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The Milwaukee Bucks needed to find a new sponsor – fast. Direct mail helped them win


By Awards Analyst, writer

December 5, 2022 | 6 min read

The Milwaukee Bucks' ‘Big footprint’ campaign won at The Drum Awards for B2B 2022 for Best Use of Direct Mail. Here, we find out what went into this successful work.

bucks sneakers

The Milwakee Bucks sent personalized sneakers to court CMOs

When Harley-Davidson informed the NBA team the Milwaukee Bucks that it would not be renewing its jersey patch sponsorship, the team had to scramble to find another big brand willing to make this multiyear, multimillion-dollar investment. Instead of looking for another large local brand, the Bucks decided to leverage the global appeal of the NBA and their own star forward, Giannis Antetokounmpo. They created a list of two dozen global brand chief marketing officers (CMOs) and asked ad agency Badder Rutter to create a compelling way to grab their attention and persuade them to become the Bucks' sponsor.

The brief

CMOs of global brands are incredibly busy; they get inundated daily with multiple sponsorship opportunities. Worse, strategic brand investments are generally budgeted for in multiyear terms. This work needed to stand out among the clutter, grab CMOs' attention, and quickly explain why this small-market team from a ‘tier three’ city deserved their multi-million dollar investment.

The Bucks were enjoying something of a hot streak, propelled by superstar forward and fan favorite Giannis Antetokounmpo. But compared with teams in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, who have massive TV audiences, Milwaukee is considered a third-tier team. So the team needed to flip the conventional way a team’s sponsorship value is assessed (looking more at TV audience reach) and instead find a way to showcase the Bucks’ considerable global impact.

The idea

To most creatives, a direct mail, account-based marketing assignment wouldn’t seem promising ground for breakthrough solutions. But as Bucks fans and design advocates, the creative team dreamed up a truly compelling idea. They helped these CMOs understand the size of the Bucks’ global footprint by sending them one of Giannis’ size 16 Freak Ones, custom-designed to each CMO’s brand and brought to life by renowned sneaker artist Noel Alvarado.

The team packaged each one-of-a-kind branded shoe in a custom wooden box with a laser-engraved top. Inside, a series of sliding trays revealed first an introduction to each CMO, then a small video screen set into a miniature hardwood court that played a Bucks video customized with the CMO’s brand. Finally, a bottom drawer revealed the branded Freak One and a Bucks jersey embroidered with a brand patch. Among the piles of unsolicited pitches these busy executives get every day, we knew these hand-delivered boxes would not be ignored.

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The results

The team signed a new jersey patch multiyear, multimillion-dollar sponsorship deal with Motorola, so the effort achieved its original objective.

The sales pitch was so effective that it also led to the signing of four other meaningful brand sponsorships, totaling nearly $1m in additional yearly revenue for the Bucks.

This campaign was a winner at The Drum Awards for B2B 2022. You can see all the winners here. The Drum Awards for Marketing are currently open for entry. Find out how you can enter now.

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