Syring looks to take Thunder brand global

By Michael Kinney

The Journal Record

OKLAHOMA CITY – Will Syring has quite a view from his office on the top floor of Chesapeake Energy Arena.

The new vice president of corporate partnerships for the Oklahoma City Thunder looks down on an empty field surrounded by unused roads, railroad tracks and ongoing construction.

But that is not what Syring sees when he stares out on the undeveloped property.

“We’re the anchor tenant here,” Syring said. “There’s a 600-person hotel that’s going to be built. You’re going to have an auditorium outside that’s going to be built right next to our arena. This energy that’s in this city – I needed to be a part of it.”

The Thunder hired Syring last month to help navigate the NBA franchise into the future as a global brand.

“The NBA has created new rules, in some cases relaxed some rules, that allow teams to be more aggressive and more creative in the global space,” said Brian Byrnes, Thunder senior vice president of sales and marketing. “Part of what Will is bringing is experience in working in that space and will help us to develop global partnerships that right now are new to the team.”

As the head of corporate partnerships, Syring’s job is to lead the franchise’s business strategy to optimize sponsorship sales and brand activation. He and his team plan to leverage the Thunder and the NBA’s global platform to elevate and maximize brand awareness for new and existing corporate partners.

“We provide opportunities for those businesses to reach our fans wherever they are, and that’s what I do,” Syring said. “I always see the sales function of the department and the activation side of our business.”

Syring joined the Thunder in the first week of February after he left his position leading the goal sales team with the NBA’s Chicago Bulls. It was a move he never thought he would be making.

“I wasn’t looking to leave Chicago,” Syring said. “I had just bought a home. I have a 6-month-old at the house, at the time was 4 months old. I didn’t want to leave Chicago.”

But after visiting Oklahoma City, Syring said he saw the potential for him, his family and the Thunder.

“It quickly became apparent to me that (Chicago) wasn’t a place where I wanted to be,” Syring said. “I needed to be here. For me, it was about being a part of something that is continuing to grow.”

When it comes to making a connection with businesses in Oklahoma, Syring already has previous experience. Before going to Chicago, he worked for Learfield Sports in Tulsa from 2010 to 2012.

“I got familiar with some of the same clients that I work with now at the Thunder, and it was an interesting time in my life because I competed against the Thunder,” Syring said. “Even lost sponsorship opportunities to the Thunder at a time when I thought this was a college market.”

Syring didn’t join an organization that was floundering and didn’t have success. In fact, it was the opposite. The Thunder was already at the top of their game and one of the best in the NBA.

“We are consistently in the top 10 of sponsorship rankings, consistently in top five, recently top two in TV rankings and local market as you compare ourselves to the NBA,” Syring said.

Yet, Syring said he wants to take the brand to new places by establishing more national and global partnerships.

“I envision a world where we have more integrated, more collaborative partnerships that take advantage of the reach this brand now has,” he said. “I think we’re just scratching the surface on what this team can do.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider with EyeAmTruth Media

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