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Gyron
12-13-2004, 11:05 AM
While I don't agree with part of what he says in this article, it got me thinking, what can the NBA do to increase its popularity? I'd be interested in some of the ideas you guys might have.

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2004/writers/jack_mccallum/12/09/top.five/index.html (http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2004/writers/jack_mccallum/12/09/top.five/index.html)

The Top Five

NBA's sinking popularity should prompt image makeover

Posted: Thursday December 9, 2004 12:18PM; Updated: Thursday December 9, 2004 12:18PM


Last week I spoke at a gathering that included about 75 boys' high school basketball players. Before I began I asked: How many of you like the NBA better than you like college basketball?
One youngster raised his hand.

One out of 75.

That sums up the disastrous public relations shape the NBA is in these days. And, no, they weren't all Caucasian kids from private schools.

I then asked the kids why and got a range of answers: NBA players don't try as hard as the college players. The NBA game is too slow and boring. I don't like the players all that much anymore. I liked the old guys, like Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson, better. So it went. Not a single kid mentioned the horrible brawl at the Palace of Auburn Hills, which didn't surprise me: The problems of the league may have been crystallized in that near-riot. But they didn't begin there.

Commissioner David Stern never wants to hear about these things. He blames journalists for writing negatively about his league, ignoring the fact that the people who cover pro hoops are the ones who most stoutly defend it, as I regularly do and did at that gathering. But it's time for some serious action.

To reiterate a theme I've sounded off on before: Players in the NFL act more reprehensibly during games than NBA players do. Pro football has just as many criminals, convicted and otherwise, as pro basketball. But the NFL gets a pass because it has become our corporate sport.

Likewise, baseball is in the midst of a steroid scandal, which shouldn't surprise anyone who happened to notice that the University of Nebraska offensive line had seemingly taken up baseball. But though the Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi stories have been played prominently, their steroid intake will not taint the entire game.

But drug revelations in basketball (which, incidentally, there have not been many of lately)? Hey, they're all guilty is the conclusion.

That's just the way it is. Perception or reality, it doesn't matter anymore.

The popularity of the NBA is at an all-time low, which shouldn't be the case with the NHL locked out. It should've been the time to build but, instead, it's been one black mark after the other.

So for this week's five-pack, here are things the NBA must do to try to climb back into the good graces of the public.

1. At season's end Stern must immediately convene an all-star panel of players to discuss image.

His Dream Team would include players such as Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Ray Allen, Allen Iverson, Grant Hill, and Tracy McGrady. He probably wouldn't get half of them to show up. But he better keep working at it. If not Kobe, then Dwyane Wade. If not Duncan, then Ben Wallace. If not Hill, then Dirk Nowitzki.

Players, and the players' association, must get invested in the notion that the league is in trouble. That's partly why the NBA underwent a renaissance in the 1980s. Players such Magic, Jordan, Larry Bird and Isiah Thomas understood the give-and-take involved in selling a sport that has never been America's favorite.

2. The league and the players' association had better sign off on a new collective bargaining agreement (they agreed jointly to extend the old one through the end of the season) with minimal headlines and jaw-flapping.

Any labor disagreement -- repeat, any -- is going to result in a near-revolution from the public. Do you hear a resounding hue and cry about the NHL's absence? I'm not. Sure, basketball is more ingrained in the culture than hockey, but management and labor better not take the chance that fans simply won't miss pro hoops.

3. The league must hold individual meetings -- call them seminars, clinics, if you like -- with each of the NBA's 30 franchises to explain both what constitutes civil behavior at an arena and establish standard procedures regarding game operation.

Eliminate a lot of the noise, the distracting sound effects made at the expense of the visiting team, the yahoo public address announcers who act like carnival barkers and do nothing but suck up to the home crowd. Invite in the season ticket-holders and young fans to talk about sportsmanship. Kids, and adults, sometimes have to be instructed on how to act. That's just the way it is.

