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.
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.