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Oakland Forever – Rakuten & Golden State Warriors

Rakuten and the NBA’s Golden State Warriors partnered on a 360-degree, multi-faceted, season- long ‘Oakland Forever’ brand-owned platform built around the Japanese electronic commerce and online retailer’s jersey badge sponsorship. The Warriors ‘We Believe’ era leveraged nostalgia to drive brand association and engagement through storytelling and gift-led incentivisation across social, digital and retail platforms.

Territory: USA/Global

Agency: GMR Marketing

Objective

In 2020/21, Rakuten was in its fourth year as the Golden State Warriors jersey badge partner and had already established strong brand awareness and brand-team association amongst fans largely through its jersey logo – its most visible asset.

Indeed, according to the brand’s own metrics, the jersey badge was its single highest performing asset when it came to driving US brand awareness.

But Rakuten briefed agency GMR to activate through the 2020/21 season through an initiative cohesively leveraging all of its Warriors’ assets that would ‘challenge the perception and prove that Rakuten is more than just a logo on a jersey’ and ‘generate authentic and ownable season-long engagement’.

The main objectives included:
• Further deepen Rakuten’s credibility with Warriors fans
• Effectively utilise and connect Rakuten’s sponsorship assets
• Establish measurable fan shopping behaviour at Warriors Shop using Rakuten
• Collaborate with Warriors partners/vendors to create a memorable initiative in the community

Activation

The sponsor and agency set out to amplify the partnership through a 360-degree integrated marketing initiative based around the 2020-21 City Edition Jersey called ‘Oakland Forever presented by Rakuten’.

Both the jersey design and the activation platform acted as an homage to the so-called ‘We Believe’ era in Warriors history: which culminated in the 2006/7 season when the team played in Oakland and ‘We Believe’ became the Warriors’ slogan for the last two months of the season when its underdog squad surprised the favoured Dirk Nowitzki led Mavericks in the NBA Playoffs

The campaign approach was to leverage nostalgia and joy to encourage engagement and create storytelling around the jersey and the era to create authentic and natural brand association for Rakuten. Elements of Rakuten and Warriors’ shared values were weaved through the campaign.

The resulting, multi-stage, multi-platform campaign was primarily fronted by Warriors current super star Steph Curry who was both a member of the ‘We Believe’ 2006/7 and a Rakuten Global Brand Ambassador.

Starting in November 2020 and running through into 2021, the activation was hubbed around a team/sponsor web page (at https://global.rakuten.com/corp/warriors/) and included a social-first launch linked to the Oakland forever jersey across team and sponsor channels led by a spearhead spot and supporting content.

One key strand of the activation programme was a sales purchase gift incentive program. A partnership with local retailer Oaklandish created a limited-edition ‘Oakland Forever’ product line that included two exclusive ‘Oakland Forever: We Believe items – a hoodie and a long sleeve shirt – given as Rakuten gifts as a purchase promotion. It was available to fans who made a $25+ purchase at Warriors Shop using Rakuten. This retail campaign strand was amplified with an influencer program.

Another strand running in summer 2021 supported the Oakland-based community through a court refurbishment programme at the historic McClymonds High School (MCHS) where the hoops court was redesigned to honour the school’s basketball legacy. Rakuten also worked with the Warriors Community Foundation and MCHS leadership to create a $10k annual deserving student scholarship (plus Rakuten gifts) to assist on the ‘journey to college’.

The campaign was created and executed by a joint team which included members from Rakuten, Golden State Warriors and GMR Marketing.

Outcome

According to the brand and agency, ‘Oakland Forever presented by Rakuten’ drove both top of the funnel awareness and team-linked brand buzz, plus it ‘significantly impacted’ Rakuten business metrics including site visits, sign-ups, sales, and first-time users.

Social statistics included:
• 84.7m impressions
• 9.3m engagements
• 28.1m video views

Publicity:
• 1.4bn publicity reach at $26.8m publicity value (per critical mention)

McClymonds Court Refurb:
• Publicity – 44.9m publicity reach and $1.4m publicity value (per critical mention)
• Social – 291k impressions, 5.8k engagements and 35k video views

Retail:
• 639% increase in buyers at Warriors Shop through Rakuten between the 2019-20 season and the 2020-21 season
• Oakland Forever contributed to 95% of buyers and orders at Warriors Shop
• 5,491 new Rakuten buyers

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