Pro basketball arenas have gone way, way too far to create what long-time NBA observer Jan Hubbard calls the "sensory overload" that fires up fans and turns crowds into uncivil mobs.

4. Keep looking at ways to increase scoring.

As I write this, five teams -- Phoenix, Washington, Sacramento, Orlando and Seattle -- are averaging more than 100 points and Minnesota is on the verge. Heaven bless them. Last season only two teams finished averaging triple figures. The NBA game needs running and more running.

You know what's funny? NBA fans in the '50s and '60s never complained that their heroes didn't play defense, even though almost every team routinely scored better than 100 points. But fans today have the feeling that players don't D it up. Why? Because fans really don't know how to analyze defense. If fans like the players, like the game and feel that the players like the game, they will assume that it is being playing hard at both ends.

5. Market the game with more diversity and goodwill.

The NBA can hardly deny its connection to urban culture, nor should it. And if white people don't like it, that's tough. The problem is, there's little alternative. The only message that gets out is a message that many fans can't connect with.

The TNT commercials notwithstanding, it's been a long time since I've seen an NBA marketing campaign with humor, or seen any kind of effort to sell the game in a way that is soft and subtle rather than in-your-face. Use some of the players who were popular --Magic, Bird, Jordan (if you can get him) -- to either interact with today's stars or make a plea for fans to return to the game. Use players from opposing teams in spots to jack up competition. Show a different side to these guys other than the I'm-superhuman-and-you're-not message sent out by the shoe companies.

Detroit Pistons coach Chuck Daly used to say, half-jokingly, that coaching an NBA team required him to deal with 12 individual Fortune 500 companies. Right now, that's all the public sees -- a league of selfish millionaires. Reality or perception? It just doesn't matter anymore.

Seventy-four out of 75 agree.



Sports Illustrated senior writer Jack McCallum covers the NBA for the magazine and is a regular contributor to SI.com.

DisplacedKnick
12-13-2004, 11:51 AM
1. At season's end Stern must immediately convene an all-star panel of players to discuss image.

His Dream Team would include players such as Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Ray Allen, Allen Iverson, Grant Hill, and Tracy McGrady. He probably wouldn't get half of them to show up. But he better keep working at it. If not Kobe, then Dwyane Wade. If not Duncan, then Ben Wallace. If not Hill, then Dirk Nowitzki.

This is so wrong I don't know where to begin. IMO, a huge problem with the league is the focus on stars rather than teams. Stars retire. How many people followed the NBA in the 90's because of Michael?

Teams don't retire. Get a fan base that follows teams rather than individuals and you'll have a solid fan base.

Want a panel? Get PJ Brown. Get Kevin Willis. Get Pat Garrity. Above all, don't get Kobe, Shaq or AI. Gah! Don't ask the friggin' prima donnas for their opinion - they're so removed from any relevance to Joe fan that it's ridiculous.

Better yet, have a contest with each team where 3 fans win a trip to all-star weekend with one requirement - they participate in a panel discussion of the NBA for a couple of hours where they can talk about the state of the game. Of course you should really get a few ex-fans in there too.

stipo
12-13-2004, 12:14 PM
I would like to know what kind of gathering this was. 1 out of 75? I don't believe it. I can only assume that it was sponsered by the college game somehow. Or perhaps he "led" the question in a way that the kids answered the way they thought they were expected to answer.

Yes, the NBAs' marketing needs some work, but it's not yet in dire straights.

3Ball
12-13-2004, 12:25 PM
The single best way (and you listen too, NHL)? Slash the number of games played to about 30. Of course, they will never do it because they would lose a lot of money. One of the reason that NCAA basketball and the NFL are so much more fun sometimes is that every game well and truly counts. You remember every win or loss with aching clarity. At 100 games for a final team, they just blend together to mush. Shorten the season, each team plays once or twice a week on one of two nights. That's it.

