SBJ/March 3-9, 2014/Franchises

Wolves get creative in efforts to sell late addition to home schedule

The Minnesota Timberwolves find themselves in a unique situation this week: The team will roll out a marketing campaign for a game they never had on their original regular-season home schedule.

The game at hand is April 8, against San Antonio. It was originally scheduled for Dec. 3 but was to have been played in Mexico City (though still slated as a Wolves home game).

The game, originally scheduled for Mexico City in December, got an ad campaign of its own.
Smoke from a generator fire at Mexico City Arena forced the league to cancel the game, rescheduling it for Target Center next month. That gave the Wolves an unexpected regular-season game to sell, but it also presented some marketing challenges. With no pre-sell, the Wolves couldn’t package the game into any mini-plans or other previous promotions already in place for the season, so the team now is rolling out a campaign to drum up fan interest in a single-game, late-season contest.

“I’ve been trying to find an analogy but haven’t been able to find one,” said Ted Johnson, chief marketing officer for the Wolves. “It’s unusual to have a new game added to the schedule. It’s kind of like having a rain delay in baseball, but those tickets already have been sold.”

The planned TV, radio and print campaign launching this week pokes fun at the rescheduling. The TV spot recalls the canceled Mexico City game and asks fans to come out and watch the Wolves “smoke” the Spurs in Minneapolis. The team’s radio spot promises a much more personal — and colder game — at the Target Center.

The campaign was created by Minneapolis-based Hunt Adkins, the team’s agency of record.

“Our challenge is that we haven’t pre-sold the game,” Johnson said. “We have to sell the entire arena. The campaign is a little tongue-in-cheek, and we wanted to have a little fun. We can’t hide what happened and we need to bring people back to why the game exists. It is imperative that the creative stands out.”

The Wolves use dynamic pricing in their ticket sales and are pricing the game as a traditional mid-tier game despite the appearance of the high-profile Spurs.

Johnson said he expects the campaign ultimately will help the makeup game’s gate reach the team’s average home attendance of about 15,000 fans per game. Fox Sports North will broadcast the game. Team officials declined to discuss any financial arrangements made between the league and the team over the original game or its rescheduled date.

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