With their remodeled Target Center and modern Mayo Clinic Square practice complex each named after famed Minnesota companies, the Timberwolves announced an agreement Tuesday to wear San Francisco-based Fitbit’s corporate logo on their uniform jerseys for the next three seasons starting this fall.
After discussions with both local and Chinese companies, the Wolves chose the California maker of wearable technology that tracks a consumer’s activity such as steps walked and stairs climbed, heart rate, sleep quality as well other fitness and wellness data.
Timberwolves and Minnesota Lynx CEO Ethan Casson calls it an “ideal” partnership for a franchise taking “a fresh look at technology and innovation” during a summer of change and rebranding.
The Wolves introduced a re-imagined logo in April and next month will unveil newly designed uniforms that will feature Fitbit’s diamond-shaped logo. By October, Target Center’s $140 million renovation will be complete just about the time the Wolves debut those new jerseys and patches when they play two preseasons game against NBA champion Golden State in China.
The Wolves become the eighth NBA team to sell advertising on their uniforms, a new revenue stream approved by the league in April 2016 starting this season that could produce $150 million or more annually shared by teams and players.
Boston, Brooklyn, Cleveland, Sacramento, Orlando, Utah and Philadelphia also have reached their own such deals.
The Wolves did not disclose their agreement’s worth. Reportedly, the Cavaliers’ contract with Goodyear is worth $10 million a season, the Nets will get $8 million a season from software company Infor and the Celtics $7 million a season from General Electric. The deals for both the 76ers and Sacramento are worth $5 million a year each.
“Teams are looking for right fit, right brand, right time,” Casson said. “They have to make that determination of what that looks for them.”
The NBA is the first of the four major sports leagues to experiment with uniform advertising after it approved in April 2016 a three-year pilot program starting this season that will allow a patch 2.5 inches by 2.5 inches on game jerseys’ left front.
Nike’s new deal with the NBA to replace Adidas as the league’s uniform manufacturer will place its logo on the other shoulder beginning this season as well.
The Wolves announced the deal Tuesday morning after outfitting employees with the devices. They have named Fitbit the “Official Wearable” and “Official Sleep Tracker” of the Minnesota Lynx, the Wolves and their D League Iowa team.
The Wolves intend to use their Iowa team as what Casson calls a “testing ground” for research and development that will use Fitbit technology to compile data on players’ sleep patterns, heart, rest and recovery and other matters.
At Target Center, fans can use their Fitbit app to make more informed decisions about new concession menus and track what they eat at games.
“The most exciting thing is this is just the first chapter,” Casson said. “There are so many different directions we can go. There are so many things we’re already looking to do both on and off the court.”
Fitbit’s offices are just across San Francisco Bay from Oakland, home to a Golden State team that now has won two of the last three NBA titles.
Instead, Fitbit struck a deal that Casson calls the “right fit” with an NBA team more than 1,500 miles away rather than one 10 miles away.
“We’re Warriors’ fans, we like the Warriors,” Fitbit chief marketing officer Tim Rosa said. “But Minnesota is a great market for us.”
Rosa said his company partnered with the Wolves after meeting with other NBA teams because Casson and the Wolves “by far seduced us the most.” It didn’t hurt that the Wolves have a young and talented team and that the two new partners share relationships with such local companies as Target, Mayo Clinic, Best Buy and United Health Care.
Every year, Fitbit uses aggregated users’ data to name its list of America’s “fittest” cities. Minneapolis finished second last year. Duluth finished first this year.
“Minneapolis and Duluth are crushing San Francisco when it comes to Fitbit activity,” Rosa said. “It was a no-brainer.”