Friday, January 22, 2010

Improving Attendance

Thanks to JMar, M, Ben Castellon, bradleyjah, CoCo, and Mike Lu (so far) for addressing my questions regarding attendance. Having discussed why more people don't attend games I've learned/confirmed that the primary issues seem to be start time* and cost of/value derived from tickets.

*Including the sub-problem that there may not be a sufficient in-town basketball market to offset the logistical problems created for people who have to drive any distance for weeknight games.

Presumably, the Hawks could address the former on their own and make 7:30 the default starting time* for games not broadcast on national TV. The latter is obviously something that's never going to be anything other than personal decision.

*What, are Fox Sports South and SportSouth going to revolt and function as a more half-assed broadcast partner?

My new questions:
  • What could the Hawks do to improve attendance?
  • Do you think they do a good job marketing the team?
  • Could they realistically do anything to raise the team's profile within the local sports media (such as it is)?
  • What, if anything, can Hawks fans do to change the culture and make a Hawks game a hot ticket?
  • Do Hawks fans really want to make games a hot ticket and thus reduce, if not eliminate, the below face value tickets they may have enjoyed purchasing for years?
Please leave your answers and any other relevant questions in the comments.


CoCo said...

I can tell you from an insider's perspective that there's only so much the Hawks marketing department can do without the player's consent. The only things they can really do is put up billboards and other impersonal things and who knows how effective those are when it comes to attracting fans. The Hawks players are extremely reserved and don't really have the personalities of people who want their likeness all over the city. As much as we tease Joe for being unknown, he clearly appreciates the anonymity. I suppose we should appreciate the fact that they aren't an outwardly self absorbed bunch. I think things are pretty much going to stay the same. The marquee games will sell out, the games against pretty good teams will come close and the games against bad teams will continue to struggle. Perhaps the team should give out more free tickets to the games they know aren't going to sell. There are some people who have come to Hawks games and been so entertained they wanted to come back for more. It isn't breaking news that if you show the people a good time when they come to your establishment they're likely to come back. The Game Operations are pretty good, but they need to re-open Philips Experience and put more things that entertain people on the concourse. All of those things contribute to the overall experience the fans have. whew.

Matt said...

* What could the Hawks do to improve attendance?

---I think the 7:30 start time is a valid idea. I'm a season ticket holder and can make it for 7, but 7:30 would give me a more leisurely pace on a Wednesday night. That said, I think that is a very small factor. Attendance would improve with a superstar who transcends the team. While I like the players and lineup, it's just not there. It's not like the other teams in the city aren't in the same boat, but it is hard for me to understand why a predominantly black city can't draw more fans to the hometown NBA team.

* Do you think they do a good job marketing the team?

Actually I do, there can always be more "awareness" in the city, but seriously, is seeing an extra billboard or two on 285 going to make you go see them vs Sacramento on a Wednesday night if you weren't already going to go? Maybe a more visible TV station would help

* Could they realistically do anything to raise the team's profile within the local sports media (such as it is)?

I think the AJC does a pretty good job. I don't watch local news so I really couldn't comment. I have heard 95.5 giving away tickets to a few games, maybe more radio could help

* What, if anything, can Hawks fans do to change the culture and make a Hawks game a hot ticket?

Continue winning as they have been. The Hawks are an exciting team, they just have no Lebron. (of course, the Miami market invalidates that line of thinking). Atlanta fans are bandwagon jumpers.

* Do Hawks fans really want to make games a hot ticket and thus reduce, if not eliminate, the below face value tickets they may have enjoyed purchasing for years?

I've learned a couple things from pro wrestling.....discounting tickets doesn't really work. The fans who get those don't generally want to come back and pay higher prices....the idea that "they'll like it and come back to pay for it" sounds good, but it doesn't really work for wrestling or mixed martial arts. In fact, when WCW in the 90s raised ticket prices, they did better. I think package deals like the chick fil a 4 packs are probably good, but individual tickets need to be priced well.

Aaron said...

As Bill Shanks suggested recently, they need to do a better job of marketing to those outside the city.

CoCo said...

