Not much can top competitive sport when it’s pure. However, the landscape of professional athletics has changed and there’s no going back. It’s all about the Benjamins, baby. Player strikes and lockouts (a work stoppage forced by the owners) have become seemingly commonplace in our world. In 1994, there was no World Series due to a players strike. The entire 2004-2005 NHL season was wiped out because of an owners’ lockout (though most people didn’t even notice). America held its breath at the possibility of losing its favorite sport as NFL owners and players battled their differences out this summer. Most recently, it was the NBA’s turn.
The National Basketball Association “locked out” its players in July, meaning players couldn’t access team facilities, contact staff members, or work out with team trainers. Most importantly, no games could be played. It stemmed from the sharing of league revenue. The league claimed it was losing money, so players must take a pay cut. The players say that without them, there is no NBA. Therefore, they deserve what they’re getting (if not more).
Everyone is looking for a bigger piece of the proverbial pie.
The lockout has been settled, and a shortened season is just under a month away. But while the owners and players struggled to gain public support throughout the stoppage, the average fan was left with nothing but empty arenas and reality competitions to suffer through.
Christmas Day will mark the beginning of the shortened basketball season, but what has the NBA cost itself (aside from 18 games)? The NBA Brand has taken a big hit. So what will their marketing team have to do in order to return the league to prominence?
FIX BRAND IMAGE:
The league seemed to follow the model of “Any publicity is good publicity.”
When the only stories reported about the NBA were how the owners and players union were squabbling and name calling, the league resembles a 6th grade playground. That’s not good for business.
Refurbishing a brand image is simple in theory. The NBA Marketing team simply needs to make people forget about the bad press and replace that image with a good, clean one. But how do they do that?
Give back to their communities. This is essential.
A company worth hundreds of millions of dollars can certainly afford to spare finances to help the struggling people who have supported them over the years. Free youth clinics, repaving park side basketball courts, donations to schools, or granting more Make-A-Wish dreams are just a few simple ways for the league to get back in the public’s good graces.
Make amends with their friends and neighbors.
While the league and players battled over percentage points, the stadium workers couldn’t pay their mortgages and businesses around the arenas, reliant on the crowds to sustain themselves, were forced to shut their doors permanently. Rebuilding literally starts across the street.
RESTORE CREDIBILITY OF BRAND REPS:
A company/brand is only as good as the people who comprise it. In this scrimmage, all of the brand representatives (the players and owners) came off as wholly unlikeable. While people struggle to keep a roof over their heads and feed their families in these tough economic times, the last thing they want to hear about are billionaires fighting millionaires over dump trucks full of money.
This is a long way from the Michael Jordan era or the heyday of the Bird vs. Magic rivalry. People identified with those teams and players. The Kobes and LeBrons of this NBA need to step up and work hard, do things the right way. This is what wins fans back. Not contract disputes and alienating fan bases.
REPARATIONS TO THOSE HURT MOST:
When all is said and done, the owners will make their money and the players will get paid (quite handsomely as the league minimum reported by Inside Hoops last season was $473,604). The fans however will be left with a sour taste in our mouths. How can the NBA win fans back? They have to give them something.
A study done by Reuters found that the average ticket price for an NBA game last season was $48.08 per ticket. After taxes and fees, it would cost a family of four over $200 to attend a game! That doesn’t even take into account paying for parking, snacks, and souvenirs at the arena.
Reduce ticket prices so the average fan can go. The more people able to enjoy a product, the more repeat business it will get. Allowing more fans access to the full NBA experience will help rebuild the fan base as well as help it grow for the future.
IN THE END:
With sports, it’s the “Gladiator” effect: “Win the crowd.” Major League Baseball had the Sosa/McGwire home run record chase to get fans back (however tainted steroids have made that now). Hockey stumbled along until the 2010 Winter Olympics brought it back to life.
What can the NBA do? They should listen to any, and all, suggestions from the fans. Including yours.
What ARE your suggestions for the NBA?