SBD/Issue 56/Franchises

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  • More MLB Teams Cutting Ticket Prices Amid Economic Downturn

    Dodgers Among Many MLB Teams
    Not Raising Ticket Prices Next Season
    At least 16 of the 30 teams in MLB are "freezing or decreasing prices for season ticketholders" for the '09 season, according to Antonen & Lacques of USA TODAY. Team Marketing Report noted only three teams last year, the Giants, Pirates and Rays, failed to raise prices, as the average ticket price for the '08 season climbed 10.1% from the previous year. Team Marketing Report Exec Editor Jon Greenberg: "Fans want to save. Exorbitant spending is out. Teams want good press. They want to please their customers." The Brewers, on the strength of their first playoff appearance since '82, are raising ticket prices for next season, but they also "reduced prices in one outfield section" from $18 to $10. Brewers Exec VP/Business Operations Rick Schlesinger: "We have one eye on the sports page and one eye on the financial pages" (USA TODAY, 12/4). USA TODAY's Mel Antonen notes the Tigers are "raising ticket prices in 2009 despite the recession, which has hit particularly hard" in Detroit. The team is increasing prices an "average of $2.05 a game for 40% of season-ticket seats and added $2 to $4 a ticket for premium dates." The economic downturn "comes at an inopportune time for the Tigers, who owe raises to key players" like RF Magglio Ordonez and 1B Miguel Cabrera (USA TODAY, 12/4).

    RIDE THE GIANT ROLLER COASTER: SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's Don Muret reports the MLB Giants have signed a deal with Texas-based QCue, a software company, that "enables them to change single-game ticket prices at any time." Giants Managing VP/Ticket Services & Client Relations Russ Stanley said that the club hired QCue to "help find the right price for selling 2,000 seats in AT&T Park's outfield bleachers and upper deck, the last ones to sell for Giants games." Muret notes QCue's formula "plugs in factors such as team performance, opponent, starting pitchers, weather conditions, day of the week and gate giveaways." Stanley said that the Giants will "use those results to raise or lower ticket prices as late as the morning of a game for tickets purchased online, at ticket kiosks, by phone and at the box office" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 12/1 issue). CNBC’s Darren Rovell said of the Giants' "airplane" ticketing strategy, "They can change their prices eight times a day on the original ticket. … I think because of the bad economy, and the need to get people in the seats, if they only have 20,000 seats sold, they’re going to change it on you." Rovell added he expects "10 teams to do this in the next year” (“Mike & Mike in the Morning,” ESPN2, 12/4).

    Turnstile Tracker: In L.A., T.J. Simers notes the Dodgers, whose average ticket costs $29.66, "will not raise season ticket prices" next season. Team Marketing Report indicated that last season it cost a family of four $229.14 to attend a Dodgers game at Dodger Stadium, and in the five years the McCourt family has owned the team, the cost for a family of four "has increased almost 57%." But Simers notes Dodgers fans "haven't objected," with "more than 3 million every year buying tickets, the quality of the team or the cost of the experience seemingly given little consideration." Meanwhile, Simers reports the Angels are "raising ticket prices," as the average ticket cost will increase from $20.78 last season to a "little less than" $22 in '09 (L.A. TIMES, 12/4).

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  • MLS Philadelphia Club Working On Ticket Costs, Narrowing Names

    MLS Philadelphia Franchise Likely To 
    Announce Ticket Costs By End Of Month
    MLS Philadelphia consultant Thomas Veit Tuesday said that fans "should know before the end of the month how much tickets will cost" for the club, and that the franchise "should have a name and what amounts to a logo and colors" by spring, according to Paul Vigna of the PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS. Veit said that MLS Philadelphia officials have been "reviewing the [ticket] prices of MLS teams across the league as they land on a range of prices that appeals to all sectors of the base that they hope to attract." Veit: "We want to make sure that everybody has an ability to come, regardless [of] price, and we want to make sure that people who want the amenities (can get them)." The franchise said that "about 6,000 people have made deposits for tickets, which to this point have yet to be quantified." Veit: "The amazing [thing] about those seat deposits is that they did it without knowing what the price of the tickets would be. So I would say that the pricing of the tickets and the scale of where they're going to be and how much they're going to cost in the sections is probably the next thing you're going to see come out, and you're probably [going to] see that before the end of the year." Meanwhile, Vigna noted team officials "continue to whittle down potential names." Veit added that the "ultimate goal is to get it down to four possible names for the team that are not patented 'or is close enough where we know we can get the trademarks and [use] them legally.'" Veit said that the team plans to launch a name-the-team contest "sometime in January, where fans can vote online ... for one of the four names, or they can submit one of their own." Veit: "Once we have the team name we'll come up with the word mark look, the colors, and put that all together, and reveal that, and we'll probably do that sometime early to mid first quarter" (PHILLY.com, 12/3).

