The NBA opened the flood gates this offseason to jersey advertisements, and Fitbit is taking the opportunity to the next level.
The wearable-device maker has announced that it has sponsored the Minnesota Timberwolves for a three year deal over the NBA’s jersey advertisement pilot period. But calling it a sponsorship might be giving the whole deal too little credit – this is more of a partnership between two organizations on the verge of tech innovation in basketball.
Fitbit is now the official wearable and official sleep tracker of the Minnesota Timberwolves, its G-League (formally the D-League) affiliate the Iowa Wolves, and the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx. While this means Fitbit will have patches on each teams’ jerseys, as well as be featured throughout the Target Center in Minneapolis, the players on each team will be getting Fitbit devices as well.
“When we looked at this opportunity, the Timberwolves were the only organization that is thinking big and about innovation and how this is not just a business sponsorship opportunity, it’s about real partnership where we are working together and collaborating,” said Tim Rosa, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Fitbit over the phone with Tech in Sports. Four other NBA organizations were also pitching Fitbit for this sponsorship.
While the Timberwolves players themselves won’t be wearing devices during games, the NBA doesn’t allow for wearables during games, the Iowa Wolves will stand as the test subjects for how this wearable technology can affect the game of basketball. As the official sleep tracker of these teams, the two organizations are diving into how these wearables can help these athletes off the court.
“The NBA is not allowing wearables during the game, and frankly, I don’t think the wrist is the best place for this sport given the kinds of motions of NBA athletes in games. We get that,” said Rosa. “But there is a lot of innovation happening around sensor technology and it’s placement, etc. The goal is to create the awareness and really start to dig in with a team that is embracing innovation and technology, and use it in a lot of different ways. For example, like seeing how sleep plays a role in your performance and fitness.”
The sleep tracking aspect is an enticing area to collect data on, especially in an age where athletes can monitor every aspect of their day to better perform on the court. Zach LaVine, a former member of the Timberwolves who was part of a blockbuster trade to the Chicago Bulls for Jimmy Butler, used a Fitbit throughout his ACL surgery recovery this past season, and raved about the sleep tracking aspects in a video produced with Fitbit.
It isn’t just the players of these organizations that will benefit from this partnership. As part of Fitbit’s corporate wellness program, everyone under the Timberwolves and Lynx umbrella will get access to Fitbit devices. The goal is to promote a healthy lifestyle regardless of your role within the organization.
And that mentality extends to the fans as well. On top of a number of marketing assets that include branding and integration across the Timberwolves mobile app, in-arena signage, and team store, the two organizations are working to integrate the concessions menus into the food logging section of the Fitbit app. The Fitbit Stat Tracker will also show off Timberwolves player stats and highlights, involvement in community relations events, and give fans Fitbit challenges.
“We wanted to look at it from how can we impact the way the fans engage with the teams, and that goes all the way from thinking about the way that they choose food to making sure that health and fitness is a priority not just for the players, but for the entire organization and the fans,” said Rosa.
Fans can check out what Fitbit is doing at the start of the season this October following the the Target Center’s renovation project. The jersey patches themselves will first be visible during the Timberwolves two exhibition games against the Golden State Warriors in October in China. Moving forward from there, Timberwolves jerseys purchased in the Target Center and team store will feature the Fitbit patch, while those purchased nationally on NBA.com will not.