Checking in with the President

Checking in with the President
By: Jim Eichenhofer,, @Jim_Eichenhofer
July 25, 2011

It’s time to check in with New Orleans Hornets President Hugh Weber, who has held the position since the team’s full-time return to the Crescent City in 2007. Weber is responsible for facilitating all aspects of the franchise, including strategic planning, business development, marketing/branding, and day-to-day business and basketball operations for over 100 employees.

Although the summer months are often considered a quiet period of the yearly calendar in professional basketball, the Hornets are in the midst of several important initiatives, as you will read in Weber’s interview. During the latter part of the regular season, the team announced its unique and brand-new “I’m In” initiative. What kind of response from New Orleanians have you received to “I’m In” so far?
Weber: The “I’m In” campaign touched people on an emotional level throughout the community due in large part because it communicated a message that everyone has been feeling for some time. I have been told by ardent and casual fans alike that the campaign articulated what makes our home so special while having a positive vibe that is parallel to the feeling about the city’s future. “I’m In” is much more than a campaign about a basketball team because the unspoken message is that if you are for the community you are for the Hornets and if you love the Hornets, it’s part of loving this community.

To learn more about the Hornets I'M IN initiative, visit What was the genesis for the idea of “I’m In”?
Weber: When the NBA stepped in and purchased the team in December it was important that the team share our focus in a time that raised a lot of questions. The team has worked very hard in the community and in many ways our brand already went beyond basketball, but having a fresh message that clearly stated our mission was critical. “I’m In” was not the first “slogan” we worked through, in fact the first few iterations just didn’t capture what we were hearing from our fans so eventually we went with “I’m In” because of its direct simplicity. If you drive through virtually any neighborhood in the city of New Orleans, you see homes, businesses, restaurants and other public places displaying “I’m In” stickers on their doors, windows, etc. How did that happen?
Weber: The campaign received a very positive response from the community right away so we got a multitude of requests for signs and stickers. It was equally important that our entire staff was committed to the mission in real terms, so we organized an all-employee “I’m In” Day where we went to every neighborhood in the city and asked permission to put up signs and stickers. The response in the community was incredible and we had a lot of fun not only getting those signs out but explaining to anyone who would listen, what we were doing. It was an authentic grassroots effort that mirrored the campaign. What has been the impact so far of the “100 Events in 100 Days” in the New Orleans area? What kind of feedback have you gotten from people who’ve participated?
Weber: There are natural cycles that happen when selling season tickets and we knew as our playoff run came to a close the pacing of achieving our goal of 10,000 season tickets would slow. So the challenge became: how do we capture the attention of our fans when they are not naturally thinking about purchasing tickets? We started to think about what was most effective in connecting people to the team and we have seen a great response to intimate gatherings where people had a chance to mix and mingle while learning more about the team. Hosting parties is an art form in New Orleans, so we took on the commitment of putting on 100 events in 100 days, a feat no other franchise in professional sports had attempted. The effect has been tremendous for existing season ticket holders who are hosting the events and for new season ticket holders who are choosing to be “In” for next season. We have heard that people appreciate how intimate the events are and it has helped us by creating experiences for new season ticket holders that connect with the leadership of the team from the very first step. It’s easier to like a part of the team when you actually know the people personally who are the stewards of the franchise.

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