Also, establish a schedule. Sunday and Monday night are for the NFL. NBA is whenever at whatever time.

Harddrive7
12-13-2004, 12:31 PM
The single best way (and you listen too, NHL)? Slash the number of games played to about 30. Of course, they will never do it because they would lose a lot of money. One of the reason that NCAA basketball and the NFL are so much more fun sometimes is that every game well and truly counts. You remember every win or loss with aching clarity. At 100 games for a final team, they just blend together to mush. Shorten the season, each team plays once or twice a week on one of two nights. That's it.

Also, establish a schedule. Sunday and Monday night are for the NFL. NBA is whenever at whatever time.


My wife would LOVE that.

stipo
12-13-2004, 12:38 PM
I do agree with the writers opinion on the "carnival barker" arena p.a. guys. There IS a degree of "sensory overload", IMO. It seems that the games have turned into more of a circus than something resembling basketball. (on a similiar note: do the Colts still pump in taped crowd noise at times? That was the case two years ago at a game I attended.)

As far as marketing teams instead of players, this is something I've noticed too, but how do you get around it? Basketball is such a personallity driven game. Your up close to the players (unlike baseball and football). One basketball player can take over a game( unlike the other sports).
Perhaps one way to furthere bring the idea of team play into the fore is to stop the preferential "STAR" treatment -- calling a foul EQUALLY on stars and rookies. Take away the extra step that many have always gotten away with. (ha, that's a good one!:laugh: )

Kstat
12-13-2004, 01:37 PM
Ask the NHL how its utter REFUSAL to market its stars has gotten them. They focus on teams rather than stars, and its popularity has totally DIED over the last decade.

In 1994, there was talk the NHL was ready to challenge baseball and the NBA.

You market stars because nearly EVERY NBA team has a star. Cities can go DECADES without a great team, and thats why so many NHL cities have totally lost interest.

Baseball can market teams because %80 of its franchises have been around longer than the NBA ITSELF. Basball has a historical backing. There is no NBA team with 90 years of curses like the Red Sox or Cubs, or 90 years of dominance, like the Yankees. There are also 100-year old records that have gained almost mythical stature. Except for Wilt's 100, no NBA record has such historical stature.

Baseball also plays 162-game seasons. It INCREDIBLY waters down the talent pool and the quality of play, yet it doesnt seem to bother anyone....

The NFL Markets stars, and its the most popular American league on earth. Why? because its a cult sport. There is a position for every type of athlete, and a team for every fan in every area. Its the rowdiest fan base by FAR, and the league promotes it that way. Tailgating, drinking, roughing up opposing fans, these are things the NFL PROMOTES. They get every type of fan in every demographic that way.

You know why the brawl isnt mentioned as a black eye for the NBA? BECAUSE EVERY OTHER SPORT HAS PROMOTED THIS FOR YEARS.

bench-clearing brawls in baseball has almost ebcome an EVENT. Baseball players are throwing chairs AT THE FANS now.Fans in NY nearly CANCELLED a playoff game when they chucked a LOT more stuff on the field than the fans at the palace did.

Hockey PROMOTES fighting.

Football players have batteries, chuncks of ice, and things thrown at them that would KILL a normal person without a helmet. Anybody remember cleveland?

Also, the NFL benefits from the fact human beings can only stand playing 16-19 football games in a year. Sundays has become a football tradition. Mondays has become a tradition. The fact there is a single championship GAME is a huge marketing benefit.

NBA players are creatures of habit. If you make 3 and 4 day gaps between games, the quality of play will PLUMMETT. Rust is MUCH worse than fatigue in basketball. Also, ticket prices would DOUBLE. Nobody seems to mention that. Teams would be playing to half-full arenas, in half as many home games.

I do agree there has to be some kind of official "NBA Night," or a single time of the year to focus on basketball.

The NBA already has this- the all-star game- and it is the most successful all-star game ON THE PLANET. The NBA's marketing power is put on display every februrary, they just need to find a way to expand it to other months.

