SBJ/Sept. 9-15, 2013/Franchises

For loyal fans, a spot on the floor?

Two NBA clubs want names of season-ticket holders on courts

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Two NBA teams are awaiting league approval of a plan that would put the names of season-ticket holders on their playing floors.

The teams, Cleveland and Milwaukee, intend the plan as another benefit tied to their year-round membership and fan-loyalty clubs. Details are still being finalized and must be approved by the league, but the program would allow for the names of the season-ticket holders who are part of the loyalty clubs to be placed on the apron that surrounds the playing floor — or possibly even on the playing floor itself.

One source said the Cavaliers are proposing to put the account holders’ names on the sideline aprons while the Bucks are considering putting the names near the half-court line on the playing floor. The locations are subject to change depending on league response to the proposal.

Neither league nor team officials would discuss the plans, pending their approval, but sources said that if allowed, the initiative could be in
The Cleveland Cavaliers hope to create a court-centered version of the idea of selling inscribed bricks, as the Mets have done outside Citi Field.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES (2)
place by the start of the coming season.

Many details of the idea, beyond the location of the names, are still being discussed. For example, which season-ticket holders would be eligible for the perk must be determined — whether it would be for existing or only new season-ticket holders, or if a fan would need to be in a certain tier of the teams’ memberships groups. A decision also must be made on whether the names would appear on the floor in a decal form or if they would be painted onto the floor panels.

Whether there will be keepsake options offered to fans as part of the plan is not yet known. League executives also are studying the proposal to make sure the names won’t clutter the court or affect how the court appears on television.

Those and other details notwithstanding, though, the proposal in theory comes at a time when all leagues are looking for ways to enhance their season-ticket offerings and provide a sense of “exclusive membership privileges.” The NFL this season, for example, has rolled out a benefits package for its roughly 1 million season-ticket holders called The Membership Club (SportsBusiness Journal, Sept. 2-8). Those benefits include mobile access to RedZone and a free download to supplement a fan’s purchase of Electronic Arts’ “Madden” game.

The idea also advances what NBA teams already have been doing with their fan-loyalty clubs, looking for ways to increase season-ticket sales by adding benefits beyond the game tickets. The Cavs’ season-ticket club, known as Wine & Gold United, offers year-round benefits such as conference calls with owner Dan Gilbert and meet-and-greet events with the Cavs’ basketball staff.

The Bucks’ season-ticket loyalty club is called the MVP Loyalty Program.

Fans would be given the opportunity to see their names on the floor in pregame events or during other events at the arena. The cost of the floor name recognition would be included in the price of the season ticket.

Putting fans’ names on the floor would be akin to what teams typically have done outside their venues, selling bricks on sidewalks or walkways where fans can have their names appear. The idea also comes after the NBA earlier this summer allowed teams to sell advertising space on the floor in front of team benches. But unlike that new floor advertising inventory, which is placed in high visibility areas for maximum television exposure and sponsorship value, the names of the season-ticket holders would be small and would not be camera visible.

The fan-name idea was presented this summer to the league office independently by the Bucks and the Cavs. Other teams are taking a wait-and-see approach, considering questions of whether the plan would clutter the court or take up sideline space that could be used for potential advertising inventory in the future.

“There are a lot of ways to acknowledge your season-ticket holders,” said Pete Guelli, chief sales and marketing officer of the Charlotte Bobcats, one of the first NBA teams to roll out a year-round season-ticket benefits program, called Cats 365. “I am not convinced that it is a viable way to do it at this point.”

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