When the Spurs start their season on October 17, the familiar silver-and-black jerseys will have an extra detail: a Frost Bank logo. The NBA started allowing teams to sell space on uniforms last season, and the Spurs spent the 2017 season considering their options while waiting for the right partner to come along. After looking at brands around the country who were interested in sponsoring the team—and as StubHub took the Sixers, Goodyear got the Cavs, GE snagged the Celtics, Disney signed on for the Magic, etc.—the Spurs realized that their ideal partner had been under their noses the whole time.
“I’m not going to say that we’re different from everybody else, but this wasn’t going to be driven by pure economic terms or the first partner to say yes. We really wanted to find someone who really fit with us,” says Lawrence Payne, the team’s executive vice president of corporate partnerships, broadcasting, branding, and content. “Putting a logo on your jersey is not something we were taking lightly. When we started looking, we’ve known Frost. We’ve been doing business with them for a long time. So we thought, ‘Well, wait a minute. Let’s talk to these guys.’ ”
The San Antonio–based bank has been an important part of the Spurs organization over the years. Payne can trace that history back to Tom Frost Sr., the bank’s chairman emeritus, who passed away in August. “Tom was the man who financed the team coming here from Dallas to San Antonio in the first place, and Frost was integral to us joining the NBA in 1976,” Payne says. At the time, the organization had to pay the league “what seemed like a large sum of money” to enter, and Frost partnered with other banks to secure it. The bank also helped finance the team’s arena and install the first Sony jumbotron in North America in the facility in the late-eighties.
When the Spurs approached Frost about the deal, their shared history made it an easy decision for the bank. Executives recognized the culture fit, but they also knew that the Spurs’ national stature gave them the opportunity to raise the Frost brand’s profile in a big way—even while staying local.
“We’re really focused on organic growth, and in order to be most effective on that, we really need to get our brand recognition in the marketplace. The jersey patch partner opportunity gives us a unique chance to do that—to get impressions that we don’t think we’d get otherwise,” Frost CEO Phil Green explains. “This increases our name recognition more broadly than Texas. I think we’ve got customers in all fifty states. But our main focus is in Texas, and we’ve got some great markets in the state, and this really helps us get our name recognition out in those markets—Dallas and Houston, particularly.”
Like Payne, Green talks about the two organizations’ shared values when detailing why the deal makes so much sense. “The Spurs are trying to win championships, and we’re trying to provide great customer experiences and make people’s lives better,” he says.
The fact that the Spurs’ head coach Gregg Popovich is outspoken politically wasn’t a factor. “We’re aligning ourselves with the franchise, and that’s the most important thing for us. They’ve got a great culture of integrity, caring, and excellence,” Green says. “Our logo goes on the players that are on the floor, and those are the ones that people are going to watch on television and see our logo.”