    SOUNDING OFF: In Seattle, Jose Romero reported the MLS Seattle Sounders FC tonight at the Qwest Field Event Center will unveil their official uniforms. Sounders co-Owner Joe Roth, Minority Owner Drew Carey, GK Kasey Keller and F Freddie Ljungberg will attend (SEATTLETIMES.com, 12/2).

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  • Gretzky Believes Coyotes Can Survive In Phoenix Despite Economy

    Gretzky Believes Coyotes' Future
    Remains In Phoenix
    Coyotes Managing Partner & coach Wayne Gretzky yesterday acknowledged that "selling hockey in sunshine states ... is even more difficult with the sudden, sharp recession," but he indicated that he is "fairly confident that the future of his Coyotes is in Phoenix," according to Kevin McGran of the TORONTO STAR. Forbes estimated that the Coyotes lost $9.7M last season, but Gretzky and Coyotes President & COO Douglas Moss "believe the Coyotes can weather this economic storm, which in Arizona hit the housing market first and hardest." Moss said that the team "got creative" after last season, and "through reduced prices [down 10-15%] and a marketing strategy that centres on the promise of a young, rebuilding team, Moss is convinced the Coyotes have sold 70,000 more tickets this year than last" (TORONTO STAR, 12/4). In Toronto, Rob Longley reports the Coyotes "actually are one of the few teams from the so-called struggling markets that are up in attendance, though it is hardly a financial windfall." The team is averaging 14,704 fans through 12 home dates at the 17,799-seat Jobing.com Arena, up from 13,661 last season. Part of the reason is the "innovative marketing and aggressive seat sales," as the team's recently announced "Howliday Pack" promo "allows fans to get ticket[s] to four games for the price of three." Coyotes LW Shane Doan: "If we win, we're good. There's so many people in the valley, so many Canadians here. If you're winning, they will come." Gretzky: "Are we a Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary? Absolutely not. But there's room here for a hockey club. It's a great sports city" (TORONTO SUN, 12/4).

    CAPITAL GAIN: In DC, Thomas Boswell writes the Capitals, in "just one year," have transformed their team "so completely that ... it expects to win almost every time out." As Steelers fans "usurp seats at FedEx Field, as the Wizards worry, as the Nats pray for renewals, the Caps are selling." A year ago, one "could debate the dominant pro athlete in town," but now it is Capitals LW Alex Ovechkin "by a mile." Every other major pro sports team in DC, even the "usually exceptional DC United," is now "rebuilding or switching coaches and systems." The Capitals are "lucky in their timing," as the economy "can't find its ripcord." As "disposable entertainment dollars shrink, excitement is what still sells," and with a "high-scoring, creative team, these are the most entertaining Caps ever" (WASHINGTON POST, 12/4).

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  • Four Years After Moving To DC, Nationals Still Lack Identity

    Nats Continue Struggles In DC
    Four years after the Nationals relocated to DC from Montreal, the team is "still not sure what they want to be when they grow up," according to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com. As MLB's free agency season "gets into full swing, the Nationals have an air of futility about them." Coming off a 59-102 season, the worst record in MLB, they have "lots of work to do to become competitive and rekindle interest" in the DC market, and "obstacles abound." While the Nationals have "pledged unswerving commitment to the draft and the concept of building from within, there's not much help on the way." The team is "making their way into a hot stove blog or rumor mill," and have been "mentioned as a potential destination" for free agent 1B Mark Teixeira or P A.J. Burnett. However, front-office sources and MLB agents have a "hard time seeing a fit, conceptually or economically." Crasnick wrote the Nationals are "bad enough that a single star isn't going to vault them into contention." They ranked 19th in MLB in attendance last season, their first at Nationals Park, and their "television and radio ratings are horrendous." Even though Nationals Owner the Lerner family has made its "fortune in the real estate business," the team just reached a settlement with DC over $3.5M in unpaid rent at the ballpark, which shows there has been a "bit of a downturn in that market of late." One MLB agent said of the Nationals potentially signing top free agent players, "Where are the resources within the organization that could allow them to do these things?" Meanwhile, Crasnick noted it is "no secret in baseball circles" that Nationals President Stan Kasten has "chafed over his role in the hierarchy." An MLB exec said Kasten is "miserable" in his current role with the team. Kasten declined an interview request from ESPN, but recently said that he will be back with the team in '09 (ESPN.com, 12/3).

