SBD/Issue 14/NHL Season Preview

Coyotes Look To Rebuild Ticket, Sponsorship Base For '09-10 Season

Less Than Half Of Coyotes'
Season-Ticket Holders Renew
The Coyotes will look to put a turbulent offseason behind them when they open the season in L.A. Saturday, but a decimated season-ticket base and a daunting sponsorship sales market serve as reminders of the toll the team’s bankruptcy filing has taken on the franchise. Coyotes President & COO Doug Moss said less than half of the team’s 5,500 season-ticket holders renewed during the offseason, and the club has had little success luring new corporate partners due to the uncertainty surrounding its future. “In the summer we say you’re in the business of selling hope; during the season you’re selling reality,” Moss said. “It was a difficult offseason to sell hope.” With a change of ownership likely in the near future, Moss said he is not signing multi-year deals with new partners. But word that the team will remain in the desert for at least one more season was welcome news to the club's sales staff. “Up until last week, you couldn’t tell somebody for sure you were going to stay in the marketplace,” Moss said. “Conversations have picked up, but we’ll be closing new deals throughout the year.”

WHITE OUT CONDITIONS: The uncertainty that surrounded the club throughout the summer delayed the team from formulating concrete marketing plans for the season opener until the middle of September. Moss said before moving forward with a sales campaign, the team had to seek approval from both Owner Jerry Moyes and the NHL, which has kept a close eye on the club since its bankruptcy filing. After both parties consented, the team went about devising a plan for a "Welcome Back White Out" for its home opener against the Blue Jackets on October 10. The promo features lower-level seats for $25 and upper-deck tickets for $15. Each fan in attendance will receive a "Welcome Back White Out" T-shirt, courtesy of Arena. As of Wednesday afternoon, the lower bowl of the arena was sold out for the game and only about 1,000 tickets remained in the upper deck. With a limited budget and a trimmed-down staff, the team utilized PR more than advertising to get the word out, touting the game on local TV and radio stations. "We felt that with the price point, the viral nature of this and the nature of a white out, it was going to excite the marketplace, and it really has,” Moss said. The team's marketing budget was set earlier this year by the NHL and Moyes, and Moss said going forward he will only have to seek approval for large-scale promotions. "The best thing we can do is try to get this whole topic of conversation off the business page and onto the sports page,” Moss said. “The best thing to do is get out on the ice, start playing games and take people’s minds off the legal proceedings.”

WINNING FORMULA: Moss said the key to success in a Sun Belt market is to price the product correctly and be involved in the community, but ultimately you have to win. “There is no doubt in my mind this market will support this team once it starts to play better,” Moss said. “We’ve seen that in other markets around the NHL.” He added the team’s location has little to do with the sparse crowds at Arena. “This is a franchise that hasn’t been in the playoffs in seven years. That has an impact on your attendance. It has nothing to do with the fact that we have cactus outside.” Moss declined to offer an attendance estimate for the season, saying, “This is going to be a slow build. ... It’s going to take time. This is a franchise in uncharted territory.” The team’s future undoubtedly will be a hot topic of conversation throughout the year, but Moss said there is little the club can do now. “I’m not looking backward, I’m not looking forward, I’m looking at right now,” Moss said. “I’m not projecting out further than the next game. That’s the world we’re all living in, and I can’t occupy myself with anything else because it just distracts me from the job at hand.”

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