Beyond the Patch: Minnesota Timberwolves & Fitbit

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The partnership with Fitbit reflects more than just a deal with the team. (Image via NBA)

Wearable technologies are shifting from a dream of the future to the reality of the present. As “wearables” represent a section of the fitness industry that is constantly evolving, the NBA represents a section of the sports industry that is consistently making strides towards the “next big thing”.

With nearly half of the league on the forefront of the jersey sponsorship patch initiative, it’s clear that companies and teams alike are looking to invest in order to find that next unique partnership pairing.

Having recently ended a 14-year playoff drought, the Minnesota Timberwolves are flush with young, exciting talent that is recognizable throughout the league. With such a vibrant community surrounding the team, it seems like a seamless pairing for the organization to partner with a company that is invested in the well-being of athletes. In talking with Ryan Tanke, the Chief Revenue Officer of the T-Wolves, he describes a relationship that goes beyond the jersey patch sponsorship.

“We saw the jersey patch as a great opportunity for our team, both from a revenue standpoint and for the window that this piece of inventory opened to kick-off a new partner relationship,” said Tanke. “We wanted to look to form a partnership about more than just the patch.”

In initially evaluating potential partnership pairings, Tanke evaluated an array of possibilities. The organization considered companies in their own market, national entities, even companies located as far as China. In the end, Fitbit was impressed with the Timberwolves’ desire to tell a bigger story around innovation, health, and wellness.

Yet before a partnership could be forged, a relationship had to be established.

“We [Timberwolves] didn’t have a pre-existing relationship with Fitbit,” says Tanke. “We had our first sit-down meeting with them at the 2017 NBA All-Star game in New Orleans. We discussed common goals and what both parties were looking for in regards to the partnership. We could tell that there was potential that existed for this partnership to be special for many years to come.”

With the greater Minneapolis area providing beautiful weather for recreational sports and other athletic activities, Tanke saw Fitbit as an opportunity to unite some of the team’s values, such as innovation, health, and wellness, with the rest of the community.

“The Minneapolis/St. Paul area is consistently ranked one of the healthiest places in the country and we are proud that our partnership with Fitbit reflects the healthy efforts of this community,” says Tanke.

That team’s healthy efforts include outfitting every Timberwolves employee with a Fitbit. The effort doesn’t just stop at the NBA level. Throughout the partnership, Fitbit has ingrained itself not only through the Timberwolves, but also with the Minnesota Lynx (WNBA team) and the Iowa Wolves (Timberwolves G League team.) This has allowed Tanke and company more flexibility in terms of growth and development of working with the Fitbit brand. This is especially applicable to the Iowa Wolves, as the organization is looking at ways to use the Fitbit technology.

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“With Fitbit, we wanted to align them with some of our current partners like Life Time Fitness, Mayo Clinic, and Target,” says Tanke. “All of these partners fit well into the health and wellness space and we looked to analyze the cross-promotional opportunities that existed. As we continued to grow our technology story, we realized that Fitbit also aligned with that focus and were able to tap into what we currently had in place.”

While Fitbit’s involvement with the organization expands far beyond the jersey patch sponsorship, its initial impact is felt by the Timberwolves fan base on an ever-present basis.

“We have the #1 uniforms in the NBA,” claims Tanke. “Fitbit definitely helps with that. They allow for organic integration on the jersey. Our fans love purchasing our on-court replica jerseys that have the Fitbit logo on them.”

For Tanke, the best parts of working with Fitbit are the relationships that have been established and the positive impact that the two organizations have helped to create along the way.

“We are two like-minded organizations that strive to work globally as we look to build better together.”