How the Portland Trail Blazers Maintain Sell Out Success

How has a team that hasn’t won a championship since the 1970’s retained generations of loyal fans, consecutive sell out seasons and a reputation for one of the loudest arenas in the league?

Jimmy - Basketball NBA Pinterest
Jimmy – Basketball NBA Pinterest

The Portland Trail Blazers have won an NBA championship only one time. The year was 1977 – most of us early-30’s fans only have grainy footage of Bill Walton throwing his jersey to a frenzy of fans in the lower level of The Coliseum to remind us of the Blazers’ only Broadway parade.

Since that time, the Blazers have managed to advance to the Western Conference finals a few times, meandered about the middle and lower rungs of the Western Conference standings most years, picked a center with bad knees over Michael Jordan, and repeated the same mistake 20 years later selecting a center with bad knees over a high volume scorer.

By many objective measures, the Blazers, as a franchise, has been a failure. They should have a dying fan base, no brand loyalty and trouble selling tickets.

Why are the Blazers more popular than ever on the eve of the 2016/2017 season?

Branding

How can you still sell tickets when your dad’s favorite team only won 19 times the season before?

In part, the Blazers sell tickets thanks to pure brand loyalty. There’s nothing more old-school Portland than the Blazers. Rip City. The Schonz. East Portland Grit. The cool factor.

The Portland Trail Blazers are a subsidiary of SportsMyx Holdings Inc. and fall under owner Paul Allen’s Vulcan, Inc. As a private company, their objective brand indicators are not publically available, but all signs point to high brand loyalty that cross multiple generations. Here’s how.

The Blazers aggressively appeal to old-Portland. They don’t sell tons of scarves, they don’t market to Portland-Pearl-Dwellers, they’ve managed to differentiate their brand from the Portland Timbers through appealing to middle to lower income groups of Portlanders and Oregonians. Ads over recent years have appeared to target the anti-Portlandia crowd, you know, men that do want to work, because they have to. Sales in the Blazers’ on-campus store include Bedazzled shirts for women and snap-backs hats with mock graffiti on them. Legendary broadcaster Bill “The Schonz” Schonely starred in Standard TV and Appliance (a SE 82nd home store) ads for over a decade. He knew his appeal: in many ways, his brand mirrors that of the Blazers.

Standard TV and Appliance
Standard TV and Appliance

While the Blazers do have scarf night, their Brand is one of the old-school, hard-working, against-all-odds, middle-to-lower class, Portland, blue-collar worker. Think of your most favorite Blazer, he is most likely one that’s a “hard worker,” “win against the odds,” “fighter” with a story that mirrors your own.

How brand loyalty like this fits, now, when the demographics and economic makeup of the city have changed so drastically in the past 25 years, is almost too perfect – it’s no longer cool to adhere to the status quo. The hipsters that made a living a few years back off the trendy, “I loved it before it was cool,” are now just a mockery, making room for the Portlander that loves to love everything decidedly non-hipster and non-Portlandia.

When the Blazers of the late 90’s and early 2000’s became embattled in a number of off-court incidents, the Blazers briefly became known as the Blaze City and had trouble selling tickets after the Blazers stopped winning. The Blazers quickly realized that the city of Portland loves a “good -guy” who stays out of trouble, and they branded the new players they acquired as such.

The Blazers have mastered a consistent message of nostalgia.

Ticket Sales and Price Modeling

As we know from the classic business case, the Cialis case, a high level of brand awareness makes brands more difficult to change. And while Blazers brand loyalty and brand awareness have stayed concrete, to sell tickets in the Rose Garden – I’ll never call it the Moda Center- the Blazers have changed their approach a number of times in the past 20 years, before settling on a mixed approach, targeting:

1.Corporate ticket package buyers

2.Season ticket holders

3.Club buyers

4.Setting fan appreciation nights, where discount, third tier, tickets are sold at discount prices

All ticket prices are market sensitive, meaning if the defending champs, Cleveland Cavs, come to town, ticket prices will be higher than if the 76ers are making a visit. They have a full staff of over 20 outside sales people, and a full team of inbound marketing representatives passing leads and making sales over the phone or internet.

