SBD/February 17, 2012/Franchises

Bobcats Seeing Rise In Attendance Despite On-Court Struggles

Bobcats' average attendance of 17,082 is up from last year's average of 15,846
The Bobcats said that attendance at Time Warner Cable Arena this season “is up 12 percent” over last year and that ticket revenue is “up 13 percent,” according to Ely Portillo of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. The Bobcats, who had a 3-26 record through Thursday, have been "averaging attendance of 17,082 so far this season." The team last year "averaged 15,846 fans a game, for the whole season." Business is “also up at the team store, which now sells team owner Michael Jordan's Nike-brand gear, along with the Bobcats' Adidas items.” Merchandise sales have “risen 31 percent, in line with the league-wide average.” The team said that some of the Bobcats' sales bump “is due to pent-up demand ... because fans had to wait until Christmas for the shortened NBA season to start following a labor dispute.” The Bobcats also had a “strong early-season schedule, hosting crowd-pleasers like the” Heat and Knicks. The delayed season “may have spurred demand, but it also hurt sponsorships,” as the team will be "flat this year in sponsorship dollars, after two seasons of double-digit growth." Bobcats Exec VP & Chief Sales & Marketing Officer Pete Guelli said it was a "minor victory," considering the lockout. He added that the team “has signed two seven-figure sponsorship deals that it will announce soon.” Bobcats President & COO Fred Whitfield said that the team “hopes to break even or be profitable under the new arrangement.” Portillo notes although they are "optimistic, team executives acknowledge that the Bobcats have to play better if the franchise is to succeed." Bobcats execs added that the team will "likely not be able to keep up the brisk pace of ticket sales as the season progresses" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 2/17).

RESPONSIBILITY FALLS ON JORDAN: ESPN's Stephen A. Smith said there is not a "bigger fan of Michael Jordan" than he is, but the team is doing poorly because the Bobcats owner "has not been spending money” on players. Jordan’s career has "been awful" as an executive, particularly as an owner, and “when you’re this bad, you don’t need to be owning a team because clearly he doesn’t have the capital that the other owners have.” The Bobcats fan base is “starving for somebody to support” it and “this is pretty damn pathetic how awful they look.” The team is “a walking embarrassment right now,” and “obviously, it’s on Michael Jordan’s watch because he’s the owner.” Smith: “He’s got to sell his franchise, not just to the fan base, but to players out there. Not just spending some money, but you got to go out there and you have got to be in guy’s faces. You are Michael Jordan. To have your name associated with this level of ineptitude, it’s just bad” (“The Drive,” WFNZ-AM, 2/16). ESPN’s Michael Smith said if Jordan is not responsible for the team's dismal record this season, "then who?" Smith: "He’s the guy making the decisions. It’s fascinating how one of the greatest competitors and greatest winners in team sports we’ve ever seen is associated with such futility. ... Everything about him has been about saving money or keeping money out of the players’ pockets. That’s his legacy as an owner in Charlotte.” When asked if this will hurt his legacy, Smith said, “No, because people still are lining up to buy Jordans” (“Numbers Never Lie,” ESPN2, 2/16).
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