About the formula “Zalgiris = Kaunas” and a business that sells emotions
Zalgiris is one of the most prominent signs of Kaunas and it also stands behind the name ‒ the capital of basketball. Not only it brings together generations of Kaunas citizens under its green and white flag, not only it chants the name of Kaunas across Europe and beyond, but also it is an integral part of the city and its identity. Unė Marija Jurkštaitė, Chief Business Officer of BC Zalgiris, tells us about the invisible but very important work with the special brand of Zalgiris, which is dear to every citizen of the city.
If we talk about Zalgiris as a business – what is the specificity and exclusivity of this business?
Ours is different from ordinary business in two main ways: first, we invest all the money we earn back into the team or into the amenities and entertainment of our fans. Secondly, we are selling not goods or services, but emotions, being part of a community and a way of spending leisure time. Often at sales and marketing conferences, I wonder how fortunate we are to work with a product that brings a lot of joy to both us and the public. Can many companies boast of customers sticking their logo and photos on the walls, getting tattoos, and raising the team’s flags at their houses?
Zalgiris = Kaunas – How relevant is this formula today?
Zalgiris and Kaunas are inseparable. The city is called the Lithuanian capital of basketball not without a reason. We do not have statistics on how many times Kaunas is mentioned in the context of Zalgiris but the Euroleague estimates that their fan base currently has 290 million people: we have been playing intermittently in this league since 1986, so we can say with no doubt that the name of Kaunas is constantly being seen by the fans of European basketball.
Representatives of other Euroleague clubs keep saying that the atmosphere we have here in Kaunas is exceptional. We are constantly striving to ensure that guests of the city do not miss the opportunity to experience what Zalgiris means. According to our data, approximately 20,000 tickets are purchased by foreign guests each season. We do not have the possibility to record when Lithuanian residents buy tickets for their foreign friends, so it is likely that the number of foreign visitors is even higher. Plus, on the day of the match, team fans flood the city center. It is not by accident that many bars in Kaunas adjust their working hours and product stocks according to the schedule of Zalgiris!
You pay a great deal of attention to experience management – tell us more about it.
Photo: Unė Marija Jurkštaitė, Chief Business Officer of BC Zalgiris.
First and foremost, after each match, we analyze the experience of arena visitors, identify areas for improvement, and take action. We always find things to improve. In the administration, we have the idea that we sell not only basketball games but also a good time with friends, family or colleagues. For this reason, we also plan a visitor experience outside the arena. For example, we work with local and long-distance transport providers, Kaunas Police, and taxi service operators to make traffic to and from the arena as smooth as possible. Guests heading towards the building are greeted by Zalgiris decorations, stilters, music, and light effects. Once in the arena, you can dress up in team colors and try a variety of free entertainment. Each season we introduce new activities and show elements to not only meet the expectations of our visitors but also to exceed them.
What institutions and organizations in the city do you cooperate with and what initiatives do you contribute to?
Zalgiris is part of the Kaunas community, so whenever possible we always consider various initiatives for the citizens. We collaborate with various educational institutions in the project “Zalgiris ‒ in your school”. We have joint activities with the “Kaunas2022” team. As part of the “One Team” project, together with the administrative staff, project volunteers and program ambassadors – the players of the team – we invited the members of Special Olympics, Kaunas Recreation and Sports Club for Disabled, Kaunas Psychological Support and Counseling Center communities, also the members of Kaunas Juvenile Remand Prison-Correction House and Kaunas Probation Service to participate in the events.
One of the most interesting events/initiatives we have organized is the Zalgiris hackathon: a great way to refine innovative ideas in a short period of time. It was the first such event for us. We gained valuable experience, met a lot of interesting people, and chose several ideas born during the hackathon that we would like to put into practice.