Hiroshi "Mickey" Mikitani, Chairman and CEO, Rakuten, Inc.
@hmikitani_e

Dear Rakutenians,

The Golden State Warriors’ remarkable championship season gives us reason to celebrate. It also gives us reason to consider the question: Why do sports inspire us?

When we see a successful season played out like the one the Warriors just delivered, we are inspired by not only their success but also the way in which they represent the values we prize, like teamwork, innovation and a passion for excellence. We are excited to see those values so clearly demonstrated on the court and to see something of ourselves in the team and their achievements.

And what a team the Warriors are. Through injuries and adversity, highs and lows, the Dubs never backed down. They never abandoned their revolutionary brand of basketball that asks all-stars like Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green to put individual numbers aside for the sake of team success . The Warriors embody the motto: “Strength in Numbers.”

As we followed the team this season, we saw the Rakuten logo proudly displayed on the jerseys of the greatest basketball players in the world, as a badge of honor for us as well. Watching the Warriors, we at Rakuten saw something of ourselves reflected in their actions and their mindset, and, as is often the case when in the presence of greatness, were inspired to reach greater heights ourselves:

We saw our goal of working as one team in their selfless style of play. The Warriors are known for their disruptive, “positionless” brand of basketball, and this teamwork-oriented play is something we aspire to as well. It is a reflection of who we are as a company and how we pursue success every day.

We saw ourselves in their passion for innovation. The Warriors have long been leaders in the use of technology to improve the fan experience. They are innovators in social media, experiments like Google Glass, and mobile apps. This year’s NBA Finals MVP Steph Curry and teammate Andre Iguodala, who took home NBA Finals honours in 2015, even led the NBA’s first Players Technology Summit last year.

We saw ourselves in their global mindset. Two-thirds of the teams in the NBA have inked deals to allow sponsorship logos on team jerseys. The Warriors were one of the few who opted for a non-US sponsor. Like Rakuten, they are willing to reach across borders to engage the global community and the franchise is stronger for it.

This exciting season is not the first time we at Rakuten have seen ourselves reflected on the field (or court, as it were) of play. When FC Barcelona won the La Liga crown just last month, we also saw a team that shared our passion for excellence.

In 2011, Miyagi Baseball Stadium, the home of the Rakuten Golden Eagles, was severely damaged by the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. When baseball resumed a month later, the Eagles had to play “home games” in another location – and many of their fans followed. The Eagles won that day and after the game, some of the players ran out onto the field to show fans their gratitude. In those players, we saw a team that embodied our commitment to resilience.

The Golden State Warriors are now back to back NBA champs!

Of course, there are many positive business reasons for our partnership with the Warriors. They enhance and amplify our presence in Silicon Valley (in fact, they’re often referred to as “Silicon Valley’s team”) and the wider U.S. tech community. The connection with them helps us to attract, recruit and retain top talent. And working with one U.S. leader helps us attract others. Our recently announced alliance with Walmart may have happened with or without the Warriors – but our partnership and the positive attention it draws create a rich environment for sparking new ideas and connections.

As we celebrate this win, we should remember that our connection to this team is not just about business. There are many ways to generate business. In sponsoring a great team, we help generate inspiration – for our customers, our users and for ourselves as a team. We are inspired by sports because great teams demonstrate all we strive to be.

Thank you for your support and all your hard work, creativity and passion—these are all reasons that partnerships like this are both possible and deeply rewarding.

Mickey


The above message was originally sent as an email to all Rakuten employees on June 11, 2018, after the Golden State Warriors defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers in four straight games to win the 2017-18 NBA championships.