SBD/August 5, 2013/Franchises

Bobcats' Name Change Paying Off Already With Ticket Sales Up, Sponsorships Rising

While new Hornets gear isn't available, the Bobcats are selling sub-branded items
The Bobcats announcing the team will change its name to the Hornets has had an "immediate impact on one of the NBA's most forlorn franchises," as new ticket sales are up 59% from last year, according to Chris Littmann of SPORTING NEWS. Bobcats Exec VP and Chief Marketing & Sales Officer Pete Guelli said that the number of fans "signing up for the two-year plan" accounted for more than 50% of new sales. The Bobcats' season-ticket renewals also are up 11% year-over-year, "already surpassing last year's renewal number with months to go" before the preseason begins. Guelli said that the goal is to "hit more than 90 percent on renewals, where most of the NBA's strongest franchises check in each offseason." Littmann wrote the Bobcats "won't reach that figure this season -- they'll be closer to 85 percent -- but it isn't out of reach" as the Hornets return in '14-15. Guelli: "We're very close on a number of new sponsorships. There are many, many companies that have not been interested for a number of reasons that are entertaining dialogue around the return of the Hornets. ... This rebrand has opened up a number of doors that had remained closed since Mr. (Robert) Johnson purchased the team." Littmann noted the Bobcats' team shop has "benefited from the name change, too, even as old merchandise is being liquidated, thanks to some smart marketing." The new Hornets uniforms, logos and other gear have not been unveiled, but the team "created two sub-brands -- 'Back the Buzz' and 'Buzz City' -- using familiar colors to begin building interest." The "Back the Buzz" gear is "so popular it had a 100 percent sell-through rate and has the team chasing additional inventory" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 8/2).

'CAN DO ATTITUDE? ESPN’s Tony Reali said he was “befuddled” that the Pelicans jerseys have “no mention of ‘Pelican’ anywhere.” Dallas Morning News columnist Tim Cowlishaw said it was “like they’re trying to distance themselves from a great name change." L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke: "It's almost like they got it on paper and said, ‘Oh my gosh, this doesn’t look very good on a shirt. What are we going to do now?’” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 8/2).
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