SBD/Throwing A Changeup/Franchises

I'm Just Being Honest: T'Wolves Admit A Ring Is Unlikely In New Ad

Kahn, T'Wolves Trying To Be More Direct, Honest With Fans In New Ad Campaign

The T’Wolves finished the ’09-10 season with the second-worst record in the NBA, and they are letting their fans know through their current marketing campaign that they hold no illusions of a miraculous turnaround when the new season begins next month. The team in Monday’s edition of the Minneapolis Star Tribune ran an open letter from President of Basketball Operations David Kahn that reads in part, “Will we challenge for the NBA Championship this year? Not likely.” T’Wolves Senior VP/Marketing & Communications and CMO Ted Johnson said the letter is the latest effort in a 14-month campaign via Hunt Atkins, Minneapolis, designed to help the team "to be more open and honest with our fans." “We’re simply stating what most people already know or think,” Johnson said. “We’re saying it’s not likely, we’re not saying it’s impossible. But if you were to ask any Timberwolves fan or fan in the Twin Cities area or even around the country, I don’t think anyone is putting us at the top of the list to contend for an NBA title. So the question is, what is wrong with stating the obvious?” Johnson said the fans have responded to the no-nonsense approach and “appreciate the fact that we are being forthright with them.” The T’Wolves are in the top five of NBA teams with regard to new season-ticket accounts, and the club retained 85% of its existing season-ticket holders from last season. The club’s marketing efforts heading into the season will include radio and online ads, but it was a conscious decision to target the Star Tribune for the latest example of honesty. Johnson says newspapers “seem to be one of those mediums that you can create a community conversation piece around.” “A big element of our campaign is having more of a conversation with fans instead of advertising and marketing to them,” he said (Theresa Manahan, THE DAILY).

SIGNED SINCERELY, ME: In St. Paul, Ray Richardson reports Kahn yesterday sent out a three-page letter to T'Wolves season-ticket holders reiterating what the ad stated, that it is "'highly unlikely' the Wolves will compete for the NBA championship this season, but he insisted the team will be significantly better and that his rebuilding process is 'nearly complete'" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 9/15). The letter reads in part, "I recognize it's been several seasons since our team contended for a playoff spot and you'd like results now. Me, too. Nevertheless, to build a team to win at the highest level, it takes time. Band-Aids and shortcuts typically aren't lasting in the NBA. ... The reality is, we are still lacking a dominant player -- our version of Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade or Kevin Durant -- and that will remain an item at the top of the To-Do list" (STARTRIBUNE.com, 9/14).

THE RIGHT ROAD TO TAKE? Denver Post columnist Woody Paige said of the campaign, “My first reaction is what a stupid move, but after reading the letter I actually liked it. If I were a Minnesota Timberwolves fan I'd get kind of excited. I would like this attitude." Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan noted Kahn formerly was a sportswriter and said it was a “wonderful kind of refreshing honesty you would never get from a basketball lifer" (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 9/14). ESPN’s Michael Wilbon: “I'd appreciate that a whole lot more than an ad that tells me we're going to contend and then you can't deliver. … The Minnesota Timberwolves haven't even turned any corner.” ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser: “I'd like the idea of candor. … A little honesty wouldn't hurt" ("PTI," ESPN, 9/14).

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