There DEFINATELY needs to be a "game of the week," like there used to be on CBS back in the mid-80's on saturdays. NBC took it to the next level with doubleheaders on sunday, but ABC seems to have dropped the ball on this.

We do need a serious change in how the NBA is televised nationally on network television.

sweabs
12-13-2004, 01:47 PM
Excellent post Kstat - I agree with everything.

stipo
12-13-2004, 02:22 PM
^^
Yes, excellent points Kstat. AND we've gone 9 posts without beating on a dead-horse!
Yeah for all of us!!! Woo-Hoo!!

recap
12-13-2004, 02:51 PM
I agree with everything Kstat posted except the All-star game. Basketball does need a time to focus on the NBA above all other sports, but IMO the All-Star game isn't the NBA at its best. Is the NBA all-star game really more successful than the MLB all-star game? I think that they have been smart to put major NBA games on holidays. However, I think that they need to have some sort of rivalry week like baseball has a week early in the year of inter-league rivalry games. Baseball does this twice, and I think that it refocuses people on baseball.

Trace
12-13-2004, 02:53 PM
It makes sense that these 75 high school players would prefer college ball. These guys are likely looking to move on to the next level of basketball soon. If so, it's only natural that they would follow college ball more closely and with more interest. That's what they're shooting for.

Unclebuck
12-13-2004, 04:01 PM
I like what Kstat sayd.

Through it all, and as a Pacer fan we have been through quite a bit the past month, I still love the NBA, and I won't allow Stern to hurt my love of the game, nothing I enjoy more than sitting down on a cold winter evening and watching 7 or 8 games on League Pass.

Bball
12-13-2004, 04:14 PM
Ask the NHL how its utter REFUSAL to market its stars has gotten them. They focus on teams rather than stars, and its popularity has totally DIED over the last decade.

In 1994, there was talk the NHL was ready to challenge baseball and the NBA.

You market stars because nearly EVERY NBA team has a star.



The problem IMHO is when the NBA 'pushes' a 'star' onto the public rather than letting the cream rise to the top. It's kind of like the current pop driven section of the music industry where certain people are simply 'chosen' to be the next big thing.

When the chosen ones pan out it is great (I guess) but when they bust or don't live up to the hype then it makes the NBA and that player look silly. And it burns the bandwagoners who feel they've been played like a fool... maybe they don't get as excited for the next big 'hype' or lose interest entirely.

It would be much better if actual play on the court elevated the players in the public's eye rather than a marketing blitz from the day they were drafted. Also, star treatment needs to be reined in. A foul is a foul. Travel is travel.





Cities can go DECADES without a great team, and thats why so many NHL cities have totally lost interest.

Baseball can market teams because %80 of its franchises have been around longer than the NBA ITSELF. Basball has a historical backing. There is no NBA team with 90 years of curses like the Red Sox or Cubs, or 90 years of dominance, like the Yankees. There are also 100-year old records that have gained almost mythical stature. Except for Wilt's 100, no NBA record has such historical stature.

Baseball also plays 162-game seasons. It INCREDIBLY waters down the talent pool and the quality of play, yet it doesnt seem to bother anyone....



Does baseball still matter? I thought it was in a freefall. I have no interest in baseball at all. It has totally lost me. Is it again gaining ground or has it simply leveled off?



The NFL Markets stars, and its the most popular American league on earth. Why? because its a cult sport.

I am under the impression that you have to show something on the turf of the NFL before the marketing machine gets behind you. There may be some initial press at the draft and in the media leading up to a player's debut season but it is more from a curiosity angle "How will this guy do in the big leagues?". The NFL will allow players to fail (Ryan Leaf anyone?). There's no prolonged opportunity and star treatment given.