So while the Portland Trail Blazers brand is very well ingrained, the ticket-selling strategy is a bit more complex. Any major sports game is an event worth visiting in most major towns, for corporations and businesses in Portland, the Blazers are an excellent high-dollar benefit to offer clients or visiting friends. According to a source inside the Blazers, revenue from corporate buyers represents a large proportion of total revenue in the past 10 years. Indeed, the flexible pricing structure did not impact overall sales as much as some folks predicted because corporate buyers could afford the slightly more expensive package, or, were purchasing packages at bulk rate at the beginning of the season.

The Blazers are using data to inform segmenting and targeting, also. They’ve reportedly used Cortana (Thanks, Paul Allen) to drive data and inform ticket sales.

“As a fully managed big data and advanced analytics product, Cortana Intelligence makes this end-to-end data experience easy to navigate. It allows data specialists from both our organizations to quickly ingest, process and analyze data and build operational machine learning models. Specifically, Python support in Azure ML allows us to easily incorporate feature engineering into model development and increase our development speed and productivity. The insights gained from the analysis using Cortana Intelligence Suite are useful in optimizing the marketing strategy. For instance:

•There are significant differences in purchasing patterns among fans, and they are powerful signals in predicting season ticket purchase.

•Attendance patterns with different opponents are also strong predictors of whether or not a customer is going to be a new season ticket holder.”

Season ticket holders have waxed and waned relative to the success of the team, and single ticket buyers or club ticket buyers, tend to be super fans that can afford one game a season, or the casual fan that enjoys the beer and atmosphere more than the game, respectively.

As the Blazers have worked to attract and retain more corporate package buyers, which has kept ticket sales level or rising over the years, the team has consistently partnered with local schools to offer cheap tickets on school appreciation nights. This gives fans that otherwise would not be able to afford seats a chance to witness an NBA game. The Blazers have also partnered with local Boys and Girls clubs in lower income areas, charter schools and NIKE to give back to underserved communities. The attention to underserved areas appeals to consumers that may not be able to attend games more than once a season, or, who don’t work for a large corporation where they can win tickets to games.

Social Media Marketing

The Blazers social media marketing team is well known for their ground -breaking and first-to-market work across the digital space. They were one of the first teams to embrace the digital realm, becoming early on adopters of a consistently excellent team-Twitter user, and generating compelling digital content that was meaningful, well-researched, carefully curated, and seemingly from fans just like you and me – we could relate with those users – exactly how social media marketing should be set up.

twitter.com/portlandblazers
twitter.com/portlandblazers

How they do it:

1) Nostalgic mindset

“In their office, the team has assembled all sorts of unique memorabilia that showcases their passion and originality. It helps paint a picture for understanding why they’re great at what they do.” (Baller Mind Frame)

2) A mix of podcasts, video, twitter posts, blog posts of original content, and stories that combine video, audio, and written word that rival the Oregonian’s most poignant player profile.

3) Consistent and strategic use of hash tags and tracking mechanisms that allows content to appear at the top of regional digital users online ads, twitter and facebook news feeds, while providing great data feedback for future decision making.

Winning at the Right Time

Branding and ticket sales strategy can only take you so far, at some point, the product must deliver. Fans want wins. The Blazers have managed to assemble a lovable, against-the-odds, team that made it to the second round of the play offs last year, even after losing its biggest star. The Blazers reinvented themselves after the troubled era at the onset of the 2000’s through drafting and coaching young, talented, utterly underappreciated players and making a play for the top slot in the West (sound familiar, doesn’t it).

Indeed, the Blazers are currently enjoying the success of Damian Lillard, who has catapulted himself to international stardom, a rarity for a small market NBAer. And while many players have a similar rags-to-riches story, the Blazers don’t hesitate to point out the struggle Lillard came from with his longer-than-average time in college, quest to finish his Bachelor’s degree, and sheer determination.

The Blazers attract and retain a certain caliber of player because, in part, he will fit with the Blazers brand. That brand has endured over four decades as the Blazers have one of the most well known franchises in the country. And through the relative lack of success in the NBA, the Blazers have been able to capitalize on their brand loyalty and ticket selling strategy to fill the stands every night.

The Blazers have successfully managed their organization without consistently winning, to retain generations of fans and gain new viewers year over year.

Google Analytics: How to Know If Your Marketing is Working : Social Media Examiner

Social Media Marketing Podcast 133, in this episode Christopher Penn will talk about how to use Google Analytics to improve your marketing.

Social Media Marketing Podcast 133, in this episode Christopher Penn will talk about how to use Google Analytics to improve your marketing.

Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.socialmediaexaminer.com

Where would your brand be without Google Analytics?

