The Mad Ants unveiled their new jerseys today and they highlight a partnership the team has with the Lutheran Health Network, which is now a presenting sponsor of the D-League team.
"If you are wondering what entails in a presenting sponsorship, broadly, anywhere you see the Mad Ants' logo, our mascot or our players, you're going to see the Lutheran Health Network brand," said Mad Ants president Jeff Potter, whose team opens its season Nov. 22 at Texas.
"There are signs, media and things like that, but more importantly there are a lot of things we do in the community … and I think we have a perfect partner for that in the Lutheran Health Network."
The Lutheran Health Network has provided sports medicine services to the Mad Ants since the team's inception in 2007.
One of the initiatives that will be highlighted now is the Mad Ants' Get Fit Challenge, a program designed to encourage kids to stay fit and be active. The Mad Ants will visit area schools and trumpet the importance of a healthy lifestyle.
"Obesity and health, it's a big issue, and we want to help our community and help attack that, and try to give kids a reason to be active," Potter said, adding kids who take part will get awards such tickets to games and opportunities to meet the players.
Said Brian Bauer, interim CEO of Lutheran Health Network: "To the players in the room, you are a powerful resource for little kids when you go into schools. You may not realize it, but when you go into an elementary school and the little kids are staring up at you, and you tell them to exercise at least 30 minutes a day, you may be one of the only positive influences in their lives. This is a partnership for better health in the community and a partnership that's going to really help the economic development of Fort Wayne."
Only in recent years has the NBA allowed sponsors to place logos on uniforms of teams in the D-League and WNBA.
In a video statement played at the Memorial Coliseum press conference, NBA deputy commissioner and chief operating officer Adam Silver said: "(This) is a unique marketing opportunity. It is the ultimate in branding, providing our partners with exceptional visibility and a direct association with some of the very best basketball in the world.
"Thirty percent of all NBA players have now participated in the D-League … and the Mad Ants have played a leading role in the NBA D-League's growth and would be a model franchise in any league."
Meanwhile, Mad Ants coach Conner Henry, who was hired Oct. 8, said the team has found five players through its four open tryouts in Memphis, Detroit, Milwaukee and Fort Wayne.
"We feel like we found five players we can submit to the league for approval and hopefully integrate them into training camp and see if they fit, see if they make the club," said Henry, who today met players such as Ron Howard and Chris Porter for the first time.
"The NBA's process is to give anybody a chance to make the D-League or make a roster and continue the dream of playing and reaching a certain level. The likelihood is you won't get somebody who just walks in off the street and makes the club, but there are guys who are coming out of college … and played an important role on their college team that we looked at."