NBA players are creatures of habit. If you make 3 and 4 day gaps between games, the quality of play will PLUMMETT. Rust is MUCH worse than fatigue in basketball. Also, ticket prices would DOUBLE. Nobody seems to mention that. Teams would be playing to half-full arenas, in half as many home games.

I do agree there has to be some kind of official "NBA Night," or a single time of the year to focus on basketball.

Consistent scheduling and minimizing major gaps and consecutive days games makes sense.

It would be nice if something could be done to either make sure the early season games count or emphasize (market) things like the importance of seedings so that fans realize the games matter.



The NBA already has this- the all-star game- and it is the most successful all-star game ON THE PLANET. The NBA's marketing power is put on display every februrary, they just need to find a way to expand it to other months.

There DEFINATELY needs to be a "game of the week," like there used to be on CBS back in the mid-80's on saturdays. NBC took it to the next level with doubleheaders on sunday, but ABC seems to have dropped the ball on this.

Good point... Now that ABC has the NBA they haven't done a good job with it. At least I've seen very few NBA games on ABC. I don't even hardly notice them or think of them as the 'home of the NBA'.




We do need a serious change in how the NBA is televised nationally on network television.

Agreed...

-Bball

Bball
12-13-2004, 04:23 PM
Naked Cheerleaders!!!!!!!!!!!!

That's silly and will never happen... so let's be realistic:
Thongs and pasties! :devil:

-Bball ;)

Gyron
12-13-2004, 05:02 PM
That's silly and will never happen... so let's be realistic:
Thongs and pasties! :devil:

-Bball ;)
Why does that sound like the XFL?:laugh:

Kstat
12-13-2004, 05:05 PM
Here's my suggestion:

1. Take a cue from the NFL, but add a twist.

While the NBA already has "opening night" where the current NBA champion is honored and a banner is raised, MAKE IT AN EVENT. Play a re-match of the last summer's eastern conference finals, and after that have a rematch of the western conference finals. THAT WOULD BE HUGE.

2. On Christmas, have an automatic re-match of the NBA finals.

3. keep "rivalry week," but change it to a month in which game actually MATTER, either January or March. Don't have it in meaningless November. I DONT CARE if the teams are really equally matched or not, the NBA has RIVALRIES are what made the 80's great.

Roy Munson
12-13-2004, 06:25 PM
I have to respectfully disagree, as a matter of fact in ym marketing class I did a prject and my main theme was that the NBA needs to market teams over players, but you make some very good points

I completely agree with this. Listening to most NBA marketing these days you'd think that the object of the game had nothing to do with which TEAM wins the game, only which big star has the best game.

This kind of marketing has really hurt the game over the past 20 years IMO.

indygeezer
12-13-2004, 06:29 PM
We are rather biased. We think EVERYBODY should/does love the NBA.

It's poppydoodle. Aside from the diehards, few people around me at work can tell you wehre Mano Ginobili (sp) plays or who he is. The casual fans get into the local teams when they are doing well and perhaps a few folks watch the local heros play on a semi-regular basis. But by and large the "civilians" out there...the other 983,000 (out of 1million Indy residents) view the NBA as what is ruining college ball. From the better players jumping to the NBA out of HS to the deterioration of play, people view the NBA as everything that is wrong with US basketball, and the cause of it. NBA losing popularity??? How about perceived multi-gajiillionaire brats that can't beat Lithauania (never mind how good they are or aren't...the NBA should masaquer them).

No, we don't see the NBA in the same light that 99.9% of the viewing public does, because we're fans.

shags
12-13-2004, 07:10 PM
My suggestion is something so radical that it would never even be considered.

Contraction.

One of the reasons the NBA was so popular in the Bird-Magic era was because there were only 23 teams. Expansion has diluted the talent pool. If you eliminate 6 teams (Charlotte, New Jersey, the Clippers, Atlanta, New Orleans, Memphis), and then assign one minor league team to each of the 24 NBA franchises, the quality of play would increase exponentially, IMO.

