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A Partnership That Went Bananas: Summit Recap

In a lively and insightful session at the Sponsorship Mastery Summit, Megan Sheffield, Director of Brand Partnerships at Zappos, and Jared Orton, President of the Savannah Bananas, took the stage to bring attendees behind the curtain, sharing how they created a unique and authentic partnership that truly went bananas.

Early on, the Bananas faced skepticism and laughter as they introduced unconventional elements like dancing players and all-you-can-eat food. Jared provided some context by explaining the team’s humble beginnings. Their motto was clear: “We exist to make baseball fun.”

And that’s precisely what they set out to do.

The team launched with a traditional sponsorship plan, but they realized sponsorships, particularly those that are innovative, weren’t something the organization was particularly good at. They realized their traditional sponsorship approach wasn’t adding value to their fans, partners, or anyone, really. They decided to pivot and focus on creating a unique fan experience.

By then the team caught the attention of Megan Sheffield, who was in the process of interviewing with Zappos.

On the Summit stage, Megan recounted how she first discovered the Savannah Bananas and was blown away by their innovative approach. She found a contact (at the time, there wasn’t a person specifically associated with sponsorships) and the conversation began.

As the conversation grew, Megan and Jared realized there was something serendipitous between Zappos and the Bananas. They knew the partnership wouldn’t work as a traditional sponsorship. They wanted something more meaningful and authentic.

Together, they came up with the perfect concept: “Love by Zappos.” This term embodied their shared passion for the sport, their athletes, and their fans. It was a brand-new way to approach partnerships, far from the traditional model of just slapping logos everywhere.

But the partnership didn’t stop at a contract signing. It evolved into something much more significant. Megan and Jared’s teams worked closely, forging a deep connection and alignment between the values of both organizations.

One of the more exciting parts of their collaboration was the introduction of custom Crocs, which Jared proudly wore during the session. The big reveal was a spectacle, filling the locker room with smoke and lights, creating an unforgettable moment for the athletes and fans alike.

It was a testament to how brands and teams can work together to create authentic and memorable experiences.

In addition to Crocs, Brooks also joined the partnership. They provided head-to-toe outfits for the Savannah Bananas’ fierce dance team, the Banana Nanas. The idea was to infuse fun into the sponsorship and add value to the fans.

Looking ahead to 2024, Jared hinted at massive plans for the Savannah Bananas. They’re going to bring their unique brand of baseball fun to even more people. They’re also exploring innovative ways to engage fans authentically.

A big part of that plan revolves around the partnership with Zappos. Megan expressed her excitement for the upcoming year, teasing potential tech innovations and activations that will further enhance the fan experience.

The goal is to make the partnership between Zappos and the Savannah Bananas not just about sponsorship but about creating unforgettable memories for fans.

Megan and Jared’s partnership showcased how authenticity, innovation, and a shared love for the fans can lead to a sponsorship that goes beyond traditional branding and becomes an integral part of the fan experience. Their story reminds us that when done right, sponsorships can be fun, authentic, and truly memorable.