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As Golden State Warriors seek another title, the team is growing revenue with an ever-evolving business strategy.

Golden State is in the NBA Finals for the sixth time since 2015 and is seeking its fourth championship with the star cast that includes Klay Thompson.Images: getty

The Golden State Warriors returned to the NBA Finals as a different organization than the one that last played on this stage three years ago.

Gone are the days of being described simply as an innovative professional sports franchise. Finishing their third year in the gleaming Chase Center, they have now established themselves as a robust and fast-growing sports and entertainment company – one that sources say is expected to generate more than $800 million in total revenue, a NBA record, during the 2021 -22 season. Sources claim this represents an increase of more than 50% since the 2018-19 season, the team’s final at Oracle Arena.

The way they have become a revenue-generating machine is a testament to the vision of pushing the boundaries espoused by co-owners Peter Guber and Joe Lacob, as well as the influence of Rick Welts, the team’s former president and director of operation which retired after last season. . The Warriors say this is also attributed to securing value-aligned partners in Silicon Valley, and beyond, to generate new revenue streams; striving to improve the fan experience for more than 60 million of their social media followers worldwide; and use the opening of the Chase Center, not as a finish line, but as an innovation accelerator.

“Chase Center, you’re building this $2.1 billion project and some people were like, ‘OK, we’ve done it,’ and you sit down,” said Brandon Schneider, president and chief operating officer of Warriors, referring to the arena and adjacent development. “But like, I’m on the edge of my seat right now talking to you, and Joe and Peter, that’s who they are. Some people want to work for companies where it’s like, ‘We’ve accomplished something. Now we can relax. It’s not who we are.

The team’s revenue now spans traditional areas such as corporate partnerships, ticketing, premium seating and media, as well as its concert and special events business, and new ventures such as its new content creation company and its adventure in the NFT market.

Brandon Schneider of the Warriors said that despite the growth, “we’re in the first quarter.”Golden State Warriors

Golden State executives say just eight years ago they had about 120 employees. Now there are nearly 500. They say that just three years ago they were a basketball team that rented an aging venue (Oracle Arena) in Oakland. Today, they are a thriving company in sports, media, entertainment and technology.

It is an organization in which strategic risk-taking is not only encouraged, it is required. One of the many guber-isms is: “If you don’t fail, you don’t try.” One of the pillars of their internal core values ​​is: “We change the game with innovation”. And they say their vision is summed up in four letters: BHAG (big, hairy, bold goal).

Never losing sight of the centerpiece – a basketball team seeking its fourth NBA title since 2015 – they strive to leverage the strength of this hugely popular brand, made possible by technology, to become world leaders in experiences and entertainment. They use their success as a basketball organization to pave the way for adjacent businesses.

Ask Schneider if there’s even a plan for these grand aspirations and he’ll smile thinking of what Lacob has long said: “Disney started out as a theme park and look where they are now.”

“It’s really a good [blueprint] because, for us, the theme park is the basketball team – which will always be at the center of what we do,” said Schneider. “If we’re successful over time, you’re going to see that grow a bit. We are in the first quarter.

And they quickly took the lead — innovation exists in virtually every corner of the organization.

There’s the G League, where they were among the first NBA teams to buy a franchise, which became the Santa Cruz Warriors, in 2011; executives said it was the first team in the G League to be profitable. There’s the foray into esports with the Golden Guardians, a League of Legends team. There’s Wi-Fi 6 at Chase Center, and Verizon is activating its millimeter-wave 5G network.

Because the Warriors own and operate the Chase Center, it allows them to control the fan experience at every touchpoint, including how best to deploy technology. The Warriors + Chase Center mobile app – designed by their technology innovation partner Accenture – is a particular point of pride. And the quest for perfection continues; it has already undergone 50 updates since its launch. In total, it has had 2 million downloads, 120,000 monthly active users, and over the past year, a 64% increase in new users.

“They’re obsessed with the fan experience,” said Donna Daniels, former HBSE executive and longtime NBA executive, who will take up the post of Chase Center general manager on June 20. “It’s really amazing to be able to do anything on this app, from pre-paid parking, to understanding where they might be in the arena, and at any time wanting something and understanding how long it may take to get there, a glass of wine or whatever.

The team synthesizes fan data after each Chase Center event.Images: getty

Improving the fan experience cannot be achieved without a commitment to data and analytics. With the Warriors, the analytics team synthesizes fan data after every Chase Center event. It is then sent to the top 90 people in the organization, including some on the basketball side. The team’s partner, Google Cloud, powers a massive data warehouse that lets the Warriors learn about their fans’ tastes and habits.

Then there are big projects that further differentiate the Warriors.

Last year, the Warriors became the first sports team to run an NFT drop with a collection that included various editions of the team’s NBA championship rings and commemorative ticket stubs. They hold the record for the highest sports NFT sale of all time ($871,591.27), and sales from the first drop alone topped $2 million.

Then, last December, came what was billed as a first-of-its-kind cryptocurrency partnership in professional sports between the Warriors and FTX, a US-regulated crypto exchange. This marked the Warriors’ first international rights partner; the NBA announced in 2019 that teams could sign international deals. CNBC reported that FTX would pay the Warriors $10 million.

In February, the Warriors relaunched SuiteXchange, an online resale marketplace for Chase Center suite owners to sell one-time event access to their suites. After its initial launch in 2019, it’s back with upgrades thanks to the team’s partnership with digital experience platform Arc XP. While they primarily built it for Chase Center customers, they are now in talks with other teams who may want to use the marketplace. The Warriors are the only team using the market, but Schneider thinks it could become the StubHub for the sequels.

And in April, the Warriors launched Golden State Entertainment, a vertical that will create original content to tell compelling stories both in and out of sports. Producing documentaries, collaborating with recording artists and hosting culturally relevant events are all on the horizon.

In an example of a cross-pollination culture permeating the entire organization, former recording artist David Kelly will lead the company as Chief Commercial Officer of GSE. But Kelly will also keep his day job – as the Warriors’ legal director.

Project ideas also come from a wide range of sources. The initial idea to dive into NFTs early last year came from Santa Cruz Warriors general manager David Fatoki, who urged the Warriors to move on at a time when even some top executives were still dark on space.

Overall, it has been a dizzying rise for the organization, with the focus on innovation only intensifying in recent years. Long gone are the days of being just a championship-level basketball team.

And after? When it comes to innovation, a popular guber-ism is that the organization is at the “beginning of the beginning”. In response, some minority investors started joking with him, saying, “Peter, when are we going to get to the middle of the beginning or the beginning of the middle?

“The answer,” Schneider said, “is never. It’s a state of mind.”