SBD/Issue 32/NBA Season Preview

Thunder Business Strong In Team's Third Year In Oklahoma City

Thunder Season-Ticket Renewals
Among Highest In NBA

Fresh off the Thunder's first playoff appearance in Oklahoma City, the anticipation for the team's '10-11 season is sky high. The excitement has carried over to the team's ticket sales, and after a season with 28 sellouts, the Thunder have sold 13,100 season tickets this season at the 18,203-seat Oklahoma City Arena. Thunder Senior VP/Ticket Sales & Service Brian Byrnes noted the team has also sold more than 3,000 new season tickets and has had a 93% renewal rate for the coming season, figures that Byrnes said place the team in the top four of the league in both categories. "Clearly we've had an opportunity to leverage the enthusiasm in the market and the sense of engagement that fans have with this team," he said. There also has been demand for the team's eight- and 20-game ticket packages, as 1,200 of those have been sold so far. Byrnes sees the packages as a way of getting what he calls the "next generation of season-ticket holders" involved in the Thunder experience. Byrnes: "We believe very strongly in that as a tool for folks to engage with the Thunder, be a part of the experience, develop habits in terms of going to games and being a part of it." Another area where the team has seen tremendous interest is in the area of corporate sponsorships. Thunder VP/Corporate Communications & Community Relations Dan Mahoney reported the team has had 94% of its corporate sponsors renew, placing it in the top five in the league in that area, and has had more new sponsors sign on than the team had in their first two seasons in OKC. Mahoney said the new sponsors have come from all areas of business. "They see the type of business we put together, the type of team we put together, how valued it is in the community, and obviously that provides value to them as sponsors," he said.

ROOM TO GROW: Despite all of this success, the team has some room to grow in only its third season in Oklahoma. Byrnes: "We really are thinking about developing our brand and continuing to invite new consumers to be a part of the Thunder experience." One of the primary focuses of this philosophy has been efforts to grow the Thunder brand outside of Oklahoma City. Byrnes said Tulsa has been a "very important and emerging market" for the team. Efforts to grow the Thunder there have included a number of appearances in the city this offseason, including playing a preseason game there two weeks ago. Team officials also have focused on Wichita, Kan., where Thunder broadcasts are available on FS Southwest, in efforts to grow the fan base. The team offered a clinic for kids in Wichita recently, and Byrnes said the city was "very responsive" to it. Byrnes said the increased focus on Tulsa, Wichita and other areas has paid off in the form of heightened group sales and sales of ticket packages, especially an eight-game weekend ticket package, to fans outside Oklahoma City. "We're starting to see the results of our regionalism and we think that's an important development in growing the brand," he said.


PAYING TRIBUTE: The team's focus on growth is echoed in its "Rise Together" marketing campaign, which returns for a second consecutive year and features print, in-arena, TV, radio and digital elements. After primarily taking a team-centric approach in last year’s marketing efforts, this year the Thunder are paying tribute to their fans, whose enthusiasm became nationally renowned during last year's playoffs. Two different ad campaigns have recently launched as part of "Rise Together" in the buildup to the season, and both heavily feature Thunder fans. In the first, fans are shown experiencing the Thunder brand in eight different locations throughout Oklahoma City, including people’s homes, parks, bars and restaurants and at Oklahoma City Arena. The team invited more than 200 season-ticket holders to star in the ads. Byrnes said, "It's folks who are watching us on TV, it's folks who live 50 miles away from downtown that are demonstrating their Thunder spirit, it's folks who are in all walks of life -- from the family settings, to the business-to-business settings, to the social experience." The second campaign contains similar elements, but features fans and players side-by-side repeating the same phrase about what it means to be a Thunder fan. Byrnes said the team in "Rise Together" is hoping to create a sense of the community "rallying around and valuing the NBA in Oklahoma City." Byrnes: "The marketing campaign this year is intended to recreate and re-simulate that sense of engagement, that being a Thunder fan is more than just going to the game. Being a Thunder fan is being proud to have the NBA in our hometown."

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