With the Celtics, Vista is redefining the role of sports marketing partnerships by reinventing the model.
They're not using this partnership with one of the most decorated franchises in sports to shine a light on themselves. Vista is instead promoting small businesses in the Boston and New England area. Since last season began, they've helped over 260 small businesses.
That includes the Power Forward Small Business Grant, a program developed in partnership with the Celtics and the NAACP. The program provides financial grants of $25 thousand and marketing support to Black-owned small businesses in Boston and New England. Both the Celtics and Vista have committed $1 million to this program.
Below, you can see the power of that program in action.
Their efforts to build a better community also include the Small Business of the Game. Vista highlights a local small business at each Celtics home game to elevate their marketing. They do so by donating their TV-visible courtside signage. Instead of Vista promoting themselves on the jumbotron and some of the most lucrative advertising locations in the arena, local small businesses get the spotlight.
They also provide a feature in Celtics Tonight, a game program given to 7,500 attendees. And there are promotions on the Celtics' social accounts, which reach 18.1 million fans. Plus, some great TV spots about the partnership and boosting small businesses.
When it came time to celebrate Kevin Garnett’s jersey getting raised to the rafters at TD Garden, Vista spotlighted local designers with a design activation. The “Anything is Possible” card tribute to Garnett saw local Boston small business, Fallen Cargo, create a piece of art featuring KG and his famous tagline. The artwork then got transferred onto cards laid across two sections of seats to have at the ceremony.
There are also Food for Heroes and Small Biz Assist. Two inspiring community service programs, where the Celtics and Vista purchased meals from various small businesses, which, in turn, fed members of the local community. For example, Food for Heroes provided meals to frontline workers during the initial phases of the pandemic, while Small Biz Assist supplied meals to the hungry within its communities.
Ted Dalton, the Celtics’ Chief Partnership Officer, said the initial partnership between Vista and the Celtics began when the Celtics started Food for Heroes during the pandemic.
Dalton expressed both companies wanted to see how they could make “small feel big”, especially during the pandemic. From there, the conversation to create more amazing partnerships took off.
Now, as the Celtics pursue banner 18, they and Vista have partnered with ten small businesses in the Boston area for Small Business Swag Drop, an exclusive merchandise giveaway only available at select small businesses in the Boston area, driving foot traffic to those businesses.
When asked how they came up with this specific promotion, Vista's chief marketing officer, Ricky Engelberg, conveyed that as the Celtics have continued gaining momentum, Vista wanted to figure out how to make small businesses a core part of the journey.
Dalton shared that Vista and the Celtics teams are in constant communication to brainstorm the best partnership initiatives, and the Small Business Swag Drop wasn’t any different.
He credits Vista for initiating the idea, saying it fit well with everything else they had accomplished as partners. And between it being the playoffs and the weather turning warm, it's a great time of year to run a promotion such as this one, continuing what the Celtics and Vista have been doing throughout the season to drive traffic to small businesses.
Engelberg said they "wanted to find ways to make the Greater New England area fully painted green." They wanted to see support everywhere for the Celtics and for the small businesses within the area.
"Few things truly unify like sports," stated Engelberg, citing the electricity one can feel walking around the North End or outside the TD Garden on game day. "The partnership is able to lift everyone up and is so positive to all involved."
To that point, Dalton communicated that partnering with small businesses in the community is rewarding for all parties involved. Along with the tangible value this brings to small businesses in Boston, it creates an opportunity to partner with a larger corporation, something difficult to accomplish otherwise, based on size and scale.
Engelberg said that through this partnership, they want to unify the small businesses in the area. And the power of joining forces with an iconic franchise translates to people, whether it's because of the courtside signage or seeing these businesses get honored at games, coming into their stores. Engelberg described it as "uplifting."
When asked about the feedback they're hearing, Dalton relayed the positive impact of this promotion is visible with people wearing the swag around town. He added they "tend to hear if there is negative feedback from the fans, and there hasn’t been any of that, which is great."
Engelberg relayed fans are excited to get free merchandise, and it drives traffic into the small businesses. In turn, the responses from these businesses have been incredibly positive. Some even say their busiest days have been when fans come to collect their free merchandise.
So, given the success and positive impact of the Small Business Swag Drop promotion, as early as it might be to think about, do the Celtics and Vista anticipate these giveaways at small businesses throughout Boston becoming a playoff tradition?
"The Celtics would love to continue to partner, especially with how great the playoffs are going this year," says Dalton. He expressed they are thrilled with the work happening and how it has impacted so many people positively.
Engelberg stated, "this has been a very exciting journey and equally as exciting for the offseason as well as next season to build on this."
He knows that as the playoffs progress, the fever pitch throughout the city will only grow. The Celtics' run through the postseason is paving the way for them and Vista to continue to "paint the city green."
Their aspiration is to "find a way to light up the city with this partnership and have the small businesses truly feel that when the Celtics succeed, it benefits the entire community."
Promotions like the Small Business Swag Drop are bringing that to fruition, as Vista and the Celtics make sure the small businesses in the area share in that success.