5 Ways to Improve Customer Loyalty With Social Media : Social Media Examiner

Looking for ways to nurture customer relationships? Discover a five-step plan to help you boost customer loyalty with social media.

Looking for ways to nurture customer relationships? Discover a five-step plan to help you boost customer loyalty with social media.

Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.socialmediaexaminer.com

Social Media is one of the most exciting ways to build your brand and establish trust with the customer and ultimately improve customer loyalty.

Livin’ like the Clampetts or Kardashians

There is an age-old debate regarding camping: do you live on the camping on a hotel picwild-side for a week, sans H2O and all the other assumed comforts of home, or do you take home on wheels wherever you go?  Add to that whether or not you live on chile,  hot dogs, and a six-pack of  “America”,  or do you do the full glamping, complete with breakfast mimosas and evening cocktails?  This site will debate the pros, cons and everything between watching Kevin Durrant and Steph Curry on your satellite receiver in front of your gas fireplace to watching the sunset over a remote lake where nature’s sports field invites you to play.

Camping genres fall into a few basic segments:

Dry Camping

This is the type of camping often associated with backwoodsmen or backpackers.  backpackerWhile living in the wild, aka “backwoods lifestyles” are not explored in this post, dry camping is not limited to backpacks and tents, and includes the use of RVs where spouses limit the convenience of water, power, gas and other essential facilities in the spirit of getting to be one with nature.

Backpacking in remote wildernesses is an extreme form of dry camping where you carry everything you need  in a 50# bag on your back and walk seemingly aimlessly on narrow trails in frontiers that no man may have gone before. “Leave no trace” typically guides the backpacker’s experience of limited waste of any sort.  That’s right:  you pack out, burn or bury anything you bring in…and we do mean anything.

And then there’s the food.  Freeze-dried MREs made famous by the military have found a new fan-base in the backpacking and dry camping communities.  That’s because they weigh nothing, take up little space and are reported to have just the same amount of flavor as if you had cooked it in your own home.  Right.  Gin and Tonics have no place in a dry camping world, or do they?

What’s your experience with dry camping?  What is the craziest place you’ve gone and the best (or worst) food you’ve made?  How long did you enjoy camping before you gave it up and got real?

Traditional tent camping

Best typified by Yogi the Bear, his best friend BooBoo, and cheerful guide Ranger Rick, tendry campt-camping has long been a favorite past-time of young and adventurous families. Traditional camping involves finding campgrounds where likeminded individuals come together to live remotely in a natural environment, becoming temporary best friends around a campfire.  This seems somewhat ironic considering that in today’s world, fewer and fewer people can’t even manage to even learn their neighbors first names.

Food is a step up over dry camping but still relegated to Spaghetti-Os, canned beans and hot dogs.  And never, ever, forget the can opener as too many tent camping experiences come to an abrupt end when futile attempts to open cans with knives, rocks, and profanity lead to early trips to the emergency room.

For those of you who have stepped up to tent camping, share your happiest experience including where you went, any lingering friendships created, and even the trips to the emergency room.  Don’t forget to include tips and suggestions on food and feel free to share “what not tos” that we should all consider before embarking on this type of adventure.

For more information on tent camping, check this out: http://www.reserveamerica.com or www.traveloregon.com.

RVing, aka “glamping”  

About RVing:  look, when you get home from work after a 40 hour plus week, do you really want to cram everything you might need into two plastic totes and a cooler, and jam it into the backseat of your car and then head out, find a spot (good luck if you don’t have a reservation!)  and strike a tent?  Or, does the tease of a dry martini served in a martini glass (as opposed to a red Solo cup- aimed at the Shoppers – whoops!  Wrong projecglamping with mary janet!) with a grilled steak on the barbe lead you to question your thinking?  RVers have it figured out: home on wheels, everything at the ready so that when you get home after work, you just hook up and leave and presto, you can pull over in any (almost) legal spot and have an instant campsite with the push of a few buttons.  Hey, in today’s technology driven world, why not?

And then there’s the food. They say a picture says 1000 words…. well, this one tells400-beach-seafood-and-tap-house-food-spread the whole story. Imagine steak and potatoes for dinner, a fresh salad and of course, dessert that includes more than S’mores.  Follow that up with fresh eggs and bacon in the morning, your favorite toast, and of course, the famous mimosa!  All easy to do when you have a full refrigerator, oven and stove, and sink at your fingertips.

