Senior Director of Marketing Graham Wincott is a sports business veteran. From the MLS pitch of the Colorado Rapids to the Suns hardwood at Footprint Center, he has influenced some of the most dynamic brand initiatives in the industry – and he is just getting started.
Amidst his 14th year in the NBA and fifth season with the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury, Wincott leads the teams charged with amplifying the brand story of basketball in the Valley. The path was not linear as others, but Wincott is thankful for the journey that has led him to this point in his career.
His passion for event marketing and basketball set him on this trajectory and he has not looked back.
“I got my start in event marketing around music promotion, festivals and concerts but was looking for something more permanent. Sports seasons are stable and consistent and that drew my attention,” said Wincott.
“I started working in arena football as an intern and then parlayed that into a full time job doing sales for the Colorado Rapids in Major League Soccer. From there I was able to secure a full time marketing position with the Denver Nuggets.”
Over the next nine years, Wincott earned his stripes and climbed the ladder to Director of Marketing. His crowning achievement in the Mile High City was the complete rebrand of the Denver Nuggets. Unveiled in 2018 but in the works for years, the overhaul included evolved logos, uniforms and brand positioning. Then the Valley called and Wincott embarked on an exciting opportunity in the Grand Canyon State.
To Wincott, sports provide the ultimate platform for storytelling. Its an honor and responsibility he does not take lightly.
“I think what's really cool about being in marketing for a sports team is just how much the product matters to people. Something like a sports team, and specifically the Suns, means a lot to the community and it means a lot to a lot of people. The power of sports brings communities together and to be the person that oversees how the brand shows up visually and how the storytelling comes out, is really powerful and carries tremendous weight.”
Wincott challenges himself and team to be stewards of the Suns and Mercury brands, and honor the fan bases the teams embody.
“It is an important thing for us as a brand is to reflect the communities that support us. How can we use our brand to elevate voices to tell a story of equality and inclusion, and really bring people in the Phoenix market and around the world together around the Suns, Mercury and basketball.”
From celebrating the franchise’s first number one draft pick in Deandre Ayton to navigating a pandemic and league restart, unveiling the forever-popular Valley uniform and design ethos, to traversing both NBA and WNBA Finals runs, it’s been a tumultuous five years thus far for Wincott and his teams. The adversity also brought the opportunity for Wincott to witness transformative years for the organization. Wincott is quick to give appreciation to his colleagues as the sum is greater than his individual efforts.
“Something that may not be obvious is how many people contribute to make something a success. This really is a team effort across the board on everything that we do. I might come up with a concept of a program that the marketing team or the brand wants to put together. But then there's an army of people that are contributing through that. I want to make sure that people know that every one of our initiatives has likely, 100-plus people behind it, making it happen.”
The Herculean effort of the full brand department was on full display when the team unveiled its ORIGINATIV platform with the 2022-23 City Edition uniform. The campaign and corresponding uniform honors the cultures, traditions and native languages of the 22 Tribal Nations of Arizona. Wincott, Senior Director of Live Presentation Shawn Martinez and Creative Director Chris Grasha embarked on the research and design process in early 2020 with consultation from a Navajo designer, nonprofits and experts.
“It was important to us that we have a City Edition uniform that honors the original residents of Arizona who built the state that we call home. The Suns and the Tribal Nations share a respect for family, community, the environment and basketball,” said Wincott in the announcement.
And while he had youthful hopes to be the guy running out of the tunnel each night, Graham is enjoying his NBA dream and sharing it with his family and friends that inspire him.
“I didn't make it to the league, but being able to make an impact is inspiring. Every day we're going to do something that the fans are going to see and react to and while I don't know what that reaction is going to be, it's exciting.”
“Ultimately, when I'm done here, I can walk away knowing I’ve left it better than when I arrived.”
“I'm fortunate I have a family now with two young kids, and I get to bring them to events and games, and I get to see that same look on their face I had when I was a child. It’s that perspective that really keeps me coming back year after year.”