SBD/January 19, 2011/Franchises

Can MLS Timbers Wrest Market Share From Blazers In Portland?

The Timbers have posted 21 billboards around Portland ahead of first MLS season
As the Portland Timbers prepare for their inaugural MLS season next year, the OREGONIAN's John Canzano wonders if the club can "carve out enough market share to rise" above the Trail Blazers in popularity in the Portland market. The Timbers have sold "more than 10,000 season tickets," and suites are "sold out for next season, too." And in a stroke of "sports-marketing brilliance," the Timbers recently posted billboards -- 21 of them, featuring 11 different Portlanders -- that are "somehow simultaneously subtle and imposing." The billboards "have been called eye sores by some sign critics, and they've caused some confusion from people who don't really know what exactly they're advertising." But they are "within allowable limits, and the mystery ends up a piece of the marketing genius." Canzano writes, "The Timbers are doing it right, so far. Maybe they looked across the city at the Trail Blazers and saw the mistakes that the NBA organization has made." The "real competition in Portland isn't between the local colleges and the Timbers, but, rather, with the monopoly that the Blazers have enjoyed." Canzano: "Will the Blazers sponsorships and season-ticket numbers be threatened by the new operation? It feels like one operation has a smart plan and the other has the advantage of being on the scene first, with history and a more-established league on its side." But the possibility of an NBA lockout "might put fans in the position of wanting to try something new," and it will be "interesting to watch how the Timbers approach their cross-city competition." Timbers Owner Merritt Paulson and COO Mike Golub have been "quick to downplay what feels like a natural rivalry," while the Blazers are "busy pretending the Timbers don't exist." But "nobody can ignore how the NBA franchise worked to help kill the Rose Quarter baseball stadium proposal that Paulson pushed" for the Triple-A PCL Portland Beavers (Portland OREGONIAN, 1/19).
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