Curious about the RV lifestyle?  www.goRVing.com allows you to compare trailers and figure out what you really want when considering taking your home on wheels with you, like a turtle.

Wrapping it up, we really want to hear from you with your favorite and funny camping stories, especially if it’s about food.  And, if you’re curious about camping as a recreational adventure,  here are a few resources to explore:

Camping with children

Basic gear and equipment needed

Food on the go

 

 

 

 

Pokémon GO – What is it??

So……what is Pokémon GO…..and who’s playing it?

I kept seeing posts on social media about people catching Pokémon.  I felt a little sad for these folks, as I thought the cards were making a come back and knew how much money could be “invested” in them, only to be cast aside for Yu-Go-Oh cards  in the future. Then, in some severe cases, Magic the Gathering.   Turns out it’s an app that was just released this last week that has already become insanely popular.

What the Hell Is ‘Pokemon GO’? A Short Explainer

I asked a couple people what it is and how it is played…these are the honest answers:

Capture 1 Capture 2 Capture

Words such as incense, revives, razz berries and of course Pokeballs are used. All said with straight faces.  A lot of the more dedicated players (or are they gamers??) that I spoke to about this phenomenon are in their early to mid-twenties. Man, woman or child are all equally attracted to this adventure. Lunch breaks are no longer for eating, but for trying to catch Magmar and Rattata.  Friday night drinking can be paired up with Pikachu.  Exercise with Entei (a 6’11” Volcano Pokémon)…..hope these things aren’t life size.

I couldn’t quite grasp the concept…..so I downloaded the app to experience the thrill first hand.  It is kind of entertaining, you get to pick your character’s clothing, right down to shoes and a backpack.  The most challenging part so far was finding a name that was still available.  I may have to watch one of the abundant tutorials to become an expert trainer.

Let the games begin 🙂

 

How to Get What You Want…From Your Boss

I manipulate people every day – boss, spouse, friends, Starbucks staff, you name it. That might sound rude or mean, but I have news for you, you do the same thing. Some people might call it being two-faced or disingenuous, and there’s certainly a negative connotation associated with manipulation, some may even say it verges on the edge of coercion. But I like to think I use my power for good and not for evil. I’m not a sociopath – geeze! Here are some tried and true methods you can implement for getting what you want.

  1. Be a Good Human:
    As some wise quote once said, “just be nice.” Yeah, it’s Golden Rule-y, but it’s true. How do you feel when someone gives you a warm, “good morning”, with a smile or says how much they appreciate you? Feels good, don’t it? When you treat others with respect, consideration, and kindness, people generally respond in a positive way. So, to get more from people and have them continue to like you in the process, don’t be like these crazy animals…
  1. Actively Listen:
    It’s underrated, but being a good active listener goes a long way. It shows that you are engaged in the conversation and makes the other person feel like what they are saying is being heard, which helps in relationship building. So what can you do to be a good active listener? Body language – show you’re listening by make eye contact, facing the person speaking with you, and nodding when appropriate. Verbally – ask questions, especially open-ended ones, or paraphrase what was said to demonstrate understanding. Like this…
  1. Reciprocate:
    Reciprocity is a strong factor in human behavior. When you do something for someone they are more likely to feel like they “owe” you and will do something in return. Think, free samples, going out of your way at work to help a coworker, or campaign donations, hmmm. I’m not saying you need to start looking to collect IOUs, but when someone asks you for a little favor or you go out of your way to do something nice for someone else, it’s likely good things will come back to you. What goes around comes around…

So I say, be manipulative and get what you want! Just do it nicely, while listening, and doing for others.  Now that your a master of manipulation, gain more information on how to Move Up in Your Career.

Equal Pay for Men and Women in 2016? Keep dreaming.

equalplayequalpay

Four-time Olympic champions refuse to back down from their fight for equal pay.  After being denied in court, the U.S. Women’s National team has rebranded their fight and is looking to the public for support.

“We’ve had enough. We’ve been forced,” said Megan Rapinoe, starting midfielder, in a press conference.

The U.S. Women’s National Team sued the U.S. Soccer Federation in March for an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission violation in wage discrimination.  After multiple negotiations, the court ruling sided in favor of the U.S. Soccer Federation.

Is this fight ambitious? Maybe. Unrealistic? Definitely not.

In an attempt to rebrand their #Equal Play Equal Pay campaign, the women will be wearing branded shirts and temporary tattoos in all media opportunities that they can, including official game day events.

