Think Like a Brand: Insights from Sponsors to Sellers on How to Engage During This Time

By: Dan Migala

We were honored when the NBA’s Team Business Operations office invited us to lead a Webinar for a group of 400+ partnership sales and service executives from NBA, WNBA, G-League and 2K teams. The goal of the session was to provide perspective, insights and a roadmap for partnership sales and service executives of all levels to navigate both the challenges and opportunities for sponsorships in this new world.

What an opportunity for 4FRONT to be teammates to our clients and friends in the NBA community and live up to one of my favorite quotes from NBA icon Bill Russell: “The most important measure of how good a game I played was how much better I’d made my teammates play.” 

As our industry embraces a spirit of helpfulness, togetherness and, like Russell, make our teammates around the globe better; we wanted to share some of these learnings in blog format with the same goal of providing perspective, insights and a roadmap for our #SportsBiz colleagues around the globe.

There are 2 questions on every sellers’ mind:

1 – How to reach out to those prospects they were pitching prior to mid-March?

2 – Where else should I reach out?

One of the most heart- and mind-centric brand executives I know is Amy Potter at BMO Harris bank who sponsors teams in MLS, NBA, NHL and more.

As we were researching our NBA report I came across this eloquent LinkedIn post from Amy as a bit of an open letter to sellers and it’s worth highlighting again:

Amy’s post inspired us at 4FRONT to be humans first. So, as part of our fact-finding we called on friends that happen to be international, national and local brand executives and asked them the simple question of “If you became a sponsorship seller tomorrow, how would you reach out to someone in the brand seat during this unprecedented time?” I let them know that their responses would be anonymous but stressed brutal honesty was critical.

Here were some key themes that were consistent among brand executives:

  • •Selflessness to selfishness
  • •Embrace my new target audience: our employees & their well-being
  • •Understand the pressure for brands and how a team can be a short- and long-term solution
  • •Customized inventory creation
  • •Brands are responding to phone calls first. Emails second.

I channeled my Missouri Journalism alum note taking skills and found these exact quotes to be very relevant and worth highlighting exactly as they were said to me.

My budgets are being frozen but we’re still working as hard as ever before. I’m going to need some big platforms in Q4 during the holiday push to make up for all our losses in Q2.”

Tell me you’re buying my product!

Offer to teach my kids “home school.” If you do that, I know you really want to earn my business!

Talk to me about how we can do business with their other partners. Like a Chamber of Commerce through the team. We’re all in this together, right?

Know everyone is on their devices more than ever, how can that fact and your team help me creatively sell when retail is shut down?

We’re desperate for ideas. Come to me with an idea.”

Pick up the phone and be a human being to me.”

This notion of a phone-first mentality really resonated in the feedback and was reiterated in a recent Wall Street Journal article. The article showcased that Verizon has seen an average of 800 million wireless calls daily on recent weekdays, nearly twice the volume on Mother’s Day.

The lessons here for sponsorship executives:

1) Pick up the phone and call your prospects 2) Call your mom!

Beyond these sponsor insights, a big focus was on the current reality that there are no games being played and fans are on their devices more than ever before. The notion of real-time data capture for sponsor identification is a key focus for sellers right now.

Our team at 4FRONT is capturing data for teams and leagues around the world to create spotlight reports to help identify new brands to sell to and support a data-driven story for existing prospects. We use Web-based data to monitor the online behavior of fans and marry it with products and services they are interested in. With the increase in device use during the quarantine, this is a goldmine for teams looking to use data to support sponsor growth or new outreach.

This sample was used for the Detroit Pistons and the tire category and serves as a template for any team seller looking to smartly and nimbly use this moment in time to identify new brands and categories to pursue.

Our team at 4FRONT in a normal world plays the role of the Sixth Man/Woman in areas of revenue growth and if our team can be a resource to your team with perspectives and especially our real-time data insights, please let us know.

Our goal is always to be as Bill Russell said and strive to be great teammates to the industry and help make your sales efforts and your staff better. 

As part of that commitment to help, we’re also launching a sponsorship industry survey with our Dr. Kirk Wakefield to gain feedback from sellers and activators. Please take part in the survey by clicking here.

If you have any questions on the survey or how to gain real-time data insights for your team, please reach out to A.J. Stoner, 4FRONT Director of Analytics and Business Intelligence via email at

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