Kstat
12-13-2004, 07:16 PM
My suggestion is something so radical that it would never even be considered.

Contraction.

One of the reasons the NBA was so popular in the Bird-Magic era was because there were only 23 teams. Expansion has diluted the talent pool. If you eliminate 6 teams (Charlotte, New Jersey, the Clippers, Atlanta, New Orleans, Memphis), and then assign one minor league team to each of the 24 NBA franchises, the quality of play would increase exponentially, IMO.

Expansion has diluted baseball and the NFL, and they require a LOT more athletes per team than the NBA.

Doesn't seem to be hurting their popularity a ton.

Also, the NBA wasn't drawing foriegn talent like they are now. The talent pool is ALSO much bigger than it used to be.

Kstat
12-13-2004, 07:26 PM
I completely agree with this. Listening to most NBA marketing these days you'd think that the object of the game had nothing to do with which TEAM wins the game, only which big star has the best game.

This kind of marketing has really hurt the game over the past 20 years IMO.


Star power is about the ONLY thing the NBA has over football and baseball. It's what made the 80's so great.

If the NBA tried to market teams and become a faceless league, it would go the way of the NHL inside 10 years.

Besides, if the NBA decided to market star TEAMS instead of star PLAYERS, oh my lord, i cant IMAGINE the amount of complaining. Instead of one star PLAYER getting calls, entire TEAMS would get "star calls." Or at least, that would be the perception.

I'll also say it again: the NBA CANNOT Market TEAMS. The NHL tried to do this, and it killed them.

-You CANNOT market every team like you can every star on every team.

-The NHL TOTALLY secluded about 3/4 of its franchises, which disinterested its fan base so much, theyre in danger of folding. No attention was paid to any of the perrennially bad teams. Ever.

-Look at a perennial loser like the Cavs. They're able to make themselves a winner by drafting a single great player like LeBron James. You can't do that in hockey or baseball. The NBA allows for greater success, and a little something to keep every fan base in the NBA happy, because even if they're a losing team, they can come to the game to see their favorite player.

ChicagoJ
12-13-2004, 07:40 PM
I think the marketing of the teams has to be increased, but at the local level.

And we've just had the worst two single marketing ideas in professional sports history - "Home Game Doesn't Mean Stay Home" and "[More than] One Goal [at least for certain players who also are producing albums scheduled to be released during the season]." That's now how it should work, but the best marketing for teams is by putting a winning product on the court. But I don't want ABC/ ESPN or the league telling me just how great the Kings are and why I should watch them this Sunday instead of my local team. Well, I better not say local, 'cause for me that's the Bulls :shudder: .

Remember, the 1980s were not the "glory years" for Pacers fans. And the Pacers compounded this with thier advertising, "come watch Larry Bird play against the Pacers; come watch Pistol Pete play against the Pacers; etc."

stipo
12-14-2004, 07:54 AM
Expansion has diluted baseball and the NFL, and they require a LOT more athletes per team than the NBA.

Doesn't seem to be hurting their popularity a ton.

Also, the NBA wasn't drawing foriegn talent like they are now. The talent pool is ALSO much bigger than it used to be.

I agree that this isn't such a big problem. I think it is MUCH harder to see the lack of talent when a stiff comes off the bench in football. And that probably goes double in baseball. In basketball, your level of play is apparent very quickly.

able
12-14-2004, 08:05 AM
Kstat is absolutely right here, sellnig teams don't work.

If I look at the uk nba site I see merchadise offered from 1 player (AI) and 3 teams, among them The Celtics........


Stars are most of the time connected to a team for a long time, the fans of the superstar will usually pick up on other players on the team, once hte star leaves new ones take their place, Reggie, Rik made me follow the Pacers, JO and later Tins and Ron make me enjoy it even more.
What possible affinity could anyone outside the USA possibly have with a town or team in the USA? very little, so for marketing reasons teams are not the hot topic.

Well written article Kstat.