The Speed of Culture Podcast: Building a Championship Culture

Dustin Godsey, CMO at The Milwaukee Bucks on developing a successful, global brand

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After winning the 2021 NBA championship, the Milwaukee Bucks became a basketball sensation with its leading star, Giannis Antetokounmpo. However, in 2012, the team had no established brand story or marketing team. Enter Dustin Godsey, the first marketing hire at the organization.

In this episode of the Speed of Culture podcast, Suzy founder and CEO Matt Britton sits down with Godsey, chief marketing officer at the Milwaukee Bucks to discuss how the Milwaukee Bucks built a championship culture and mentality that led the team to the 2021 NBA triumph and helped develop a successful, global brand.

When you think about what we are as a brand, we’re a championship culture.

—Dustin Godsey, CMO, Milwaukee Bucks

Originally, Godsey wanted to be an NBA player but decided to study journalism at the University of Iowa. His marketing experience began in minor-league baseball with the Cedar Rapids Kernels and the Iowa Cubs. In 2008, Godsey took on the role of regional marketing director at Global Spectrum (now Spectra), shifting to Comcast Spectacor as the director of marketing.

Godsey was hired in 2012 as the director of marketing services at the Milwaukee Bucks, becoming the team’s first marketing employee. He was promoted to vice president of marketing, then chief marketing officer. As a result, Godsey has become a successful manager and leader of an ever-growing and changing team of marketing and PR professionals. He was also named Business Insider’s 2022 Innovative CMO of the Year.

Stream the new episode below, listen and subscribe on Apple Podcasts or find it on Spotify.

Learn more about the Milwaukee Bucks’ brand story and journey to becoming NBA champions by checking out the key takeaways of this episode below.

Key Takeaways:

  • 02:14 – 04:19 – An NBA Dream Story – In 2012, Godsey had a goal to lead the marketing department of an NBA team, and he achieved it by becoming the first marketing hire for the Milwaukee Bucks. The team was dealing with significant challenges during that period. Nonetheless, Dustin and his team worked hard and persevered, which led to the creation of a thriving NBA team.
  • 04:19 – 06:03 – The Championship Culture – In 2014, when the Milwaukee Bucks saw new ownership take over, the organization’s brand identity was redefined to create a championship culture. Every team member embraced this vision, and it became the cornerstone of their efforts and mentality. With a shared goal of winning a championship and establishing themselves as a championship organization in Milwaukee, the team’s internal teams aligned and worked together towards this objective.
  • 06:03 – 09:48 – Building a Winning NBA Brand – Creating a successful Bucks brand story started by aligning all digital platforms, direct marketing channels, databases, and email marketing efforts and bringing them under one roof. Godsey and his team also focus on providing world-class experience and value to its fans.
  • 12:25 – 14:55 – The “Greek Freak” – One of the best Milwaukee Bucks’ acquisitions was bringing on superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, which had a great impact on and off the court. From a marketing perspective, Antetokounmpo is a hardworking player with a winning mentality, which aligns with the Bucks’ brand story. His impressive background and personality allow the team to tell his story authentically and positively appeal to every person.
  • 14:55 – 19:32 – Finding the Right Partners – From an organizational and market perspective, the Milwaukee Bucks is a small team that prioritizes its brand culture and chooses its partners wisely. For Dustin, a partnership is about aligning the goals and values of both parties, working together, and striving to create authentic stories between them and their partners.
  • 20:46 – 25:34 – Bucks’ 2023 Trends and Innovation – On the technology side, Dustin works on the Bucks mobile app to provide a holistic 360 experience for fans. From the marketing outlook, the app collects valuable first-party data that the analytics and insights team can use to enhance the fans’ experiences. Additionally, the brand is launching a private label retail line to tell its brand story and engage global audiences.