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  • Packers Rank No. 1 In Turnkey Team Brand Index For Fan Loyalty

    Turnkey Sports & Entertainment has released its '08 Team Brand Index, and like last year's edition which was "populated heavily by winners at the top and losers at the bottom," this year 15 of the 20 highest-rated franchises made the playoffs in their respective leagues, according to Bill King of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. The index "shows how quickly a team can rise or fall based on its fate on the field, floor or ice." Only 15 of the 122 franchises "saw their overall brand index scores improve by double digits this year," and all but two of those "improved their winning percentages and/or went deeper into the playoffs than they had the previous season." The Celtics, who finished No. 9 in the index after finishing No. 104 last year, had the "largest gain of any team" in their index score. All but one of the 15 teams that showed a double-digit decline in the index were teams that "slid from the year before, either by winning fewer games or by not getting as far in the playoffs." The bottom five teams "all posted poor, and mostly disappointing, years, none more so than the Sonics, who were on their way out of town" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 12/1 issue).

    Top 20 Team Brands
    '08 Rank
    '07 Rank
    Team
    '08 Rank
    '07 Rank
    Team
    1
    10
    Packers
    11
    7
    Saints
    2
    5
    Red Sox
    12
    74
    Canadiens
    3
    1
    Steelers
    13
    4
    Sabres
    4
    2
    Patriots
    14
    79
    Hornets
    5
    3
    Colts
    15
    36
    Jaguars
    6
    8
    Red Wings
    16
    11
    Tigers
    7
    6
    Spurs
    17
    15
    Pistons
    8
    20
    Penguins
    18
    28
    Cowboys
    9
    104
    Celtics
    19
    14
    Cavaliers
    10
    9
    Cardinals
    20
    71
    Hurricanes
    Bottom Five Team Brands
    '08 Rank
    '07 Rank
    Team
    118
    111
    Islanders
    119
    112
    Pacers
    120
    108
    Nets
    121
    106
    Knicks
    122
    120
    Sonics

    BEHIND THE NUMBERS: Turnkey President & CEO Len Perna said of the Packers holding the top spot in the index, "What this is saying is the following the Packers have is more intensely loyal to supporting the Packers than any other team. What this basically says is that all other things being equal, a sponsor gets more value in sponsoring the Packers than any other team. The Packers moved up because they had such an emotional year with [QB] Brett Favre. His popularity. His longevity. They just really cement the relationship between the brand and fans in Green Bay" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 12/2). The AP's Robert Imrie noted the study also measured a "team's following among fans outside the local market." The Yankees ranked No. 1 in this measure, followed by the Packers, Red Sox, Cowboys and Lakers (AP, 12/1). Perna noted the rankings are a "star-driven system," and the company's prediction for next year is that the Jets, due in part to QB Brett Favre, "are going to move way up because Brett is really one of the biggest stars, not only in football, but in all sports” ("America’s Nightly Scoreboard,” Fox Business, 12/3).

    STEEL RESOLVE: The Steelers slipped from No. 1 in the index last year to No. 3 this year, and Perna said, "The Steelers didn't do anything wrong. When you're No. 1 you have nowhere to go but down" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 12/2). A PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE editorial states, "One thing for sure is that Pittsburgh is a sports town and fans have the luxury of choices." With the Steelers ranked No. 3 and the Penguins at No. 8, "no other city except Boston has more than one team" in the top 10 (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 12/4).

    HOST WITH THE MOST: In Detroit, Krista Jahnke reported Red Wings and Tigers Owner Mike Ilitch has the "most brand power of any owner in professional sports," as he finished No. 1 out of 122 owners for his work with the Red Wings. Ilitch also finished No. 15 as owner of the Tigers. Perna: "It helps to win, but it really helps to win over decades. And it really helps to have an owner like Mr. Ilitch, who comes from Detroit and is very heavily involved in youth hockey in the area and in the turnaround of downtown Detroit with the Fox Theatre." Jahnke noted Pistons Owner Bill Davidson finished No. 10 among owners, and Lions Owner William Clay Ford Sr. finished No. 121, ahead of only Thunder Owner Clay Bennett (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 12/2). Also in Detroit, Jamie Samuelsen wrote Ford's "track record is horrid." His hires are "abysmal," and his "loyalty, while admirable in theory, has meant decades of misery" for the Lions and Detroit. But there is "one thing Ford has never done in Detroit ... other than win." He has "never used the franchise as a pawn," and he has "never held the city hostage to get more money or a new stadium or a sweetheart deal" (FREEP.com, 12/3).

