The Spurs are San Antonio’s team. From the fiesta colors to the pandemonium across the city on gamedays, or better, playoff time, this fact has been very clear to me since I moved to the San Antonio area some years ago. What is also clear to me is the Spurs need to expand their brand to the surrounding regions. This plan has been talked about in the past, and the time is right to move it into overdrive.
Now I’m not talking about moving out of the city. Again, this is San Antonio’s team and there’s no reason for them to leave anytime soon. The Spurs have a ton of momentum, especially after selecting Victor Wembanyama with the first pick of the 2023 NBA Draft. They also have a brand-new half-billion dollar basketball facility opening near La Cantera this summer.
The Spurs are the epicenter of the basketball universe - their first Las Vegas Summer League game was a sellout. Summer League! Attendance numbers will be sky high at the AT&T Center this season for a team that’s not a championship contender. There’s no doubt the future's bright in San Antonio.
The Spurs could have an even bigger footprint outside of San Antonio
The Spurs played two home games in Austin and one neutral site game in Mexico City last season. They also returned to the Alamodome for one game to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the team. Hosting matchups outside of San Antonio didn’t exactly curry favor with local fans, but it was well received with fans who reside outside of the city limits. This is likely what the Spurs want to do - build a bigger brand.
Is playing more games outside of the AT&T Center the only way for the Spurs to expand their regional footprint? No, and the amount of home games they host in surrounding cities will depend on multiple factors. The Spurs are here to stay in San Antonio, so taking their show on the road a couple of times each season is a simple matter of seeing dollar signs. Who wouldn't want to watch players like Victor Wembanyama, Keldon Johnson, and Devin Vassell suit up near where they live?
The NBA has taken on a global initiative to try to become more of a worldwide brand. With that goal in mind, it makes sense that the Spurs want to expand their regional brand identity even if it isn’t hosting home games in alternative locations.
Though the season runs from October to June if your team is lucky, what can franchises do to remain relevant during the offseason? Teams need to be creative, and with neighboring communities craving basketball, why not use that time to build their brand?
There are plenty of ways for the Spurs to expand their brand in South Texas. They can host basketball camps in areas like Laredo or Brownsville. They can schedule fan fests in places like Corpus Christi or Edinburg and have players like Jeremy Sochan and Julian Champagnie headline those events. They can hold practices and preseason games in Mexico City or areas along the border like Matamoros or Nuevo Laredo.
To top things off, there are budding discussions about possibly building a new arena in downtown San Antonio. If that's the case, then there is massive potential for the Spurs to reap the benefits that come with hosting home games in the heart of the city. Those dollar signs and additional fans are great, but it could also help the Spurs reclaim the spotlight - like the one they held 1999 to 2014 when they won five NBA championships.
When I was a kid, the New York Jets would hold open practices on Long Island, which was a ways from their home base at what is now MetLife Stadium in eastern New Jersey. Those practices afforded me the chance to get to know the team and see how hard the players I looked up to worked on the field to become the best. More than anything, it built lasting memories that stuck with me all these years later.
The Spurs have an opportunity to do that for countless kids in South Texas. Who knows, maybe their influence can produce another Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan, or Victor Wembanyama. Failing to extend their reach would be a disservice to all the adjacent markets that crave to see them. But don't fret San Antonio, expanding their regional footprint will only further cement the Spurs as San Antonio's team.