SBJ/May 9-15, 2011/Franchises

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  • NBA execs playing catch-up in Sacramento

    The NBA sent marketing staff to Sacramento to help ignite the Kings’ business following a season that team co-owner Joe Maloof said will bring roughly $6 million in profit.

    Though the team posted the second-worst average attendance in the 30-team NBA with an average of 13,890 fans a game, the Kings had a $44 million payroll, far below the NBA’s salary cap of $58 million.

    “We will be profitable this year, between $6 million and $8 million” Maloof said. “But we need a new arena to allow us to be competitive.”

    NBA Commissioner David Stern said last month that just eight out of the 30 NBA teams will be profitable this season.

    Maloof also added that he doesn’t expect to renegotiate the team’s local television deal with
    NBAE / GETTY IMAGES (2)
    The Maloof family (right)  will keep the Kings in Sacramento another year, but arena issues will dictate what happens next.
    Comcast SportsNet, which he said pays the team $13 million per season. The Kings are in the middle of a long-term deal with Comcast, which includes a provision that releases the team from the deal should it decide to relocate. The team was offered around $20 million per year in television money by Anaheim Ducks owner Henry Samueli as part of his relocation offer to move the Kings to the Honda Center.

    The Kings also are depending on the NBA staff dispatched to Sacramento last week to help run its business operations. Business was at a standstill prior to last Tuesday’s announcement that the team would stay in Sacramento for at least one more year as local officials work on an agreement to build a new arena.

    Maloof said the Kings this year had a season-ticket base of 6,000 and have sold 15 of the 30 suites at the Power Balance Pavilion.

    “Our first benchmark is to sell all of our floor seats and our suites,” Maloof said.

    Joining Chris Granger, executive vice president of the NBA’s team marketing and business operations department, and Brian McIntyre, senior communications adviser to Stern, in Sacramento are NBA team marketing and business operations vice presidents Aaron Ryan, Donna Daniels and Brendan Donohue. Other NBA staff working with the Kings are Jeff David, senior director for business development for the league’s global marketing partnerships division; Phil Grieco, director of team sponsorship development; Benjamin Gumpert, senior director of NBA team marketing and business operations; and Jeremy Walls, director of NBA team marketing and business operations.

    While the NBA’s team marketing and business operations assist all NBA teams in shared marketing efforts, the level of league support given to the Kings is uncommon. The NBA did provide league assistance to the New Orleans Hornets when the team was forced to temporarily relocate to Oklahoma City after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

    The league staff, led by Granger, arrived in Sacramento last Tuesday to help the Kings ramp up sales while the rest of the league has been selling season tickets, sponsorships and suites for months.

    Staffing has also been an issue. The Kings lost their top sponsorship sales executive in Tom Hunt, who took a job with Ted Leonsis’ Monumental Sports & Entertainment.

    “We will be hiring in part because people left due to the uncertainty and also because there is a sudden surge in demand,” McIntyre said, declining to disclose how many new season tickets the team has sold since it announced it would stay in Sacramento.

    “[Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson] has made a lot of promises and we take him at his word,” Maloof said. “We are not sugarcoating it. If we can’t get an arena financing package, we are leaving.”

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