SBJ/October 8-14, 2012/Franchises

Bobcats campaign touts Hump Day-heavy schedule

The Charlotte Bobcats are coming off a year in which they posted the league’s worst-ever winning percentage. Their schedule for the season ahead has them playing a franchise-record 13 of their 41 home games on Wednesday nights.

Call it the makings of a new marketing campaign.

The Bobcats this week plan to announce a program dubbed “Wednesday Night Basketball.” The branded effort calls for in-arena programming, ticket and concessions discounts, and other giveaways designed to boost interest and attendance at Time Warner Cable Arena for those games.

The team is working to land a sponsor for the “Wednesday” program, but no deal had been signed as of last week. Details on the discounts were being completed last week, as well.

“For us, the opponent is the primary driver [of ticket demand], but the day of the week is a close second,” said Pete Guelli, executive vice president and chief sales and marketing officer for the Bobcats. “Wednesday nights are lower-performing nights for us, and we needed something during the week to build critical mass. We’ve never had a double-digit number of Wednesday-night home games.”

The branded effort will be aided by the Bobcats’ having Miami, New York and the Los Angeles Clippers come through Charlotte on Wednesday nights.

During last year’s lockout-shortened 33-game home schedule, the Bobcats played five Wednesday-night games, drawing an average of 13,745 fans. That compared with a non-Wednesday home average of 14,938 in a dismal season that saw the club finish 7-59, an all-time-low winning percentage of .106.

For the season, the Bobcats averaged 14,757 fans, down 7 percent from the previous year and far below the leaguewide average of 17,274.

In 2010-11, which featured teams’ typical 41-game home schedules, the Bobcats had eight Wednesday-night home games and averaged 14,786 fans on those nights. That compared with an average of 16,103 fans for their 33 other home games.

“You always hope you are not bombarded [with midweek home games], but … we want to try to make it into a positive by building a theme and marketing it,” said Bobcats President Fred Whitfield.

Guelli and Whitfield said the Bobcats are the only team aiming to roll out a seasonlong branding campaign built around a specific night this year — but it’s a strategy other teams will be watching.

“Our teams follow what works, and everyone will be anxiously awaiting the ticket sales numbers,” said Chris Granger, executive vice president of team marketing and business operations for the NBA.
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