SBJ/February 28 - March 6, 2005/Other News

Nuggets owner Kroenke: Don’t mistake low profile for lack of passion

Among NBA owners, Denver Nuggets owner Stan Kroenke may rival only Portland Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen in his penchant for privacy, but Kroenke was friendly company in discussing his ownership role during a break in the NBA’s Technology Summit, the league’s annual power broker convention during all-star weekend.

Over a turkey sandwich, Kroenke explained his low-profile approach.

“I’m not like Mark [Cuban],” he said. “I’ve got a real estate development company to run and I am busy, but that doesn’t mean I’m not passionate. I live and die with the wins and losses.”

Kroenke bought the Nuggets, the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche and the Pepsi Center in July 2000 for $450 million and is now leading the Nuggets franchise through its own redevelopment, thanks to Carmelo Anthony and a team that last year made the playoffs for the first time since the 1994-95 season. In tandem with general manager Kiki Vandeweghe, Kroenke has gotten aggressive, trading this year for Kenyon Martin and his six-year, $92 million contract while running through two head coaches so far this season until finally hiring veteran NBA coach George Karl.

“For the first year or so, I just sat back and watched how the team developed and gave people a chance,” he said.

Stan Kroenke
Kroenke also had no concerns about the inconsistent play and some off-court issues that have plagued Anthony, the cornerstone of the franchise.

“Carmelo is still young,” he said. “He is going to develop into an even better player, and he has the top-selling jersey in the league.”

Kroenke was one of the few NBA owners who was part of the league’s collective-bargaining meeting held in Denver during the weekend, and he didn’t hesitate to comment on the cancellation of the NHL’s season.

“The players need to better understand the economics,” he said. “They say that they do, but I wonder if they really know.”

DESTINATION FINALS REDUX: It may have been all-star week in Denver, but league officials and marketing partners were busy planning for the playoffs and Finals promotional campaign. Sources said the league will again turn to the Destination Finals campaign that proved so effective last season. Sponsors and NBA brass can only hope that a repeat of the same promotional theme will bring similar results.

While the league puts the finishing touches on the campaign’s creative, Turner Sports President David Levy said at a Sunday morning media breakfast that the promotional effort will be used across a broader platform of his company assets.

“It’s too early to disclose the exact campaign,” he said, “but you will see a lot more music used this year than last year.”

Can expect Turner to use its Cartoon Network to push the postseason?

“I can’t say any more,” Levy said.

JAMMIN’: At the Jam Session All-Star Fan Fest, we noted the huge amount of signage that Nokia got with its presenting sponsorship. Also on display were two Nokia product booths, prototypes for 25 others that will be placed in shopping malls across the United States allowing customers to touch and feel, but not buy, Nokia’s new high-end phones. They can buy elsewhere in the mall.

At the NBA Store within Jam Session, we were: impressed by the selection of Reebok/NBA apparel on display for men, women and kids; delighted by Spalding’s ability to take a picture and instantly put it on a souvenir mini-basketball; mildly amused by licensee Winning Streak’s claim of a “genuine wool blend” for its attractive retro pennants.

Elsewhere, we’ve seen plenty of licensed home products over the years, but the custom-made NBA venetian blinds on display from Three Day Blinds were unique. The 170-store retailer is offering them with NBA teams and players at somewhere over $100 per window treatment; the slats can be replaced with a different team and/or player for about half that cost. It also sells shades in MLB flavors and with more than 40 college logos.

Attendance for Jam Session was 111,292, essentially flat from 2003 Atlanta’s 111,318 and down from last year’s 126,218. Not unexpected, given the relative sizes of Los Angeles and Denver.

COLA WARS: The Pepsi Center posed some interesting sponsorship clashes during all-star weekend, given that Coca-Cola is a league partner. That meant the complimentary bottles of Coke products made available to VIPs and the legions of credentialed journalists were banned from courtside. Anyone entering press row or courtside with a bottle of Coke-owned Dasani water had to either pour the product into a cup or remove the plastic label, lest anyone give Coke national television exposure from the Pepsi-sponsored building.

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