The 7:30 start time is fine for single folks, but what about people with children? I'm sure the Hawks would rather have people come late and stay until the end as opposed to starting later and having people leave early to get kids in bed and etc. Families are not going to consistently come to games throughout the week that won't end until 10. Also, one of the bigger problems is the fact that the Marta doesn't run all over the metro area. Traffic is definitely an issue for people who don't get off until 6 or so. You also have to consider that people tend to be late to social events and let's be honest, Atlanta is full of people who just go to places to be seen. A lot of the people who come to Hawks games are just there to be seen or hang out. The club level is like a literal club. Some folks are just going to be late no matter what. The Friday games start at 7:30 and people are still late. It's just going to happen. And, like I said yesterday, there are a lot of options for entertainment in Atlanta and going to a game can be costly with the ticket price and parking and lord forbid you want to eat inside the arena. If you're going to spend that kind of money, you may as well be treated to LeBron, or Kobe or Melo or someone like that. Until the Hawks become so good that they're the main draw, they are going to continue to have light crowds more often than not.

Bronnt said...

Generally, I think the Hawks are doing a pretty good job marketing the team. "The Highlight Factory" is a good nickname for the arena, and they've made an emphasize to utilize Josh Smith, who's definitely our most marketable player.

Sports attendance is not a new problem for Atlanta. The Atlanta Braves couldn't sell out home playoff games at the end of their run. Until Michael Vick was drafted (one of the most marketable players in NFL history) the Falcons were subject to black-out rules. This is caused by two separate issues:

1) Atlanta has, among major cities, one of the most limited public transportation methods. the MARTA station right below Phillips is great, but getting from there to your home is an issue, unless you happen to live right next to a MARTA station.

2) Metro Atlanta is huge-the 7th or 8th most populated in the country. The actual city population is not-only about 800k, ranking in the 40s in terms of largest US cities. THIS is the exact reason why weekend games do well but mid-week games do not; the population for whom a mid-week game is conveniently close is but a fraction of the local fanbase.

The only way for the Hawks to overcome this is to continue to put a good product on the floor. Win games, be generally entertaining, and try to help foster your star talent.

Ultimately, the bigger issue is the city of Atlanta. Cities in the United States go through stages. At some point, there's an exodus of the affluent who prefer a quieter life in the suburbs, and then the rest follow suit. But eventually the city draws back in some of the upper and middle-class who prefer to live closer where things are more convenient. It's that way in cities like New York and Chicago, but it hasn't really happened in Atlanta. Some poor city management hasn't exactly helped the issue. In another 20 years, perhaps Atlanta will stimulate some growth within the city limits.

For now, the only thing I'd suggest is that the Hawks do a better job of marketing and selling Al Horford. He's one of the best centers in the NBA (just going off of win shares, he's one of the top 20 PLAYERS) and yet the casual fan think of him as a third wheel on this team. He's also young and (I've heard) good-looking.

Jamie said...

to be honest, it could be quite a bit cheaper. I buy tickets for 3-4 Hawks games a year, and the stub-hub prices are substantially higher in Atlanta than they are in Memphis or Charlotte (two geographically comparable markets) I think if the arena isn't full, (not enough demand) then it's time to lower prices.

M said...

although i loved getting two tickets (section 210 row B) and a parking pass for a total of $30 wed night.. i would gladly trade that for the experience of a raucous sold out crowd..i believe the hawks do an great job of marketing the team (chick fil a family nights, aarons's wednesdays, etc), but they could do more marketing individual players.. also, atl is a transplant city and everyone is a bandwagon fan, except us!

Unknown said...

Personally, having a packed house would suck since I get free tickets from the Hawks, BUTTTTT I must say that you guys aren't dealing with the root issue.

The root issue is - Atlanta's still a relatively young city and the South's passion for almost a century is FOOTBALL. You can get 50K if you just say UGA to someone. Now, places where you get this rabid fan base - they've been born and bred with basketball and in many cases - pro basketball is the only game in town. The Hawks are competing with hockey (pro), baseball (pro), football (HS, college, and pro), and almost every other sport. Atlanta unlike many cities - has EVERYTHING. So, you have a smaller pool AND they aren't passionate about teams that they didn't grow up with.

So, that's what we're dealing with. I think they are moving in the right direction by WINNING and adding things like don't sit down until we score and other 'traditions'. It would be good if you got the players to sell the sport to the people, but they don't realize these factors at play and probably won't ever understand it until the prospect of pro ball in Atlanta was legitimately in jeopardy.

