SBD/April 26, 2012/Franchises

NBA Kings Execs Try To Convince Fans To Renew Season Tix Amid Arena Ordeal

Johnson's potential final meeting with Kings owners expected to last several hours
NBA Kings officials “face one of the most difficult marketing tasks in their Sacramento tenure: persuading frustrated fans to reinvest financially and emotionally in the team that nearly jilted them for Anaheim last year, and may remain in town for no more than another few years,” according to a front-page piece by Bizjak & Kasler of the SACRAMENTO BEE. Upset by the team's "unwillingness to sign an arena deal to secure its future in Sacramento, some vocal season ticket holders are talking about canceling purchases for next season, some sponsors are rethinking contracts, and civic leaders are calling” for Kings Owner the Maloof family to sell. That effort “could pivot on events today,” as Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson is set to “meet with team owners in a 13th-hour push to keep his downtown arena dream alive.” That meeting “is expected to last for several hours.” But team officials said that they “think the Kings retain a strong following in Sacramento, regardless of what happens on the arena.” Kings PR Dir Chris Clark said that the team “has hit the 88 percent renewal rate among season ticket holders.” Only “a few of them have backed out since the arena deal fell apart.” He added that attendance “was up 7 percent this year.” Bizjak & Kasler note since April 13 when the Maloofs "pulled out of the deal for a new arena, reported attendance has topped 16,000 for each of three games at Power Balance” (SACRAMENTO BEE, 4/26). In Sacramento, Ailene Voisin writes in “contrast to the wrenching scene inside Power Balance Pavilion during and after the Kings' overtime loss to the Lakers on April 13, 2011, the mood figures to reflect a combination of recent developments.” The major surprise, “of course, is that the team is present and accounted for … at least through 2012-13.” With approximately $15M in salary cap space, the Maloofs “need to spend both wisely and generously this summer,” and Kings President of Basketball Operations Geoff Petrie “has to avoid a repeat offseason performance” (SACRAMENTO BEE, 4/26).

RETENTION RATE: Elmets Communications President Doug Elmets, who serves as spokesperson for Thunder Valley Casino, one of the Kings' biggest sponsors, said that the sponsorship “has been great for the casino's business, but the casino is taking a wait-and-see approach about renewing.” Elmets: "If ticket sales fall off substantially, and we don't get some kind of break on the (advertising) rates, then it doesn't make particularly good sense” (SACRAMENTO BEE, 4/26). Also in Sacramento, Melanie Turner notes that several sponsors "say they haven't decided whether to renew their sponsorship and corporate suites." Western Health Advantage Chief Marketing & Brand Officer Rick Heron said, "We're up in the air. We're just waiting to see what the reaction will be of the fan base. Without a strong and committed fan base, the value of that advertising opportunity goes down." But one concern Heron said he has about the value of working with the Kings is that "the dedication of the owners goes a long way toward fan enthusiasm." Heron: "We did it for two reasons: to support the effort to keep the Kings in Sacramento and, mainly, it's purely business. We want a partnership that's going to increase our membership, get our name out to an audience of folks" (SACRAMENTO BUSINESS JOURNAL, 4/20 issue).
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