How 21 Year Old Erikas Kirvelaitis Is Helping Drive BC Vytautas Popularity Forward With The Ball Bro
I recently had the opportunity to chat with Erikas Kirvelaitis, the 21-year old Communications Manager for Lithuanian Basketball team, Vytautas Prienai–Birštonas (also known by sponsor name BC Vytautas). With the popularity and overall global awareness of the team skyrocketing almost overnight – large in part to the roster addition of Ball brothers LiAngelo and LaMelo – Erikas’ job as Comms Manager became that much more influential in what has become a social media-dominated sports industry.
In fact, Erikas is credited with being the person that sent the initial communication (on Twitter nonetheless) to Harrison Gaines, the sports agent for then “free agent” Ball brothers (Melo and Gelo), the communication that eventually led the Ball family and Big Baller Brand to take their talents to Lithuania. When Erikas joined to help lead comms and press relations for the team, BC Vytautas’ Instagram following was hovering around 400 total. Today, they have surpassed the 100K mark, large in part is due to the popularity of the Ball family and brand.
However, much of the praise for this meteoric rise in engagement and attention to this Lithuanian basketball team is a result of the active partnership alliance that sponsor Big Baller Brand has formed with BC Vytautas, and the content and sponsor activations that Erikas has spearheaded.
We’ve seen the now infamous “Big Baller Brand Challenge Games” which were streamed on Facebook Live via the Ballislife official Facebook page – with the court, team jerseys and even refs all sporting the “triple B” logo. Even more curiously (but perhaps not shocking to some), we’ve even seen the CEO of Big Baller Brand, Lavar Ball, coach BC Vytautas to a couple of wins while subbing in for the team’s actual head coach. Has there ever been a time that a sponsor’s Chief Executive has coached a professional US sports team, while also being a current sponsor of said team? Not that I can think of.
Back in February, Big Baller Brand had announced it would be launching BBB Water, bottled in Lithuania in collaboration with Birstonas Mineral Water, parent company of the team’s naming rights partner, Vytautas. The water debuted during the BBB international tournament – a round-robin basketball tournament hosted by BC Vytautas from February 25th to 27th and has since been frequently featured in social posts published by the BC Vytautas accounts. Big Baller Brand plans to bring BBB water to the US in the near future.
All of these headlines can be attributed back to Erikas and his dream of getting the Ball brothers to play in Prienai, Lithuania.
Here are some of the highlights of our conversation on sponsorship and what Erikas has done to make a name for himself in the sports industry:
How long have you worked in the sports industry for, and what can you share about your current role?
I’ve been working in the sports industry, basketball specifically, for 5 years. Most of this time I worked as a basketball journalist/reporter. Currently, I also work as a reporter in the Lithuanian Basketball League – Betsafe LKL – and I have my personal basketball news site BasketDream.lt, which is one of the Euroleague's media partners. I started it with few of my friends back in 2014, and as a site, last season we were media partners of other Lithuanian basketball team, Palanga (from the 2nd division). This season we started working with BC Vytautas. Additionally, our page is the only official media partner of Euroleague from Lithuania. Due to a lot of work right now our page is not active as it was, but we are planning on a comeback!
My current job title is communications manager/press officer. However, I also do a lot more than just that. I write articles on our web page, manage all social media accounts, conduct interviews, and communicate with player agents (including the Ball family). I translate post-game press conferences from Lithuanian to English, liaise with all of the media, help identify team sponsors, organize the "Big Baller Brand" tournaments (among other sponsorship activations) and even scout new players sometimes.
Who are some of BC Vytautas’ major sponsors, and what type of sponsorship assets do you typically offer partners?
Two of the major BC Vytautas sponsors are mineral water and naming rights partner "Vytautas" and "Big Baller Brand". Of course, the signing of the Ball brothers gathered a lot of attention to our club and we are trying our best to use it to strengthen our club. We’ve attracted a few new sponsors since BBB joined.
We are really trying to offer all of the platforms we have: branding on the court, logos on uniforms, on dornas (courtside LEDs), signage all around inside and outside the arena, and branded content opportunities on our social media channels.
What role has Big Baller Brand played as a sponsor, and what role in supporting the team through BBB’s initiatives can we expect in the near future?
Since signing the Ball brothers and adding Big Baller Brand to our sponsor roster, BC Vytautas has paid all of its debts, signed few players and now is one few financially stable clubs in LKL.
The "Big Baller Brand Challenge Games" were great both for our club and our country. When we signed the Ball brothers, to my surprise, most of our new fans from the United States did not know that Lithuania has a rich basketball history, but it’s good to know that people are now starting to take notice.
Any advice you can share for aspiring sports industry professionals when it comes to their ambitions and goals for breaking into, and making an impact in the industry?
My advice would be simple - "do not stop and do not let anyone stop you". I had people saying to me that I won't do anything (when it comes to being successful in the sports business), but I just ignored them and chased my dreams. I set up goals every season, and I try to reach them every single day.
I am only 21, I still study in university, (and) yes, I have my personal basketball news site. Yes, I work in the Lithuanian Basketball League as a reporter. Yes, I work for BC Vytautas as a Communications Manager and Press Officer. Yes, I was able to get both Ball brothers to play for our club.
These are just small steps in my long journey. My biggest dream is to be a GM of a NBA team, and I will do my best to reach it.
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