NFL, Olympics boost quiet Woodinville company to top of sports marketing scene

Aug 15, 2015, 4:36 PM | Updated: Aug 17, 2015, 11:19 am
A Seahawks fan holds a sign created by Woodinville-based BDA Inc., one of the myriad branded sports...
A Seahawks fan holds a sign created by Woodinville-based BDA Inc., one of the myriad branded sports merchandise items pioneered by the company. (BDA Inc.)
(BDA Inc.)
LISTEN:

When the NFL wanted to do something to help fans stay warm while attending the first cold weather Super Bowl last year, the league’s first call was to BDA Inc.

Never heard of them? The Woodinville-based company creates branded merchandise for everyone from the NFL to the Olympics, and has become one of the biggest branding agencies in the world &#8212 all thanks to our love of logos.

Remember that game where thousands of 12s sported green hair with Seahawks headbands? How about the entire stadium holding up special signs on Monday Night Football?

All examples of BDA’s handiwork.

“It really is exciting, it never gets old for me,” said Jay Deutsch, the ebullient CEO and co-founder of the company that now calls several buildings home, along Woodinville’s ever-growing row of wineries.

“I love it,” he said of his reaction whenever he sees some logoed merchandise like a Mariners bobblehead the company created.

Deutsch’s enthusiasm is evident, his passion exploding out of him as he speaks.

He’s been that way all his life, especially about sports.

But growing up in the Rainier Valley, little did he know he’d ever turn his love into a $300 million-a-year marketing powerhouse.

It started as a teenager when he and his best friend Eric Bensussen got the idea to sell some collectible pins at Seafair for the smaller hydroplane teams that didn’t have the budgets of a Budweiser.

“We would go home, we’d make the buttons, punch them in a little button machine and come in an make $5 a button and be like, ‘this is amazing!'” Deutsch said. “But if you put little ‘racing team’ on the bottom of it, you could get anywhere from $40 to $50 bucks for a little button.”

Emboldened by their success and the hubris of youth, the duo set their sights on a much bigger fish: the NFL.

They were all of 17.

“Everyone said ‘you guys are crazy, you’re nuts,'” Deutsch said.

But the two weren’t deterred.

They’d seen all the Seahawks fans flocking to the Kingdome from Alaska and pitched a novel idea: sticking the slogan “Alaska’s team” over the Hawks logo on a sweatshirt.

“We called up the NFL and they actually gave us a license to do that,” Deutsch said. “Today, I’m not sure that would happen, but it happened in November of ’84 and our company started.”

Fast forward 31 years. Jay, Eric and their company have grown into one of the biggest in the business.

They’re responsible for everything from the bobblehead resurgence to stadium giveaways around the world. But their success is about far more than simply sticking a logo on something.

BDA comes up with and pulls off marketing ideas few would have the chutzpah to even try. Like the time Major League Baseball asked them to do something really special for the Kansas City All-Star Game.

What they came up with was a T-shirt giveaway across the entire stadium that would lay out the American flag.

And then they had to actually figure out how to do it, precisely calculating how to get the right color on each person, how to get the shirts to them, and have it go off without a hitch live on national television.

It was a home run. The display went of flawlessly.

Successes like that have extended far beyond the field. For example, when you go into a bar or restaurant and see Corona umbrellas and other extravagant displays, that’s BDA’s work as well.

The company now counts such global brands as Starbucks, Ford, Home Depot, Geico, and dozens of others among its clients.

They’ll even be playing a big part in the eagerly anticipated, billion dollar launch of the new Star Wars franchise.

So what’s their secret sauce? It’s the same spirit that led them to call the NFL in the first place.

“That was part of the magic and still is today is that we’re not trying to put rules around what you can or can’t do,” Deutsch said. “It’s what you might do.”

The real genius is BDA’s uncanny ability to tap into emotion, whether it’s someone’s love of the Seahawks or their car.

While I was surprised that people would actually pay for merchandise like coffee mugs from Home Depot &#8212 which are prominently available on a BDA-created display at checkout stands nationwide &#8212 Deutsch says it makes perfect sense.

“If you own an F-150 truck, you’re proud of that truck. So putting out merchandise with those logos may not identify with you, but there is a group of folks that would die to not only own that and collect that, but they will actually pay for it.”

But even though he’s made millions getting people to buy stuff, Deutsch says he’s most proud of using the power of persuasion to raise millions for causes like ovarian cancer and domestic violence &#8212 even if it came from crazy hair giveaways.

“It’s one thing to do great business and make good money,” Deutsch said. “It’s another thing to pay it forward. And I think that’s kind of what’s in the DNA of BDA.”

Local News

crime, shooting...
Associated Press

Clark County deputies shoot, kill suspect after pursuit

Authorities say police shot and killed an assault suspect after a pursuit near Vancouver in southwest Washington.
1 day ago
rapid covid test...
MyNorthwest Staff

UW doctor: When to use a PCR versus rapid antigen test for COVID-19

Dr. Geoff Baird with UW Medicine has a simple formula for weighing the two main COVID test types: PCR (polymerase chain reaction) and rapid antigen.
1 day ago
USS John McCain...
KIRO Radio Newsdesk

Naval Station Everett welcomes USS John S. McCain

The USS John S. McCain is now docked at its new homeport, Naval Station Everett.
1 day ago
vaccine booster, heart...
Stephanie Klein

What to know as Oct. 18 deadline for vaccine mandate approaches

The deadline for state workers, including educators, and healthcare workers to show their employers proof that they're vaccinated against COVID-19 is Monday, Oct. 18.
1 day ago
medina...
KIRO 7 News Staff

Police: Two in custody after hit-and-run suspect rams patrol car; officer fires shots

Two people were taken into custody after a driver suspected of a hit-and-run rammed an officer’s patrol vehicle, resulting in the officer firing shots at the car Saturday night in Medina.
1 day ago
Seattle library...
MyNorthwest Staff

Last of Seattle Public Library branch closures from pandemic comes to an end

Seattle has reopened its NewHolly library branch, meaning that for the first time since the start of the pandemic, all 27 of the city's branches are now up and running.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

How to Have a Stress-Free Real Estate Experience

The real estate industry has adapted and sellers are taking full advantage of new real estate models. One of which is Every Door Real Estate.
...
IQ Air

How Poor Air Quality Is Affecting Our Future Athletes

You cannot control your child’s breathing environment 100% of the time, but you can make a huge impact.
...
Swedish Health Services

Special Coverage: National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

There are a wide variety of treatment options available for men with prostate cancer. The most technologically advanced treatment option in the Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform.
...
Marysville Police Department

Police Opportunities in a Growing, Supportive Washington Community

Marysville PD is looking for both lateral and entry level officers. Begin or continue your career in law enforcement for a growing, supportive community.
...
Comcast

Small, Minority-Owned Businesses in King County and Pierce County Can Now Apply For $10,000 Relief Grants Through Comcast RISE

Businesses in King County and Pierce County can apply beginning on October 1, 2021, at www.ComcastRISE.com for a chance to receive a $10,000 relief grant.
Courtesy of JWatch Photography....
Experience Anacortes

Summer Fun Activities in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.
NFL, Olympics boost quiet Woodinville company to top of sports marketing scene