Helicopter Sports Marketing

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July 24, 2012 by David Gillaspie

or Protecting The Fan Base

Helicopter parents swoop in to make sure their kids have a perfect childhood. It is too much to expect, but they keep trying.

In the same fashion, Helicopter Sports Marketers swoop in to make sure fans have a perfect sporting experience.

And it is way too much.

If the choices are a school basketball game in an old gym with wooden bench seats to watch a top team, or the Rose Garden with every level of comfort to watch a lottery team, where do you go?

The script for the high school game hasn’t changed any more than the pep band’s song list. A bag of popcorn, a hard bench, and the theme from Hawaii 5-0 sets the stage.

The NBA script is ever-changing. The team might not show up to play championship caliber ball, but they get paid as if they do. The organization might not have a general manager for a year, or a head coach without the interim tag for part of a year, but the show goes on.

You’ll get the blimp hovering the arena and dropping gifts, a t-shirt cannon or sling shot firing souvenirs. More beautiful young women than a Miss America pageant crowd the floor to do every dance step possible without a pole. A huge four sided HD screen scoreboard hangs from the ceiling.

What’s not to like, unless you’re one of those old fashioned fans who actually notice the score after a game.

The fan experience is most important when teams like the Blazers find new ways to lose. Mr. Allen may have enough money banked to buy the state of Oregon, but no amount can buy a winning NBA season. Sports marketers understand the problem best. If the choices are win the game, or win over the fans knowing that winning games is a longer shot than picking a healthy center in the draft, they go for the fans.

Like the helicopter parent who schedules meetings with the drama teacher, the school counselor, the principal, and the district superintendent when little Johnny doesn’t get the lead role in the school play, sports marketers cater to the pro sports fans’ every whim.

Do you enjoy stuffing three heaping plates of food in your gut before rolling out to a good seat and nodding off halfway through the second quarter? You can do it at the Rose Garden. Do you enjoy a sporting night out with a restaurant ambiance of waiters and cloth nappies? You’ll find that closer to court side. The seat prices rise with the level of attention you need, but not the quality of basketball.

And you don’t get refunds after losses.

The high school experience is more democratic. Like everyone else, you show up to see the evolution of the game as played out by rising stars. Instead of malcontent retreads milking the game at the end of their careers and getting coaches fired, you see hungry players working for a look from a scholarship college.

They savvy fan understands the roots of the game. They know where to find the fertile ground where players blossom. No amount of free swag will entice them to witness a ragged game presented by a poorly run organization.

Portland seems in the throes of Helicopter Sports Marketing with its two major league teams. For the Blazers it means losing without making it look like tanking, then pumping the region up with lottery picks.

It’s worse for the Timbers.

No matter how many changes happen with the coach’s chair, or how many new recruits join the Timber Army; no matter how many slabs get sawed of the log or how pretty the decorations for Jeld-Wen field on game day, it still comes down to the bottom line.

For sports fans, that line is the win / loss column, but even that takes a backseat when the Timbers set the record for longest road losing streak. Add the stench of unprofessional behavior when headlines report that players quit in the 5-0 loss to FC Dallas and an emergency call goes out for Helicopter Sports Marketing.

Make that a squadron of helicopters. If the Blazers and Timbers don’t get a lift, expect Portland to drift further into the backwaters where even Tacoma with the pulp mill aroma is a better sports destination.

Portland might chafe from being called Seattle’s little sister, but it’ll be a full blown, skin bubbling, rash once Eugene emerges as Oregon’s top sports town.

Let the itching begin.

(posted on oregonsportsnews.com)

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