How Wish Is Taking Full Advantage of Its Jersey Sponsorship Deal With the Lakers

The addition of NBA superstar LeBron James certainly didn’t hurt

Hip-hop icon Snoop Dogg agreed to a pregame courtside interview.
Wish

Two key dates stand out in the partnership between ecommerce application and platform Wish and the National Basketball Association’s Los Angeles Lakers: Sept. 21, 2017, and July 9, 2018.

On the first date, Wish and the Lakers agreed to a three-year deal, estimated at $12 million to $14 million per year, for the app’s logo to appear on the club’s jerseys.

The Wish patch debuts on the Lakers' jerseys.
Wish

And on the second date, NBA superstar LeBron James signed a four-year, $154 million contract to join the Lakers.

Wish managing director of partnerships Sam Jones described the 8-year-old company as a global marketplace, saying that it has 400 million customers and it ships 2 million to 3 million products per day, mostly out of China, keeping its prices down by sending goods directly from manufacturers to customers.

There are over 1 million sellers on Wish, and the app features some 200 million individual products.

Jones said that prior to the Lakers deal, the challenge for Wish was: “People would see Wish products on their social feed and be surprised by the prices. Their primary question was, ‘Is this legit?’ We needed legitimacy.”

The Lakers patch has not been Wish’s only foray into the sports world: The company ran a global campaign during 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia, featuring elite soccer players whose national teams did not qualify for the tournament.

Wish began looking more closely at sports partnerships, with Jones saying that the goal was to partner with iconic assets that were bigger than the sports they were in. He noted that even prior to adding James, the Lakers checked many of the boxes Wish was looking for, calling the team “bigger than basketball.”

He may have understated the Lakers’ prominence, as the club has won 16 NBA titles, second only to the Boston Celtics, and celebrities regularly appeared in courtside seats during the “Showtime” era in the 1980s, when Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar led the team to five of those championships.

Showtime was followed by the next wave of superstars, highlighted by Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. Five more Larry O’Brien Championship Trophies came to Los Angeles between 2000 and 2010, and the celebrities kept coming.

“The greatest win we have had is because we’re on the jersey,” Jones said. “I can’t tell you the number of airports I’ve been in where I’ve seen LeBron on the front page, or in a video game, or the Nike app, with the jersey patch. By being on the Lakers’ jerseys, we have found ourselves in other companies’ marketing strategies. I don’t think you can even measure the impact of it.”

Lakers president Tim Harris said the club’s agreement with Wish had to make sense in ways that extended beyond a traditional NBA sponsorship, which typically includes in-arena signage and digital and outside activations.

“It has to make sense for the Lakers’ brand,” he added. “It has to be acceptable to fans: ‘It’s going to be on my team’s jersey.’ It has to be acceptable to the players: ‘It’s on my jersey.’”

However, the jersey patch was just the first step in the process. “Generally, in sports, just to put your name on a shirt and forget about it, you’re never going to get your value back,” Jones said. “Brands and teams have to be creative about it.”

So, courtside seats became a currency of sorts for Wish, which regularly offers them to celebrities on the condition that they wear a Wish T-shirt during the game. The strategy proved a success when Kendall Jenner sported a black Wish T-shirt at James’ first home game with the Lakers, and images appeared all over the press.

Kendall Jenner
Wish

Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Halsey followed suit, and other celebrities have gone even further, with hip-hop icon Snoop Dogg agreeing to an on-court interview where he picked out five products he would buy for his friends on Wish, and Jenner and Martha Stewart helping Bryant shop for items on the app.

Halsey
Wish

“Sports are supposed to be fun,” Harris said, “Sometimes we lose sight of that. Our messaging should be fun, too.” He added that the team is able to tell fun stories about its players, supporters and alumni through its partnership with Wish.

The Lakers' Kyle Kuzma
Wish
The Lakers' Lance Stephenson
Wish
Lakers alumnus Robert Horry
Wish

Jones said the team’s intimate relationships with its celebrity fans helped seal the deal, noting that things may have been different if Wish tried approaching those same celebrities directly.

Two factors were on Wish’s side: The company didn’t butt heads with existing sponsorships, as ecommerce is not all over the sponsorship map, unlike categories such as sneakers/athletic gear and beverages. And the Wish T-shirts sported by participating celebrities don’t feel like ads at first glance.

Harris agreed, saying, “If Wish was an automobile, this would have been a little trickier. Above and beyond the other reasons we did this, its name is great. It doesn’t sound overly commercial. From an optics standpoint, it’s not a big, long logo—four letters, it shows well on the jersey.”

“The last thing we wanted to make with the Lakers was a cheesy ad,” Jones said. “That’s not what we want to be.”

Jones said he sees Wish reaching more deals with sports franchises, noting that after the Lakers deal was announced, “Our phone went totally crazy—every single athlete agent, team agent, league agent calling us.”

As for the Lakers deal, he credited the organization’s flexibility for making the partnership a “raging success,” saying, “The Lakers have been easy to deal with. They have granted full access beyond the contractual terms. And then LeBron James joined and created a tidal wave.”

“If you’re going to engage in a true partnership, you have to act like a partner,” Harris countered. “Partnership gets thrown around kind of loosely. We want to be a true partner.”

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