In 2017, when the NBA decided to allow its corporate sponsorship deals to evolve into jersey patches ala European soccer, many were skeptical and dismissive of the idea. But after all 30 teams found (a few of them later dropped) a company that fits well with the city and spirit of each team, it quickly became a match made in heaven.

The very last NBA squad to pick a partner at the dance was the Oklahoma City Thunder, and it might be the best pairing of them all. Here is how the third-smallest market, its NBA franchise that moved from Seattle, and a regional chain are looking to expand reach across the country one jersey at a time.

Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores ($PRIVATE:LOVES), a convenience store/truck stop chain that was founded in Oklahoma City, now advertises on the jersey of the only professional sports team in Oklahoma. The company has nearly 500 locations in 41 states in the U.S. and this jersey sponsorship deal will open doors to millions of fans who ask themselves "what is Love's?" and then google that very question into the search bar.

Social Media

The coolest thing to see is the jump in Twitter followers. The deal with the NBA happened earlier this year, but that was when last season was still in play. Once the summer hit, and the draft ended (and trades for new players were completed), the summer league games began and preseason started. That's when fans and observers could see the Love's logo on the new jerseys, which is why there was a 33% increase since June.

The same jump happens for Facebook likes, where from June to now there's a 6% bump in interest (and love) for Love's. You can also see below when people learned about the NBA deal, when they saw the jersey, and when the season started (February/March, June/July, and October/November).

Hiring and stores

Love's is one of the only private companies to sponsor an NBA jersey (5miles was dumped by the Dallas Mavericks this season), but it's been quietly doing some great work out of the limelight. In only two years the company was able to double its total headcount to over 4.4K. 

It's always been actively looking for new employees too, maintaining a healthy average of almost 3K job openings at any given time. Typically when we do job listings charts, it goes up and down over longer periods of time, but Love's has stayed consistent. 

This is every Love's in the nation, and you can see how it grew from its Oklahoman roots outward. Soon, if it wanted to, Love's could hit all 50 states and be more of a household name than it already is. It's only missing New England, Hawaii, and Alaska.

According to Forbes, the Thunder are the 18th most valuable NBA franchise, which is akin to roughly over a billion dollars. And thanks to Yahoo Finance, we know that the league makes good money off of these jersey patches. And they might need to find even more ways to generate profit after the summer fallout of China's money, declining ratings, and the NBA's dynasty Warriors team now being the worst in the league.

About the Data: 

Thinknum tracks companies using the information they post online - jobs, social and web traffic, product sales and app ratings - and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales. 

Further Reading: 

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