    Hurricanes Vault Up Team Brand Index
    On Strength Of Efforts In Community
    HURRICANE FEVER: The TRIANGLE BUSINESS JOURNAL's Frank Vinluan notes the Hurricanes rank No. 20 on the index, which is "way up" from last year's ranking of No. 71. Hurricanes President & GM Jim Rutherford said that the "strengthening of the team's brand is the result of continuing efforts to make the organization a part of the [Raleigh] community." Rutherford: "We reach out to our fans as much as we can" (TRIANGLE BUSINESS JOURNAL, 11/28 issue).

    MIDDLE OF THE PACK: The BUSINESS COURIER OF CINCINNATI's Dan Monk notes the Reds finished No. 46 in this year's index, up from No. 61 last year, while the Bengals finished at No. 60, down from No. 30 in '07. Bengals Owner Mike Brown was "mystified by the public perception of his team as one that maximizes profits." Brown: "Profit is not a bad thing. It's a good thing. It's good for the fans to have a healthy business." The study was conducted in June this year, and Monk notes the Reds were 38-45 at the end of that month. But the team's management "drew higher marks than the Bengals on an overall grade of ownership and on questions related to each team's commitment to winning" (BUSINESS COURIER OF CINCINNATI, 11/28 issue).

    PEACH FUZZ: ATLANTA BUSINESS CHRONICLE's John Manasso notes the Braves have a "higher-rated brand than Atlanta’s other major sports teams" despite not making the playoffs the past three seasons (ATLANTA BUSINESS CHRONICLE, 11/28 issue).

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  • Franchise Notes

    In Pittsburgh, Ed Bouchette reports Steelers investors Tim, Art Jr., Patrick and John Rooney and Steelers Chair Dan Rooney "have virtually come to terms on a restructured ownership of the Steelers and will present their proposal to the NFL's finance committee in time for its meeting next Wednesday." John Rooney: "I think the deal is as done as it can be. But until you see the money, I guess no deal is done." John Rooney said that there is an "outside chance the entire deal could be completed by the end of the year but he expects it to last until sometime in January." Tim, Art Jr., Patrick and John Rooney, who are selling all or part of their 16% shares in the franchise, "would prefer to have the sale finished by the end of the year to avoid possible capital gains tax increases that might be passed retroactive" to the start of '09. John Rooney: "I'm not really worried about it because I heard the incoming president won't do anything for six months" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 12/4).

    POWER TO THE PEOPLE: In L.A., Kurt Streeter writes Dodgers Vice Chair & President Jamie McCourt and the team "deserve kudos for their good work in the community, which isn't exactly novel for a pro franchise, but should be heralded nonetheless." McCourt "should be thanked for opening up a box brimming with hard questions about the economy and sports, about players and owners and fans." It is "time to start wondering more about the ungodly salaries paid to adults who play kids game, about the money-hungry owners who gouge the faithful everywhere from the parking lots to the turnstiles. Time for fans to realize they've got the real power. They can vote with their feet" (L.A. TIMES, 12/4).

    Chelsea CEO Peter Kenyon (l) With Team
    Owner Roman Abramovich
    PATH TO SELF Sufficiency: In Manchester, Dominic Fifield reported English Premier League club Chelsea CEO Peter Kenyon "has pledged that the club will be cash self-sufficient from July 1 next year, a commitment that would ensure they are no longer reliant upon" Chelsea Owner Roman Abramovich's "interest-free loans to cover costs." Kenyon: "The long-term plan here was always that we needed to be profitable, non-loss-making and self-funding. In terms of breaking even, I think it will be 2010-11 but, this year, we're very clear about achieving no-funding targets from the owner. It's a process we believe can be achieved by the end of this season. I think we'll be growing revenue" (Manchester GUARDIAN, 12/2).

    SEALING THE DEAL: In Alabama, David Jones reported Hawks C Al Horford has "put out a message on YouTube that the team is calling the Horford deal, inviting" Univ. of Florida (UF) fans to attend Friday's game against the Knicks at Philips Arena for a 50% discount. Horford, a former UF player, notes on the message that the Knicks also include former UF players F David Lee and G Anthony Roberson (MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER, 12/2).

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