SBD/January 19, 2011/Franchises

NBA Heritage Events Bring Teams Attendance Lift, Generate Buzz

NBA heritage nights can draw as many as 2,000 additional fans
Many NBA teams “search far and wide for gimmicks to fill seats,” and Heritage games are "meant to court even the smallest émigré enclaves to NBA courts, and provide just a tad of buzz ... to pump up attendance,” according to a front-page piece by Joel Millman of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. The Raptors have Filipino Night “set for early next month, arriving on the heels of Serbian, Jewish and Chinese nights in January.” The T’Wolves are “hosting both an Israeli Heritage and a Jewish Heritage event, with a Canadian Heritage Night teed up for late January and a German Heritage night for March.” Meanwhile, the Warriors' Latino Night is on Jan. 28, after the team “held events saluting fans from Iran and China.” Pitching ethnicity is “an easy win for clubs that don't typically draw big crowds.” By focusing on visiting ethnic players, heritage events “can generate interest, raising the odds of higher ticket sales.” With the “right plans -- such as special foods and autograph signings with the star player -- some teams say they can fill as many as 2,000 additional seats.” The NBA currently has “86 foreign-born players,” and Millman writes the “biggest heritage star this season" is Kings F and Israel native Omri Casspi. The Kings this month “lured Jewish fans in Toronto, Washington, Boston and Atlanta.” But while pre- or postgame opportunities to meet players like Casspi “drives ticket sales, there's no guarantee that players will oblige.” Kings VP/Media Relations Troy Hanson said of Casspi, "He's done more than his share. We just had to say no to some teams." Millman notes some NBA teams have “found a safer bet is to showcase others, such as ethnic coaches and retired players” (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 1/19).
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