As the Golden State Warriors prepared to play a game on March 16 without fans, the team’s senior vice president of partnerships Mike Kitts said he naively felt they were readying to face the worst-case scenario.
But even before the game had the chance to tip-off, the NBA postponed its season, and a whole new playbook was about to be written on the fly.
For the Warriors partnership team, that meant putting together a plan to interact with sponsors during this period.
“It started with major communication with all partners, followed up with one-on-one conversations, and providing updates,” Kitts said.
The process is still ongoing, but Kitts said a strong foundation of community and foundation platforms has helped put partnerships into action that are beneficial to the team, partner, and community.
Kitts referenced Warriors owner Joe Lacob’s belief that the team is a community asset and the responsibility to be a steward of that asset.
“Our partners see us in a similar light: we’re a conduit to the community,” he said. “We have a platform that has rights and responsibilities that allows us to create impact, and as the dust settles and our partners understand what their business is going through, then hopefully, you’ve partnered with amazing companies that see the world in the same way you do.”
“Yes, it’s a bad situation, but we’re luckier than most, and how do we use that platform for good,” he said.
Among the first partner programs to roll out in the Bay Area saw Warriors player Zaza Pachulia donate 70 meals from Chase Center concessionaire Alicia’s Tamales Los Mayas to healthcare workers with the help of Uber. The Warriors also made a $25,000 donation to No Kid Hungry in partnership with Williams Sonoma, while a $10,000 joint donation with Budweiser helped purchase medical supplies.
Chase also supported the Warriors with the logistics and costs of distributing the $1.4 million relief fund for Chase Center employees – a challenge Kitts said is overlooked in the creation of such funds.
“It’s no different than the normal goal of trying to engage and entertain fans, but it’s how do you take that same mindset and set it to simply doing good for others,” he said. “You’re creating the playbook in the middle of the game.”
“There isn’t one solution or one person or organization that can fix all of this, it does require all of us to do a small part, and it’s the magic in the collective effort to allow all of us to get through this,” he said.
The community and foundation aspect of partnerships have already been a primary focus for the Warriors, but the coronavirus pandemic has emphasized the importance of that mindset, Kitts said
“In the eye of this challenge comes the opportunity to innovate,” he said. This is going to lead to some real innovation that extends far beyond any hiatus. This underscores that area of our business, and it has the potential to be a real area of growth.”
Kitts said the team would continue to develop how partnerships programs are rolled out with its stakeholders in a time he described as a mixture of the 2008 financial crisis, 9/11, the SARs outbreak, and 2011 NBA lockout.
“We’re in this moment in time where you’re seeing real humanity, and you’re seeing an understanding that we’re all in this together,” he said. “These scenarios are the very reason you call these partnerships and not sponsorships; it requires everyone to lean in.”