Skip to main content

Franchise of the Year

The Wisconsin Herd earned the recognition for the 2022-23 season

share arrow printer bookmark flag

May 17, 2023

OSHKOSH – Regardless of the sport or its level, winning a championship is always the goal of athletes and teams alike.

On the business side of things, though it may not be as widely known, the folks behind the team also vie to be the best.

For the Wisconsin Herd – the NBA G League affiliate of the Milwaukee Bucks – that means being named the Franchise of the Year – an honor the Oshkosh-based team took home for its 2022-23 season.

“This is a testament to the hard work our entire team put into making our fifth season our best season yet,” Steve Brandes, Wisconsin Herd president, said.

A little bit of history
The Herd, which plays its games in Oshkosh Arena, started in 2017-18 as the NBA G League affiliate for the Milwaukee Bucks.

// Wisconsin Herd is the NBA G League affiliate of the Milwaukee Bucks. The team plays 50 games each season. Photo Courtesy of the Wisconsin Herd

The league, formally known as the NBA Development League, is the NBA’s official minor league, preparing players, coaches, officials, trainers and front office staff for the NBA while acting as the league’s research and development laboratory.

“The Bucks utilize us to develop players, find rotational players and rehab injury players, but also develop talent on the floor and off the floor – developing business staff as well,” Brandes said. “So, we’re a resource, a tool to help the Bucks in the quest to bring championships to Wisconsin.”

The 2022-23 season was the Herd’s fifth – after a hiatus in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We did not play the year of COVID,” Brandes said. “The league still existed, and they played in the bubble down in Florida, but we opted not to participate. We relaunched that next season. So, we’ve played five official seasons.”

Each NBA G League team plays a 50-game schedule – 24 of those games are played at home (two games are played on a neutral site as part of the league’s annual NBA G League Showcase).

The Herd, Brandes said, is one of 30 teams in the league.

Continued evolution
Brandes said each year the league evolves in some form – most recently expanding internationally.

“(The league) has a team in Mississauga, Canada, and there’s a new team that played a full season in Mexico City, Mexico,” he said. “You’re seeing the league continue to cast a wider net. The product continues to evolve.”

Brandes said the NBA G League is a true research and development league for the NBA.

“Last year, he said G League teams tested out the target score rule or Elam Ending – which is implemented once a game goes to overtime by adding eight points to the leading team’s score.

The first team to reach the target score wins. 

// Oshkosh-based Wisconsin Herd was named Franchise of the Year. Photo Courtesy of the Wisconsin Herd

“The NBA has its eye on it, so this was basically a test run to see how it works,” he said.

Brandes said it has been great seeing the league evolve, but the Wisconsin Herd itself has evolved as well.

“We have the support of the Bucks who won a championship,” he said. “Having them bring home that hardware helped increase the excitement and engagement, and so our fan base has steadily increased.”

Brandes said the Herd’s sell-outs have steadily increased as well – with 11 of its 24 home games being sold out, more than doubling the number of sellouts from 2021-22.

“We actually broke the all-time attendance record this season,” he said.

The Wisconsin Herd also set a single-game team attendance record on its fifth annual School Day presented by BMO, welcoming a franchise-best – 4,138 fans.

The team also saw a 17% increase in social media following across all platforms and a 17% surge in sponsorship sales for the 2022-23 season.

“We are thankful to have such an amazing community including our partners and fans,” Brandes said. “It’s pretty impressive – seeing the fan base evolve as well. Everything seems to be growing as the years progressed, so we couldn’t be happier being where we are – being affiliated with the Bucks and having some of the best NBA fans in the world.”

Franchise of the Year
Brandes said the Wisconsin Herd was chosen as the league’s Franchise of the Year following an evaluation of all 30 teams on the league’s core pillars: Compete with Intensity, Lead with Integrity and Inspire Play.

“It’s the pinnacle, the apex award that any team in our league can win,” he said. “It shows the dedication, that determination, the cross-pollination of collaboration – all those words of all of our team members.”

