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Volume 26 No. 178
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Teams Taking Long-View Approach With Developing, Keeping Fans

The Celtics' Rich Gotham admitted retaining customers is difficult as technology keeps evolving
Photo: TONY FLOREZ
The Celtics' Rich Gotham admitted retaining customers is difficult as technology keeps evolving
Photo: TONY FLOREZ
The Celtics' Rich Gotham admitted retaining customers is difficult as technology keeps evolving
Photo: TONY FLOREZ

Several team execs looked to the future and what their franchises would look like during the yesterday's opening panel at the '19 AXS Sports Facilities & Franchises conference. The biggest point of emphasis for the Celtics, according to team President Rich Gotham, is keeping longtime customers interested and coming back to TD Garden. That becomes more difficult in a world where tech continues to evolve. "How do we make sure that we're still retaining those customers and engaging them in ways they want to engage?" he asked. "I'm not sure I know what that looks like in 10 years, but I know we had to change in the last few years our view on what it really means to market, engage and retain a customer." One change highlighted in Boston: Gotham estimated the Celtics had 50-60 employees a decade ago, whereas today they have about 160 staffers.

LAUNCH SEQUENCE: L.A. Wildcats President Heather Brooks Karatz is starting from scratch with her XFL team, and she said the league's debut five months from now allows a runway to build a team that matches fans' values and wishes. Karatz started a series of fan meet-and-greets where she gets together with supporters at local bars and restaurants to go over what they want to see out of the team. "Through that process, some ideas are good, some ideas aren't," she said. "But I'm building that generational relationship with that fan so that they're going to be a fan for life." Karatz also was asked what will allow the XFL to succeed when a league like the AAF did not. At least one upside, she said, is having all teams under one XFL umbrella. It "allows a sense of collaboration" and efficiency, she said.

CUTTING THROUGH THE NOISE: A crowded sports marketplace is common, and that is certainly the case in the Twin Cities, which count seven pro franchises as well as the Univ. of Minnesota. Breaking through that noise is something T'Wolves and Lynx CEO Ethan Casson is making a priority. "Time continues to be the most important currency for people," he said. "At the core, that's one of our biggest challenges. In that, how do you stay connected to that customer? ... How do you maintain that connectivity? What are we doing to attract a new audience?" The flip side of those challenges, Casson said, is opportunity. "We've embraced that opportunity, and I think it allows teams, leagues and others in the industry to really challenge the norm," he said.

KEEPING FANS HAPPY: For TD Garden and Bruins CRO Glen Thornborough, it is all about in-arena experience. He said the venue needs to create as "much of a frictionless experience as possible." Thornborough: "The goal is for everyone to be treated the same way when they enter the building." He added another challenge he faces is the "generalization of the season ticket holder," noting there are some 50-year-plus season-ticket holders for both the Celtics and Bruins. Thornborough: "When that generation dissolves, what does it look like? How do they want to experience live content?"