The Minnesota Timberwolves are getting into the jersey advertisement game with a Fitbit patch in a three-year deal.
The Timberwolves announced the marketing collaboration for the team's first jersey patch on Tuesday. Fitbit also will be featured in the newly renovated Target Center, with the team exploring ways the wearable technology can help players, employees and fans track their health and fitness during practices, games and everyday activities.
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Timberwolves CEO Ethan Casson said the team sees the partnership as more than a small patch in the corner of newly designed jerseys unveiled later this summer. The Timberwolves were among four other teams bidding for Fitbit's business.
"This is going to change the way teams evaluate these types of deals and relationships going forward," Casson said. "This is different than anything I've seen before."
The Wolves plan to use Fitbit's technology throughout the organization, including logging the new concession offerings at Target Center into the Fitbit food section to help fans make healthier choices at the games. The wearables will be used with the Iowa Wolves, the Des Moines-based development league team recently purchased by the Timberwolves, as a test for performance enhancement that might be incorporated with the NBA team. Areas of interest include sleep, recovery from workouts and nutrition.
"They weren't just looking at this as a jersey sponsorship," Fitbit chief marketing officer Tim Rosa said. "They were looking at it as an opportunity to tell a bigger story around innovation and health and wellness."
Coach Tom Thibodeau is on board, Casson said.
Jersey patches are just starting to take hold in the NBA. Boston, Sacramento, Brooklyn, Philadelphia and Cleveland are among the teams to announce deals with various sponsors. The Wolves have been exploring potential deals for months.
They considered local companies and had conversations with several Chinese companies after John Jiang joined the team as the NBA's first Chinese minority owner. In the end, they chose San Francisco-based Fitbit for its recognizable brand and the company's ability to partner with the franchise on several health and wellness fronts.
"We think we're going to evolve weekly with the types of things we're thinking of doing and capable of doing," Casson said. "We're thrilled to be a part of it."
Rosa said Duluth, Minnesota, ranked first on the company's "Fittest Cities" list in 2017 while Minneapolis ranked second in 2016. Fitbit also has business relationships with several prominent Minnesota companies that do business with the Wolves, including UnitedHealth Group, Target, Best Buy and the Mayo Clinic, which partners with the Timberwolves on their practice facility.
The Iowa Wolves will wear a Fitbit jersey patch, and the WNBA's Minnesota Lynx will use the wearable technology. The Lynx feature the Mayo Clinic and Verizon on the front of their jerseys.
"The ability to work with a team and work on specific things around sleep or activities in the offseason, it's pretty exciting," Rosa said. "It's a mutual benefit that a team has access to all of this biometric data. There's a lot of room for improvement and understanding your body and how to enhance performance."
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This story has been corrected to biometric data in the last paragraph.