That said - I think if people were exposed to sitting in Madison Garden on a regular basketball night back when Ewing was there like I was - they'd cry like I did. I literally welled up at the sight of every seat being filled watching Marbury and Garnett play the Knicks and how much energy and excitement was in that crowd for just a regular home game. I still get goose bumps. I'd buy season tickets again for that. It truly was incredible, but it also was a NY thing - they LOVE the Knicks more while they suck than we would if they won a NBA title. That's the difference.

Unknown said...

* One of two things: to truly be elite (Showtime-Lakers caliber), or to have a marketable star. The first issue is a work in progress. The second issue would be resolved if they started casting Josh as the star instead of Joe Johnson, who might actually be the most unassuming, boring player making more than the MLE in the league.

* They could do better. Marketing Josh might be a better idea too, and casting it as two stars instead of just one.

* The Hawks need to get some celebrities to get season tickets and attend every game (like Spike or Jack). "Luda and Usher go to ever Hawks game? HOT DAMN! I'm going."

* This... is actually a good question. I have no answer.

* Yes. I know everyone hates bandwagoner fans who hop on during the playoffs and hotstreaks and don't know anyone on the team other than Joe and maybe Josh, but c'mon, the team deserves support. And any truly great team has bandwagon fans and outrageous ticket prices - it comes with the territory.

JMar said...

Someone in the last comments section mentioned that maybe the suburbanites considered the Hawks too "hip-hop" for your standard white middle class family. I haven't heard anything like that, but my sample size of families who like basketball is limited to a grand total of two. That said, I do think that relates to why the Hawks don't have "that player" to market. Joe Johnson - very quiet, jump shooter, reliable, but not that exciting player that fans can rally around. Someone suggested Josh, but I think his problem is the exact opposite of Joe's - he's got the play that excites the fans, but his personality is exactly what a white middle class fan would reject: he's not very smart or articulate, he blatantly disregards and fights with authority, and he complains after every call or non-call (without the fun Sheed or Ochocinco-like personality that would allow him to get away with it with the hometown fans). Maybe it's just me, but I tremendously dislike Josh on a personal level, for the reasons above, his impertinent jumpshooting, his dumb plays, and most of all, the aforementioned baby tendencies. Horford's very likeable and puts up great numbers, but he's not very exciting. He's like Tim Duncan, which is a wonderful player to have, but not necessarily from a marketing standpoing: I think that even San Antonio made guys like Ginobli and Parker the advertising focus because he doesn't have that electric personality.

If you're going to have that marketable star, he needs to have both the electric play and an eminently likeable personality. Ignoring stats, who has that fan-favorite personality of a LeBron, Shaq, Wade, pre-gunfight Arenas, etc. I think a guy like Marvin has the qualities, if his play had ever lived up to his hype. Maybe Teague, if he were to become a breakout star. As is, I think they're just as well to promote "team" over "star".

Right now, we have one guy that has it all - the hiphop organ player. The newly added organ is my favorite non-game feature. I even listen for it at home.

One thought - I'd love to see a billboard that had the Hawks record on a ticker. I think that hearing how good they are doesn't click with someone who doesn't watch them all the time unless the Hawks' record is thrust in their faces.

M said...

JMar- you are dead on about the hip hop organ player.. from my tv, i could hear him belting out "bedrock" in addition to some lady gaga and some luda

CoCo said...

@JMAR You dislike Josh on a personal level? Do you know him personally?

Unknown said...

I agree that the hawks do not have an extremely lovable star...but the team is clearly talented and runs a fast paced excited style.
I HATE the hip-hop organ player...he doesn't ever stop playing and it just gets seriously irritating.

JMar said...

@CoCo No, I've never met Josh Smith in person. I am basing my opinion on my perception of him on the court, when he speaks to media, news reports and rumors, etc. Which is what everyone would be basing their opinions on as the marketed star.

mick said...

The food prices are unreasonable. I really don't mind shelling out 15 plus ticket-master fees but when its 7 bucks a beer and 6.50 a hotdog i get angry and either have to either go hungry or pay money i really don't have.