2009-10: "Year of the Fan"

Jonah Ballow
Wolves Editor/Writer

To gain a greater perspective on the economic sports landscape, CNBC sports business reporter Darren Rovell joined timberwolves.com for a discussion regarding the new 2009-10 Early Bird season ticket campaign from the Minnesota Timberwolves.

You can listen to the full interview here.

First, Darren provided his reaction to the Wolves ticket plan and how it stacks up in a competitive entertainment market.

"Jonah I think it's also about the economy, obviously a lot of people are staying at home watching their TV, pretty pleased with their 42-incher in HD. That is going to continue to be an issue but the economy is something that everyone is dealing with. People can look at the Timberwolves' attendance over the last five years and see a precipitous drop. When you are not winning you got to do things that are creative, it starts with the $5 tickets."

"It's definitely a competitive environment; it's definitely a tough time. You just have to be as creative as possible, so I give the Timberwolves a lot of credit for doing this but at the same time people have to realize there is pressure on them to do these things, especially when it's shifting over to the blue-collar fan again."

"It's really back to the fans. On the good side of this, 2009 is going to be the year of the fan. It's never going to be any better to go to a game and see the best values. Teams like the Timberwolves are going to care about the fans more than ever before."

The NBA borrowed $200 million to make available to teams in search of economic support. Darren shared his thoughts on the state of the league and how this loan will affect struggling franchises.

"I think some people overplayed a little bit, obviously if you don't need the cash you are not going to take it. I don't think any of these teams are really suffering that much. We will have to see, Sacramento is suffering from a huge attendance decline, they don't want to take that but the Maloofs (the owners of the Sacramento Kings) are fine. Are they happy with losing the money they are losing right now? Probably not, certainly interesting situations in Memphis, the fact that Oklahoma City is in it's first year helps out a little bit but all around the league there's going to be some suffering going on."

"It is not the most profitable business to begin with and sometimes you look at the margins on these things from year to year, a good year could be making a couple of million dollars and a bad year could be losing a couple of million dollars and sometimes that just comes down to winning. The interesting thing Jonah, owners made their money and a lot of them are still in business and they're fine because their business was doing really well. Now when their business and even if they are not actively in business, they're investments go down the drain. It's less about the NBA and more about the owner's capacity to continue funding its team."

The drop in ticket prices will result in a revenue loss for most teams around the league. Eventually, player contracts will be affected and organizations are less likely to ink players to long-term deals. Darren agreed with this notion.

"Yes, total across the board correction in every single league. That's definitely going to happen."

"The market correction is going to come to all these guys, while everyone is getting so excited for that class of 2010, I just don't know. Are the max guys going to be the max guys? Yeah but it's going to be just like baseball this year where the middle guys are going to get crushed for sure and people who think they were top guys are going to prove they're not."

The conversation with Darren shifted back to Minnesota and the pledge the Wolves have offered to their fans. The pledge states, if a full season ticket holder loses their job in 2009, the value of the unused tickets will be refunded.

"I guess the way you think about it as a marketer is; think about it on a per game basis. If this person losses their job, they're obviously not going to come or it's going to be harder for them to come or they would have to be a big fan and they would already have tickets now."

"The idea is to get people in the door and to guarantee revenue and the Timberwolves have seats to sell, so I really don't think it's the risk of something like the Arizona Rattlers when they were crazy enough to say if we don't make the playoffs, we will refund all your money even though you have seen the entire season of games."

"If the people lose their jobs and maybe love it, than they will stay. If they lose their jobs and go away, then maybe they will comeback when they get jobs again."

Finally, Darren provided the keys for the Wolves franchise to continue success once the season ticket holders enter the Target Center. He also answered a question that supports the desired goal of the Early Bird ticket campaign. Is this one of the most fan-friendly and progressive plans in all of sports?

"Yeah, I think so. But it ultimately comes down to winning and it ultimately comes down to the experience at the game. This is nice to get them in the door but now you have to keep them. You have no control of what happens to their jobs and the economy but you do have control once you get them in the arena to make sure they love the experience."

The mission for the Wolves franchise continues throughout the summer as the team opened its arms to the Minnesota fan base. Price cuts, flexible payments, more benefits, and protection against job loss are all apart of the Blueprint. While America deals with a suffering economy, 2009-10 will be a year for the fans to embrace this Wolves team with the Early Bird season ticket plan.

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