The Detroit Pistons are among the top 10 most winningest NBA championship teams in basketball history. Though discounted by the league and the national media for “playing too dirty,” being characterized as ‘thugs’, or not being “flashy enough,” the Pistons played to sold out crowds night after night in their beloved hometown. Years later, however, with more losses than wins in recent years, team fandom had begun to wane and the Pistons were all but forgotten within the basketball zeitgeist. With ticket sales down and team performance marginally improved, we had to find a way to activate the Piston’s fanbase and reinvigorate excitement in the team beyond what happens on the court.
To do so, we didn’t have to look much further than the city itself.
Like the Pistons, the city of Detroit has also been discounted, despite its invaluable contributions to the American narrative through industry, music, and art. During its tough years, Detroit had become the butt of jokes, an easy target for pundits and media voices. This allowed us to position the Pistons as more than just a team but an embodiment of the city’s spirit, a symbol which represents the ethos of Detroit - it’s us versus everybody.
With this in mind, we set out to establish a brand campaign aimed to activate the city’s inhabitants based on their identity and Detroit-pride, because our validation doesn’t depend on outsiders, it starts with us. Detroit for Detroit.
So we started with an anthem video, which levered the team’s rally cry to promote solidarity among Detroiters (“Deeetroit Basketball”) and featured music and narration by Detroit’s up and coming, homegrown artist, B-Free.
We dropped the anthem online and on-air on draft day and partnered with the creator of the ‘Detroit vs Everybody’ brand, local entrepreneur, Tommey Walker, to establish a secondary logo mark for the team which explicitly communicates the new brand positioning and contributes to the city’s culture.
The fan reaction was immediate.
And ticket sales increased, setting the Pistons up for a new season with new vigor and a renewed excitement by transcending sport fandom and becoming an icon of identity.