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How Excel Sports Management Will Help Atlanta Hawks Find Next Jersey Sponsor

Boardroom caught up with the Hawks, Excel to paint a picture of what the extensive process might look like over the next year.

The Atlanta Hawks will usher in a new jersey patch sponsor next season with the team tagging Excel Sports Management as the marketing agency to help find it.

Excel has negotiated 20% of the NBA teams’ current jersey patch sponsors (Boston Celtics, Charlotte Hornets, Chicago Bulls, Houston Rockets, Minnesota Timberwolves, Philadelphia 76ers), so it is no surprise the team would look its way. Excel is also working with the Los Angeles Angels to secure a deal through the MLB’s jersey patch program.

“It is an exciting process to find a new jersey patch sponsor,” said Andrew Saltzman, the Hawks’ chief revenue officer in a phone interview with Boardroom. “It is about aligning ourselves with an organization with shared values that is certainly looking to help us in playing a role to be the best possible civic asset that we can be as an organization.”

Sharecare, the current Hawks jersey sponsor, will remain on the team’s jersey throughout this season. Sharecare and the Hawks extended their partnership in August, so while the digital healthcare brand will not be on Atlanta’s game apparel after 2022-23, the company will still have a presence with the Hawks.

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The process will take anywhere from nine to 12 months to land on a new sponsor. Throughout the process, Saltzman and Excel will go through hundreds of potential partners. Saltzman said the multiple-step undertaking begins by selecting a company to help siphon through all potential partners. By agreeing to work with Excel, that first step is already completed.

Excel will then vet all of the candidates by either leveraging relationships that it has cultivated over time or cold-calling companies in hopes of eventually getting in touch with a CEO. With hundreds of contestants, this part of the process takes time.

“This is not about slapping a brand’s signage up in the arena,” Saltzman said. “This is an asset that is literally and figuratively woven into the fabric of the ethos of our brand, so you want to be very intentional, strategic, and pragmatic as you think about this.”

2 Chainz performs during halftime of a Hawks game while donning one of Atlanta’s Sharecare-sponsored jerseys. (Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

Jason Miller, the head of properties at Excel, explained to Boardroom how he and his team will begin his hunt on the Hawks’ behalf.

“We have to get an understanding of the team, their values [and] what makes them different,” said Miller. “With the Hawks, we have to go in and meet with their marketing team, their HR team, their corporate social responsibility team, to understand what makes them unique, and then we have to put a master process list of companies that we think makes sense.”

Something that cannot be denied about the city of Atlanta is the culture embedded within it. The capital city of Georgia is home to a catalog of artists that rival any city in America. On top of that, multiple film studios call the city home. The combination of the two often makes the Hawks’ games star-studded, with rappers, actors, and other celebrities sitting courtside. Miller said the city’s unique persona will be factored into the next jersey patch sponsor.

“The cultural relevance of Atlanta is unparalleled. The city is like the Hollywood of the south,” Miller said. “And it is not just hip-hop. It is not just the fact that 2 Chainz is the owner of their G-League team and sits courtside. It is the whole package. The Hawks franchise is considered one of the coolest and most culturally relevant brands in sports.”

Excel Hawks Jersey Sponsor
New Hawk Dejounte Murray poses for portraits during media day in Atlanta last month. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

But it takes more than culture to lure in a sponsor into paying the team to be on its jersey. With every team having a different identity, winning and star power are also instrumental. While the Hawks were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs this year by Miami, we’re only two years removed from when they reached the Eastern Conference Finals. And after trading for Dejounte Murray to pair alongside All-Star guard Trae Young, the team is vying to make another deep playoff run. Additionally, Atlanta has 15 nationally televised games this year.

On the Hawks’ end, it is vital for a sponsor to want to be involved in the community. Melissa Proctor, the team’s chief marketing officer can attest to this.

“We will create opportunities based upon the partner that is selected. In the past, that was through health and wellness, and now, it will be something new,” she told Boardroom. “The more we are able to continue to do that work and educate our fans, having a partner that wants to help in those ways and continue that good work would be amazing.”

And so as the Hawks prepare for their 2022-2023 season tip-off on Wednesday to hunt for the team’s second championship, the team’s front office begins an entirely different quest — one that will tattoo a new partner onto the team’s uniform and bring a new imprint on the city of Atlanta.

“I’m excited to have these conversations and really grow the story of the Atlanta Hawks and bring in a partner that is energized to enhance the impact on the city,” Saltzman said.

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