Three Fundamental PR Lessons from the San Antonio Spurs

The San Antonio Spurs fell to the Oklahoma Thunder in game six of the 2016 NBA Western Conference semifinals. It was a disappointing outcome for every Spurs fan, yet the team returned home to this:

The picture shows a crowd of devoted fans on the streets of San Antonio, waiting for the team’s plane to arrive.


How is this relevant to businesses?  Imagine having customers with the same amount of loyalty and support that Spurs fans have for their team. Brand consumers could be those fans waving the flags marked with the brand logo. Of course, brand loyalty comes easy when you win five NBA championship titles, but the Spurs have achieved a high level of success on the court of public opinion as well. Just as the Spurs have mastered the fundamentals of basketball, the organization also has its PR fundamentals down to a fine science.


Here are three fundamental PR lessons we can learn from the Spurs:


1. Give your fans a name


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The Spurs recognize their fans as the “Spurs family.” The organization has given their fans a name that they can identify themselves by, and have in turn created a personable relationship between their brand and its consumers. The “Spurs family” concept has also fostered cohesiveness amongst the organization’s influencers and stakeholders. The name is consistently used through victories and losses in media interviews, social media posts and marketing tactics. The consistency of the name recognition helps build brand loyalty.


2. Combine traditional media and new media

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The image above depicts a billboard used by the San Antonio Spurs to advertise the team’s goal for the 2015 NBA playoffs. The last phrase on the billboard reads “#GoSpursGo.” The Spurs used traditional media (the billboard) to attract attention, and they encouraged the use of new media (the hashtag) to stimulate engagement on social media. Almost every brand knows by now that limiting PR strategies to solely traditional media is not an option. Cross-promoting traditional and new media can make for a well-balanced media mix that will strengthen both platforms.


3. Be real


Tim Duncan, once named the 10th “Worst Dressed Athlete of All Time” by Complex magazine, has stayed true to his own sense of style despite the collective critical remarks from the media. Although Timmy’s style does not constitute the entire Spurs brand (thankfully), it does play a small role. Coach Pop’s “unique” interviewing methods, the cheesy H-E-B commercials, the persistency of players to recognize the team’s accomplishments above their own, the multitude of international players, etc. – all of these elements have meshed together to define the Spurs brand. The San Antonio Spurs have created a strong brand name by being who they really are. The organization does not use PR to fool their fans; they use it to show exactly who the Spurs are. This lesson teaches us to use PR tools to highlight the authenticity of our brands. This will ultimately lead to an honest, sincere relationship between brand and consumer.


In addition to being a 5-time championship organization, the San Antonio Spurs can also call themselves PR champs. The team would probably still have much of its fan base without the PR, but for those of us who can’t dunk a basketball over LeBron James, these PR fundamentals are critical to our fan base.


Written by Marissa Martinez, communications intern at esd&associates.

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