The NBA “City Edition” jerseys have returned to basketball arenas all across the country, and some teams included concepts that hit closer to home. For the Minnesota Timberwolves, this is particularly true, as the organization is paying tribute to rock legend and Minnesota native Prince.
By no coincidence did the Timberwolves choose to honor Prince in 2018; this year would mark the late icon’s 60th birthday.
“Targeting this season gave us the runway to celebrate that milestone and to work with the Estate and the team at Paisley Park on a few initiatives with enough time to ensure that everything could come to life in a way that Prince would have been proud of as well,” said Lindsay Milne, vice president of marketing for the Timberwolves and Lynx.
The former musician, born and raised in Minneapolis, held deep ties to the city’s sports teams, and the Timberwolves are taking full advantage of the love and opportunity.
“We had a strong feeling it would be a hit with our fans for a multitude of reasons,” Milne said. “It starts, though, with the connection between Prince and the game of basketball. Because of that organic tie, no aspect of the project has felt forced or unnatural which always translates to a win with fans.”
The organization exuded confidence about the decision, anticipating fans’ hype for the purple, Prince-inspired uniforms.
The Timberwolves unveiled a unique digital strategy on the day of the launch in Minneapolis to help tell the story of the uniform. But to Minneapolis and the Timberwolves, this “City Edition” jersey concept is more than a uniform, but an entire platform to activate all season.
“We pushed our teams hard to do so in a way that no other team has done before,” Milne said. “Prince was constantly breaking boundaries and we’ve tried to keep that in mind with every tactic we’ve considered.”
On “City Edition” jersey nights at the Target Center, the entire fan experience is transformed. Their belief is to truly celebrate and reflect the moment from when the doors open until the last fans leave.
“Our in-arena experience is second to none; we have custom player intros and custom outfitting for each of our entertainment groups,” said Milne. “Our music in venue has also been curated to be exclusively Prince or Prince-inspired tracks with more than 450 in total.”
As the fan experiences produce good times and the Prince story lives on, the Timberwolves still knew the jerseys had a certain momentum to be capitalized upon. So, they extended team store hours for launch day and subsequent days after, while offering them online.
“We invested in our unveil moment with a dedicated video and photo shoot to support our go to market tactics, and made a point to get the photos from that shoot in the hands of our players knowing how excited they were about the launch.”
In fact, Milne sees the Timberwolves as one of the big beneficiaries of the “City Edition” jersey program.
“We don’t have a 50-year history to lean on,” Milne said. “So, for us, having a program like this means we have a whole new set of tools to explore as we continue to tell our brand story.”
The Prince theme fits perfectly to the brand image the Timberwolves aim to construct, drawing fans from different avenues into support, and highlighting a musical legend proves a great way.
“This year, we’re using the program to celebrate the greatest of all time who chose Minnesota as his home time and time again, a sentiment which is perfectly aligned with our narrative,” Milne said. “The ‘City Edition’ jerseys will continue to be a great asset as we build on our story for years to come.”
The NBA is inherently tied to culture, passion, and fashion and the “City Edition” initiative is a unique way for each organization to express those themes in an organic way.
“Nike and the league nailed it with the ‘City Edition’ idea,” Milne added. “The ‘City Edition’ jerseys give us the chance to extend our brand reach into new demographics and introduce our experience to individuals who may have not otherwise considered the NBA as a brand that could speak to them.”