SBD/Issue 32/NBA Season Preview

Catching Up With Heat President Of Business Ops Eric Woolworth

Woolworth Begins His 16th
Season With The Heat

While most of the attention around the Heat this summer focused on the bringing together of  LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, Heat President of Business Operations Eric Woolworth’s has quietly gone about his work growing the team's business, a task made easier by the franchise's newfound star power. Woolworth’s primary responsibility consists of directing and overseeing all non-basketball aspects of the organization, including marketing and community affairs, sales, HR, merchandising, finance, publications and event and arena operations. Staff writer Theresa Manahan recently caught up with Woolworth, a Georgetown grad, to discuss ticket requests, the team's image and building an international brand.

All-time favorite Georgetown player: David Wingate
Favorite concert at AmericanAirlines Arena: Phish
Best part about living in Miami: It’s so trite, but it’s got to be the weather
Favorite App: You’re talking to about the least technological person you can find. NBA Game Time

Q: How many times a day are you asked for tickets?

Woolworth: I’d say on the average about six or seven. But it’s died down considerably since July.

Q: Last Friday’s USA Today cover story was titled “The New Team We Love To Hate.” How much hate mail has the team received?

Woolworth: In Miami, they love us. So we don’t really have to respond. I think our view is the team’s play will speak for itself. But in Miami, we are the team everybody loves.

Q: Under your direction, AmericanAirlines Arena has undergone several upgrades and improvements. Which new aspect of the fan experience you are watching closely could be adopted soon?

Woolworth: We are continuing to expand our digital signage opportunities that allow us to customize the building so it can look one way for a Heat game and completely different for a Latin concert or completely different for a family show, allowing our sponsors to really target the people who are in the building as well as give the people who are in the building an experience that is consistent with what it is they are here to see. That is sort of a work in progress.

Q: Is the team undertaking any initiatives to increase its international appeal, and if so, what are they?

Woolworth: What we’ve seen -- and it is really brand new for us to be honest -- is that in our social media as well as in our website that have just seen exponential growth, almost half of the growth has been international. There is a play there for corporate partners and sponsors that we are already pursuing. There’s also an aspect of it that is really different for an American sports organization to have. We are looking to some of the models that the European soccer teams have created -- Manchester United, FC Barcelona and some of those teams -- with their fan clubs and their outreach to the fans that aren’t in the local markets where they are. We’re taking a good hard look at all that stuff, and I think at some point we’ll be going down that road. We may start rolling some of that stuff out for this season. It’s all sort of in the process of being worked up.

Q: Which industry will take an increasing role in partnering/sponsoring sports?

Woolworth: One thing that we have seen, we got LEED certified. The building in Atlanta, Philips Arena, and us both got LEED certified about a year and a half ago. We are starting to see some more green dollars come to the table around us and around sports. We've got a deal with Waste Management, we’ve got a deal with Home Depot -- they both have big green elements to it. We’re starting to see some more interest in partnering with us in that way.

Q: With a law background and your former duty as the Heat's General Counsel, how do you see the upcoming NBA labor negotiations playing out?

Woolworth: (laughing) No way am I going to comment on that. That’s under penalty of death!

Q: What sports business story are you following closely? 

Woolworth: Honestly, probably the NFL’s labor situation cause they are out in front of us and I think it will be very instructive and interesting to watch.

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