Brandes said this includes the team’s social responsibility leader, the ticketing department, the sponsorship department, the game production department – everyone who has a hand in making the team a success.

// Wisconsin Herd broke its attendance record during the 2022-23 season – selling out 11 of its 24 home games. Photo Courtesy of the Wisconsin Herd

“When you have all those pieces of your business, hitting at a high level and achieving goals and hitting thresholds in succeeding, it paints the picture of being at the apex of your game, being the best team in the country,” he said.

Brandes said being recognized as the best team in the league and other teams striving to do what the Herd has been able to do, is “a great honor.”

“And it shows our community what we’re doing and what we’re trying to do for them,” he said.

Although the award recognizes the hard work of the team’s staff, Brandes said it is also indicative of “how awesome our market and community is.”

“The State of Wisconsin, the constant support from our local partners, our fan base, the surrounding Fox Valley cities – it’s a testament to them for how great they are in supporting us as well,” he said.

Promotion of the Year
In addition to being named Franchise of the Year, the Herd was also awarded 2022-23 Promotion of the Year for its “Be the Light” Black History Month Celebration Platform.

As part of the promotion, Brandes said the team partnered with artist Patrick “Patcasso” Hunter to paint 12 portraits of 13 influential Black leaders that were sublimated onto the jerseys worn by the Herd during the Feb. 7 game and auctioned off to raise funds for the Harold Lefty Williams DARE2DREAM foundation.

Brandes said the team’s “Be the Light” promotion even earned three minutes and 20 seconds of exposure on “Inside the NBA” on TNT.

“A huge exposure for not only our brand but for Wisconsin and the Fox Valley, Oshkosh area,” he said. “You have that hit on TV, but then that translated into even more viral hits with Instagram, which I think “Inside the NBA” has like 7.1 million viewers or followers, however that works. But awesome exposure across the board.”

The team also facilitated a shoe-design workshop in collaboration with STEAM Revolt at Perry Tipler Middle School and displayed the 12 portraits at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Steinhilber Gallery for the month of February. 

Community impact
Brandes said the economic impact the Wisconsin Herd has on the Fox Valley area and beyond is “massive.”

“Bringing in jobs that didn’t exist prior – you have a whole arena that now has 24 home dates,” he said. “It’s also driving people from all over the state – we even get fans from Michigan and Illinois. They’re coming in and then they’re spending the night or they’re spending their hard-earned dollars at our arena or at the different businesses throughout the Fox Valley – that could be bars, restaurants, hotels or retail. So, you have that quantifiable metric that is enhancing the quality of life for the state.”

Brandes said the exposure itself also has an impact.

“The NBA brand is so powerful, and it’s not just national but international,” he said. “The intangible exposure of putting Oshkosh, putting the Herd (on display) is pretty good.”

The future
Brandes said like any team on top, the goal is to “run it back.”

“We want to be the best,” he said. “We have a high standard and want to be first in class and everything you do. We did a nice job this last year. So, it’s on to the next one coming and getting bigger and better and continuing to grow.”

Part of that, Brandes said, is continuing to weave who the Herd is into the fabric of the community.

// Brandes

“So, in the community outreach space and social responsibility space,” he said. “It was amazing with our Black History Month activation. We had a phenomenal women’s empowerment activation where we dropped the D off of our name and named ourselves the Wisconsin Her for a night.”

Brandes said it is the team’s goal to take those activations and amplify them and continue sharing those stories.

“But then add to that,” he said.

Although the team has some ideas of what that looks like for next season, Brandes said “I can’t let the cat out of the bag just yet on those.”

“But we’re excited we have the ability to leverage the power of our athletes, the power of our brand and our sport, to continue to tell stories that can be told to help raise money for those causes,” he said. “So, that is definitely the direction we’re headed.”

Brandes said the team also looks forward to continuing to grow the brand itself.

“Ultimately, we just want to grow the product so the fans have something even more exciting to look forward to,” he said. “So that fans have a better experience on and off the floor every year.”

For more information on the Wisconsin Herd, visit or call (920) 233-HERD.

share arrow printer bookmark flag

Trending View All Trending