A late October meeting with Charlotte Bobcats owner and basketball legend Michael Jordan helped seal the deal for Brad Wilson.
Wilson, the CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield, announced Friday that the state's largest health insurer has revived a sponsorship deal with the professional basketball team. Financial terms of the one-year deal weren't disclosed.
Wilson talked with Jordan for about 15 minutes when he was in Charlotte on other business and stopped by the Bobcats' offices.
"I didn't go there to negotiate the terms and sign a deal, but my visit certainly validated the alignment of the interests of the two organizations," Wilson said.
One important factor: Jordan's vision of expanding the Bobcats to become a team for all the Carolinas, not just the Charlotte region. As part of that, Bobcats will do more to reach out to fans in other areas, such as by holding more exhibition games across the state, Wilson said.
"At the end of the day, everything is about leadership," Wilson said. "You've got to have a strong leader committed to the cause. He is committed to his vision."
Blue Cross will sponsor the team's Stay Active and Jr. Bobcats programs, designed to encourage physical fitness and healthy habits in adults and children. The Chapel Hill-based company also will be the Bobcats official insurance provider.
The deal also will put Blue Cross's name on courtside advertising, radio spots and at the Bobcats' websites, said team president Fred Whitfield.
Blue Cross has similar partnerships with the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh and Carolina Panthers in Charlotte.
"It's important for us to associate our brand with theirs," Wilson said.
Meeting Jordan for the first time was an exciting moment for Wilson, who is a big sports fan. One issue that Wilson joked about was his allegiance to Wake Forest basketball. That's where he earned his law degree, and he still attends games.
Jordan made history as a player at ACC rival UNC Chapel Hill, but reassured Wilson: "I favor light blue, but I like all colors."