an understanding of Harley-Davidson’s goals. “We never pitch assets. Instead, we try to solve business issues and package assets around solving those issues,” says Pazaras.

The historic roots. The local-town tie-ins. The mixture of old-school history and new-age development. It’s clear that Harley-Davidson and the Milwaukee Bucks are fit for a partnership of this nature.

The NBA jersey patch partnership was not the first collaboration between the two and if the trends continue, it certainly won’t be the last.

This is the first edition of the Behind the Patch series, where I will take a look at how these deals came to be and what teams are doing in association with their new partners.

This piece has been presented to you by SMU’s Master of Science in Sport Management.

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