Cody Sharrett and Shahbaz Khan discuss how the Minnesota Timberwolves developed an award-winning campaign linking the team's Nike City Edition NBA uniforms to Minneapolis cultural icon and legendary musical artist Prince.
The following interview with Minnesota Timberwolves Social Media Manager, Cody Sharrett, and Sr. Manager of Digital Content, Shahbaz Khan, is part of our Awards Campaign Spotlight series, which examines winning work from the 2019 Hashtag Sports Awards—Purple Reign won for Best Multi-Platform Campaign, which recognizes a campaign designed to reinforce messaging across multiple mediums to best engage the limited attention spans of modern fans.
What unique objective or goals led to the creation of this work?
Nike and the NBA’s yearly release of team-specific City Edition uniforms, unique to each NBA market, is meant to capture the culture of each franchise’s home city. In Minneapolis, no icon is more representative of the city’s culture than Prince. Throughout his career as one of music’s most magnetic performers, Prince’s love of basketball was well-documented, whether it be his regular attendance at NBA games, his impromptu party to celebrate the Minnesota Lynx’s 2015 WNBA Championship, or in the now-infamous ‘Chappelle’s Show’ skit of ‘Charlie Murphy’s Real Hollywood Stories.’
In celebration of “The Purple One’s” life and legacy with a Prince-inspired City Edition uniform, the Minnesota Timberwolves unveiled the purple jerseys in collaboration with Nike and the late musician’s estate with a multi-platform digital and social media campaign that brought the essence of Prince’s 1984 film and album ‘Purple Rain’ to the NBA hardwood.
How was the campaign designed and produced with the modern sports fan in mind?
The creative challenge to authentically represent one of the greatest artists of all time, fueled Timberwolves Digital to take our game to new heights. The opportunity to put the Timberwolves brand on the biggest and brightest stage to a wider audience than ever before required a great deal of preparation. We laid out our creative plan and presented it to Basketball Ops executives with the goal of setting up a full-team production session dedicated entirely to City Edition content creation.
Permission was granted, and the process took off from there. The entire output of Timberwolves City Edition platforms and content was conceptualized and created one hundred percent in-house. The goal from the start was to create platforms and content that would excite, engage, and captivate fans throughout the entirety of the six month season.
“The sky was all purple, there were people runnin’ everywhere…”
How did this work achieve effective engagement and what measurable outcomes were delivered?
The Purple Reign campaign collected 6M impressions and 320k engagements across social media platforms in just 24 hours, and is the most-liked @timberwolves Instagram post of all-time. Timberwolves.com garnered 807.7k page views in the 10 days following the launch and had over 150k total page views throughout the season. On the earned media launch day, the campaign generated 49.6M impressions and $3M in ad value, and we’ve since generated 1.6B earned media impressions. The awareness generated from digital launch initiatives led to the highest grossing retail sales day in Timberwolves Team Store history.
First City Edition Gameday (11/16):
7.1M impressions across social platforms
380k interactions across social platforms
4,100 sales leads from Facebook Ads
#1 NBA team in interaction rate on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram on 11/16
Over 9,000 registered users were added to the team database via online sweepstakes giving away custom Prince inspired City Edition kicks. Additionally, the campaign, as advertised via Facebook lead ads, boasted the lowest cost per lead campaign in team history at $.21/lead.
The content captured at an exclusive season ticket member event at Prince’s home, Paisley Park, and messaged across team and player social media accounts contributed to highest rated member event in team history
What new benchmark(s) in fan engagement does this set? How will this work inspire and move the industry forward?
Every year, every NBA franchise releases at least one uniform. In nearly all releases, fans are served detail photos, hype videos, and infographics breaking down all the minutiae of the jersey. In the Timberwolves’ release of the 2018-19 Prince-Inspired Nike City Edition threads, the mold was broken to bring to life Prince’s style and artistry in the form of an NBA jersey with video, social media, web design, and mobile app activation —setting a new standard for a team’s uniform unveil. The reveal set new social media and web traffic records for the franchise, as well as led the entire NBA in engagement at a time when every team unveiled its City Edition uniform.
We hired a custom sneaker artist in the area to paint two unique pairs of Prince-inspired Nike Air Force Ones, and then created six different Facebook lead generation ads. Using the 9000 leads we gathered, we were able to reach fans for single-game ticket sales or re-target for City Edition merchandise.
What role did paid social advertising play in the overall strategy for this multi-platform campaign?
Paid initiatives around our City Edition Launch resulted in over 600,000 impressions, 300,000 people reached, and 4,100 new sales leads across five paid campaigns. From merchandise reveals to custom Prince-tailored giveaways and unique content built solely for the paid space, we created a robust campaign that proceeded to bring thousands of new fans aboard our celebration of The Purple One.
The Minnesota Timberwolves were one of only 25 inaugural Hashtag Sports Award winners. What does this honor in engagement excellence mean to the team and the Purple Reign campaign?
We’re a very competitive group. To be named among some of the best content creators in sports and social media is an incredible honor and a benchmark to inspire and motivate us to continue creating compelling content in the years to come.
Engagement is the most business-critical challenge facing the sports, media, and entertainment industries in the attention economy. The Engagement Academy of Sports Entertainment is proud to benchmark effective engagement and showcase the ROI of investing in the fan experience.
Ensure your company's work is recognized for excellence in engagement by The Engagement Academy. Entries for the 6th Hashtag Sports Awards open in the fall of 2023. Creativity pays when it's engaging.