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Detroit youth are a slam dunk

The most notable names in social responsibility know the importance of engaging kids and teens. The Detroit Pistons, a franchise within the National Basketball Association, is no different.

Gen Z strategists discuss their ideas as Detroit Pistons executive leadership listen intently with their chairs turned.

With 60-plus years of dedication to Detroit, the Detroit Pistons are known for using basketball as a way to inspire community action. Its latest goal? Appeal to younger generations and incorporate initiatives that help meet community needs.

Despite the well-oiled machine it created over time, the Detroit Pistons isn’t solely looking to its in-house team for help. While the franchise has developed programs with youth in mind, it needs to get the necessary marketing reach to make a significant impact. Knowing there’s power in numbers, the Pistons organization is tapping in to Detroit youth to align with younger generations.

Erika Swilley, vice president of community and social responsibility for the Detroit Pistons, reacts to the Gen Z strategists’ feedback.

Erika Swilley, vice president of community and social responsibility, and Bilal Saeed, vice president of brand marketing and strategy, met with a group of the city’s brightest Gen Z strategists to discuss how the Detroit Pistons could use its platform to positively engage and impact young people. The conversation occurred as part of the Gen Z Design Sessions, a youth-led forum connecting Michigan business and civic leaders with brilliant young minds. Each session is held by The Skillman Foundation and facilitated by Jeremiah Steen.

As the conversation progressed, two focus areas were proposed to the franchise: youth council empowerment and increased interactions between the Pistons and the community outside of games.

Jourdan Taylor, Gen Z strategist, shares her insights.

“I’m very interested in the youth being more involved, having more initiative and having more responsibility,” said Jourdan Taylor.

With a youth council, social impact team, and community-based initiatives, the Detroit Pistons have incorporated various programs to increase youth engagement. The youth advisors suggested the Detroit Pistons create more youth-led campaigns, utilize relationships with schools and youth-focused organizations, and partner with local businesses.

The Detroit Pistons welcomed those changes and added them to the list of future implementations. Three additional tactics were presented:

  • Work to expand their reach and increase their storytelling
  • Have more youth-led initiatives (youth influencers create social content and collaborate with youth-led businesses/nonprofits)
  • Tell the story of players as people and not just athletes
Graphic notes by Jasmin Smith

There is more knowledge to be shared and The Skillman Foundation will continue highlighting young people’s thoughts across Detroit. Look to skillman.org for future updates.

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