NBA Patch: Q&A With Chicago Bulls’ Matt Kobe & Zenni Optical’s Sean Pate

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Chicago Bulls Zenni Patch

There was a lot of restlessness when the NBA first announced it would allow teams to have an advertising patch placed on uniforms. It was going to “ruin the game.” It was going to “distract” players and fans. It was “selling out.”

Nonetheless, the league survived and fans kept watching. An average of 17.7 million people tuned into each game of the finals this year. The league has also been pulling in viewers from across the globe via streaming since its players continue to come from various international locales.

The Chicago Bulls took notice and signed on with a five-year patch deal with Zenni Optical, a San Francisco-based eyeglass manufacturer. The Zenni patch will be on the left chest of each and every version of Bulls jerseys through the season, the playoffs and summer league. brandchannel spoke to the two executivess involved with the deal: Matt Kobe, Vice President, Business Strategy & Analytics for the Chicago Bulls; and Sean Pate, Brand Communications Officer for Zenni.

These patches have been coming for some time. How did the idea for the Zenni patch evolve? 

Mike Kobe Chicago Bulls

Kobe: The ’17-’18 season was the first year NBA teams were permitted to place a partner patch on their jerseys for all preseason, regular season and playoff games. Last week, the Bulls became the 27th team to put a patch on their jersey with the launch of the Zenni partnership.

The Bulls were very deliberate and methodical in their search for a jersey patch partner as this asset unites two brands in a very substantial way. We placed a high priority on partnering with a company that shares many of the same values as the Bulls.

After several conversations, it was clear that Zenni placed a high importance on family and impacting the community. We look forward to driving awareness for Zenni with our fans across the globe and helping them to grow their business.

How long did it take to complete the deal? And what was the driving factor?

Zenni Optical Sean Pate

Pate: It came together in an amazingly quick time frame over about six weeks. Knowing that partnering with a globally relevant brand like the Chicago Bulls offered a game-changing opportunity to help establish Zenni’s brand as a household name, we decided to move very quickly to take advantage of the immediate potential.

The integrated partnership includes the Zenni logo patch on every Bulls jersey as well as several community programs which will be executed throughout the season. Zenni will be prominent on the Bulls’ social channels, allowing us to leverage the third-largest social following in North American sports, further highlighting the Zenni name and brand in front of the loyal Chicago fan base around the world.

The Bulls brand is iconic and global and we aspire to have the same domestic and international relevance for Zenni. We’ve grown exponentially over 15 years in business, selling roughly 25 million glasses and plan to continue to grow internationally in the near term.

How did the design process work for the patch between the team, the company and the NBA?

Kobe: The Bulls creative team collaborated with Zenni’s creative team to execute mock-ups of the patch on the different color Bulls jerseys within the guidelines provided by the NBA. Once aligned, we provided the final designs to the NBA for review and approval.

What results do the Bulls expect from the appearance of the new patch?

Chicago Bulls Zenni Optical Patch

Kobe: We always viewed the patch as an asset that allowed us to form a new relationship with a partner with an eye toward incorporating other assets that impact our fan experience and the Chicago community. Our partnership with Zenni will deliver on both of those elements.

Zenni will be sponsoring several digital campaigns that give our fans around the world unparalleled, behind-the-scenes access to our players throughout the season. In addition, we will work together on community initiatives aimed at giving individuals across Chicagoland access to eyewear.

What are the expectations and what message is Zenni hoping to send with this brand marketing?

Pate: First and foremost, brand awareness, validation and legitimacy. We’re an older business, but a very, very young brand, and we have some very well-known competitors in our market. Despite our size and foothold within the online eyewear industry, we still have so much room to grow by introducing ourselves to those who haven’t found us organically over the years. We already have more than 1 million customers in the Chicago market but expect to multiply those with the Zenni value proposition being promoted prominently.

Zenni is on a mission to provide high-quality, stylish and affordable glasses to millions of consumers around the world. With the Bulls platform and support, we are able to expand our educational message about the need for “eye protection before correction” and value proposition of finding a perfect pair of prescription glasses for roughly 75% less than you would pay at retail.

Any concerns that a second patch might appear someday soon?

Kobe: The Chicago Bulls have one of the most iconic jerseys in all of sports and one that is recognized across the globe.  We were deliberate in our search because we understood the power of placing another brand on the jersey.  We are ecstatic to have Zenni be that brand and haven’t heard of any plans from the league indicating it was even looking at additional patch locations for the foreseeable future. 


Get more insights in our Q&A series.

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