SBJ/February 27-March 5, 2017/Events and Attractions

Hornets left to wonder what might have been



For Charlotte Hornets President Fred Whitfield, NBA All-Star was a weekend of what might have been.

The Hornets were set to host the league’s marquee event until the game was shifted to New Orleans in response to North Carolina’s HB2 law. Hornets executives had spent more than a year planning to bring the game to Charlotte until the NBA in July moved the event to the Big Easy, causing Whitfield to wistfully watch New Orleans play All-Star host.

“It was surreal to be here to see what our city and state could have been enjoying,” Whitfield said while sitting in the Roosevelt Hotel after the conclusion of the NBA’s Tech Summit on All-Star Friday. “It’s great to host the All-Star Game and put the city on a global stage.”

Whitfield remains optimistic that the NBA will eventually take the game to Charlotte. Next year’s All-Star Game is in Los Angeles, but NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has said that the 2019 event could go to Charlotte pending resolution of the HB2 law to protect the LGBT community in North Carolina.

In the meantime, the Hornets are concerned about future economic damage and job losses in the region from the HB2 law should it result in fewer bookings in the Spectrum Center and the loss of future NCAA championship events throughout the state.

“We supported NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s decision to move the game,” Whitfield said. “We missed out on a great opportunity for the city and state that we worked so hard to get.”

Jordan Brand and Bud Light activated in the French Quarter while Tissot used the NBA Crossover venue.
Photos by: TERRY LEFTON / STAFF
SWOOSHING GLOBALLY: At Nike’s Jordan Brand activation in the French Quarter, a series of gold-painted shoes from “His Airness” was being displayed. One of the most interesting things we learned about Nike’s ascension as the NBA’s new uniform rights holder next season is that the company expects half the gold (aka revenue) from its new and expansive NBA rights to come from outside the U.S.

That’s a remarkable stake, considering that NBA licensees generally sell somewhere around 35 percent of their wares outside the U.S. We’re also hearing that while Nike’s new rights don’t
officially kick in until Oct. 1, Nike may have NBA product at retail 10 days sooner.

A few other intriguing details: Not surprisingly, Michael Jordan’s Charlotte Hornets will have a Jordan Brand logo on their jerseys next season, when the rest of the league jerseys will carry a Nike swoosh.

A unique design feature will see next season’s Nike NBA warmups designed as hoodies. The compression underlayer “tights” will coordinate with socks, rights for which Nike grabs from Stance, beginning next season.

PLAYERS CHOICE: After decades of leasing its members’ IP to the league, the NBPA has its group licensing rights to itself, effective July 1. Now, the players union must figure out how best to exploit them.

Atop the Troubadour Hotel, rechristened “One Court” and host hotel for some 70 players, NBPA Chief Marketing Officer Jordan Schlachter repeated a claim that the union would return more to membership from group licensing in its first year than it was receiving from the NBA.

More than 40 NBA business partners now have group licensing rights.

Under the new CBA, the NBA is allowed to use player names and images to promote games, events and NBA programming on its broadcast partners, or for “league promotions” such as the Sprite Slam Dunk contest. But, for the first time in decades, the union can sell sponsorships in competing categories. Schlachter said he has already received calls from some of the largest categories, including auto and soft drinks.

After licensing and sponsorship deals, content and events are huge opportunities, Schlachter said, along with social media. Grass-roots instruction will be another area of emphasis.

“Kids should be learning basketball from the best,” said Schlachter, noting that late last year, the union hired Dan Gladstone, former New York Knicks vice president of community relations and fan development, as the union’s senior VP of grassroots basketball and business development.

Schlachter said the first things based on the union’s reclaimed rights will be offseason events, with initial licensed products to retail as soon as the back-to-school shopping period.

With the union looking for help with the licensing and sponsorship sales, agencies are circling. We noted with interest that LeadDog Marketing helped design this year’s One Court hotel space.

MERCH MAVENS: Given that the All-Star Game was moved from its original location in Charlotte, that it was the third game in New Orleans in less than a decade, and that many tourists in New Orleans were there exclusively for Mardi Gras parades, merchandise sales were surprisingly robust.

As early as the Saturday evening before the All-Star Game, Chris Brennan, NBA senior vice president of retail development, said this year’s All-Star Game would easily outsell the games there in 2008 and 2014. When totaled, 2017 All-Star Game event merch sales outpaced the New Orleans high from 2008 by an impressive 25 percent.

Fanatics headed merch efforts in hotels and at the Smoothie King Center, with Adidas adult and kid All-Star Game “Swingman” replica jerseys, and Spalding’s “Money Ball” among the top sellers.

Brennan offered Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo and Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid as two new names now moving merchandise sales. Sixers teammate Ben Simmons is still selling through 10 percent of his Adidas jersey inventory every week on NBAstore.com, even though he has yet to play a game.

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