SBD/October 30, 2013/Franchises

NBA Kings Ownership Facing An Abundance Of Promise, Challenge In Turnaround Effort

Ranadive has presided over the hiring of 92 new Kings employees, mostly in marketing
When the Kings host the Nuggets tonight at Sleep Train Arena, it "will be an opening night for the ages, with Bollywood dancers, Shaquille O’Neal, a sellout crowd and more glitz and glitter" than Kings fans have seen in years, according to Kasler & Bizjak of the SACRAMENTO BEE. But the Kings' second home game a couple nights later will be "a good deal quieter," as "hundreds of tickets remain unsold." The first week of the NBA regular season "illustrates the promise and challenges facing the Kings and their new owners," including Managing Partner Vivek Ranadive. Kings President Chris Granger said that "average attendance at Sleep Train Arena 'without question' will improve over last year’s worst-in-the-league 13,749." Yet it is "clear it will take time" before the Kings return to continual sellouts. For all the "euphoria about Ranadive’s arrival, the Kings are still in recovery mode." The team since Ranadive took over has "hired 92 new full-time employees, most of them in marketing." The NBA said that the Kings have "attracted more new season ticket holders than any other team in the league." Granger said, "I’m more focused on the infrastructure than 41 sellouts. That will come." Kings VP/Communications Donna Schwartze said that the team has "lined up six new corporate sponsors this year." Two of the new sponsors, Kaiser Permanente and Golden 1 Credit Union, have "secured the naming rights to two of the arena’s entrances -- a first for Sleep Train." The new direction will be "on vivid display" at tonight’s opener. A pregame fanfest outside the arena will "include a demonstration of India’s national sport, cricket." The game will "air live on Sony Six, a sports channel in India that regularly televises NBA games" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 10/30). A SACRAMENTO BEE editorial stated it is "welcome" that Ranadive and Granger are "putting a priority on improving the fan experience." But it would "really help the franchise and the city if this team is at least competitive and entertaining" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 10/29). The Kings and local broadcast partner KXTV-ABC will air tonight's game commercial free (THE DAILY).

WINNING CHANGES EVERYTHING: CSNBAYAREA.com's Ray Ratto wrote the Kings are "in many ways an expansion team, with an open field to define themselves in any way they want." But now "comes the hard part," which is "winning games and being noticed." That is going to be "a much longer process." The Warriors "did that, but if you ask for the blueprint by which it occurred, they cannot provide it for you because so much of what they are now is due to a combination of brains and luck." The Kings are hoping to "recreate that 90 miles up the road, but it won’t work just that way." This is "an ocean liner and it takes time to turn it about." As long as Ranadive et.al. "openly and honestly acknowledge what the Kings have not been, and what they are now, the easier will be the transition to what they can become" (CSNBAYAREA.com, 10/28).

GETTING ANALYTICAL: Kings Advisor to the Chair Chris Mullin noted the team is "going to use analytics and statistical data a lot." Ranadive said, "To me, basketball is just a big data problem, both on the court and also on the business side. So whether it's helping sell tickets and merchandise and knowing who to sell what to at what point in time or it's the game itself, what combination of players produce the best results, where you shoot from, how you got the other team. We're not going to give you our secret sauce but Dr. Mullin here is hard at work. He's using the same software that we use to find cures for cancer." Fox Business' Liz Claman noted the Kings want to "push their goal to build a global brand." Ranadive replied by saying the branding effort will be a "process ... and we'll get there, but it will take a few years." He said he wants to air Kings game live in India and noted his goal "is not to surpass cricket as the national pastime in India, but we think we can be a very strong No. 2." Ranadive said the team will have clinics in India, and "we're going to take our team there in the off-season" so that basketball can become "in the next five years the second most popular sport in India" ("After The Bell," Fox Business, 10/29).
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