SBJ/March 20 - 26, 2006/This Weeks News

Knicks sweeten pot for season-ticket holders

The Knicks have the NBA’s biggest payroll, yet
are battling for the league’s worst record.
The New York Knicks, embroiled in one of the most embarrassing seasons in recent team sports history, are offering free concert tickets and other incentives to retain some of their best customers as the NBA renewal season gets under way.

The team recently rewarded between 30 and 40 season-ticket holders with free tickets and suite access to two Billy Joel concerts held at Madison Square Garden in early March. The Knicks also are planning to offer select season-ticket holders free suite access for upcoming Faith Hill-Tim McGraw shows slated for June 21 and June 23. Other upcoming concerts and events at the Garden will also be included in the giveaways, but the team has not identified the specific events.

Additionally, the Knicks have begun to offer season-ticket subscribers seated in the upper reaches of Madison Square Garden a chance to move down to lower-level seats on a random basis depending on availability. In addition, the team has brought a group of season-ticket holders to the Knicks’ training facility in Tarrytown, N.Y., for open gym access and are showering other season-ticket holders with various benefits, including player autographs and gift baskets.

“We are really trying to let our fans know that
we want them to remain with us.”

Hunter Lochmann
VP, marketing, New York Knicks
The moves come during a disastrous season filled with tabloid ridicule stemming from infighting between head coach Larry Brown and Knicks star Stephon Marbury, and a sexual harassment charge against team president Isiah Thomas by former marketing executive Anucha Sanders. On top of the embarrassing off-court charges, the Knicks have the NBA’s biggest payroll at $126 million and are battling the league’s newest team, the Charlotte Bobcats, for the worst record in the NBA. As of last Thursday, the team’s record was 18-45.

“There is a lot more going on with the Knicks than what is happening on the court, so what they are doing is a smart answer from a team suffering from an image problem,” said Mike Reisman, principal and founding partner of Connecticut-based Velocity Sports & Entertainment. “They are in a bit of crisis management and they are doing the right thing.”

Infighting between Stephon Marbury and
coach Larry Brown has marred the season.
While other NBA teams routinely reward season-ticket customers with added perks, this is the first time the Knicks have adopted such a strategy.

“It’s been a challenging year and we are really trying to let our fans know that we want them to remain with us,” said Hunter Lochmann, vice president of marketing for the Knicks. “We’ve never done it before, but it’s a necessity and we want to repay our fans who have been loyal.”

Lochmann did not disclose the Knicks’ season-ticket base and which season-ticket holders received the offers.

“It’s across the board and includes some of our longest-tenured customers as well as some first-year people,” he said.

The team has not yet released its ticket pricing for next season, but it traditionally does not boost ticket prices following a non-playoff season. The Knicks typically are one of the last NBA teams to begin selling for next season, banking on historically strong demand.

The Knicks will begin season-ticket renewal sales in early May, about the same time as last year. Last year, the Knicks had a season-ticket renewal rate of 85 percent, about average for the NBA.

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