Not only will this campaign be rebranded, but it will also be positioned toward a new target market: a global audience.

The women received overwhelming support from the U.S. Senate in May, but it is unclear if the new target audience will be as supportive of the fight for equal pay.  Supporters of the #Equal Play Equal Pay campaign will use social media and press conferences to increase awareness of this movement.

With the Olympic Games rapidly approaching, supporters of this movement are hoping that this new campaign launch will grow rapidly over the coming weeks.

 

I Need a Job – Informational Interviews

Informational interviews, “informationals,” informational networking – whatever you call it, it’s a must! No matter where you’re looking for a job – it could be within your current industry, in a new field, or even within your current organization – networking is where it’s at. Informational interviews are an easy, low pressure networking opportunity to turn the tables on an interview. It’s your chance to flip the script and interview the company, while getting your name and face in front of folks who will be hiring.

How many times have you heard, “it’s all about who you know,” to land a job? Well, it’s true. You’re much more likely to land your next job because you know someone at the company than you are by being just another piece of paper on the stack of resumes. Getting to know people, networking, takes some time and work, but the payoff can mean landing your dream job. So I encourage you to start pounding the pavement and setting up some informational interviews. Here’s how:

Interview

Step 1 – The Set Up.

No one likes to cold call (or “cold email”), so if you know someone at a company you’re interested in, start with that person. Either set up an information interview with them or ask them to connect you with someone else. It’s human nature to help others, so all you have to do is ask and I practically guarantee you’ll get a “yes” for an informational interview. Also, people love to tell others what they know, so take advantage of this common human idiosyncrasy to get your foot in the door!

Other tips for setting up your first informational interview –

  • Be a student. If you’re in school, in a certificate program, or just taking a class here and there, play up the “student card.” Or, if you recently graduated, say that. If it’s been a while and you can’t claim to be a student anymore, then I recommend coming at it from a “learning” standpoint. As in, “I’d love to learn more about Company X or the field of Y.” Again, people like to give other people advice and share what they know, so let them know you’re a student and/or looking to learn more, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how gracious people are with their time.
  • Don’t say you’re looking for a job. It’s obviously implied. Information interviews are most effective when they are casual, low pressure, and about learning. This is your chance to find out about the company in a relaxed environment. I’ve found it can make people uncomfortable if you come right out and ask for a job, especially when the proposition was for “learning.” So save the “ask” for another time or take a different tactic (see questions below).
  • Keep it cool. Suggest some times that work for you or ask when they are available in the next week or so. Meet for coffee or even at the office. I don’t recommend meeting over drinks for various reasons. If you do meet someone at their office, make sure to ask for a quick tour. Generally, 30-45 minutes is a good amount of time to expect for an informational interview. It’s quick, engaging, and you should be able to glean a lot of information if you ask the right questions.

Example information interview email:

Hello Steve,

I received your contact information from Sarah at ABC Corp. She recommended I speak with you because I’m studying biology at STU and would like to learn more about a career in marine science. Do you have some time next week to meet for coffee? I’d really like to hear about your career path and what it takes to succeed in the field of sea horse genetics.

Thank you,

Lawrence

 

Step 2 – Come prepared.

Whether you’re familiar or not with the company where the informational interviewee works, at the very least, review the company website to get the gist of what they do. Think about how that industry fits with your interests. Why are you interested in this company? What seems appealing about it? Know yourself and what your strengths and skills are. An informational interview is mostly an opportunity to learn, but it’s also a chance to talk up your skills and career goals and how they align with the company.

Tips for keeping the conversation humming –

  • Bring a list of 6-10 questions to ask.
  1. Please describe your role at [name of company].
  2. Can you describe the career path that brought you where you are?
  3. How would you describe the culture at [company]?
  4. What is your favorite part of working here?
  5. How is employee development and growth fostered?
  6. How do decisions get made at [name of company]?
  7. As [company] grows, are there opportunities you can think of for someone with my skill set?
  8. If you meet at the office, be sure to ask for a quick tour and if there’s anyone there you can talk to.
  9. Other industry specific questions.
  10. Keep things casual, so go ahead an ask questions as the conversation evolves organically.
  • Bring something to write on and write with. You never know when you’ll hear something you need to jot down or remind yourself of later.
  • Keep it positive. This is a general rule whether it’s a formal interview or an informal informational interview. Even if you’re looking to leave your current company because things are terrible, find the silver lining and highlight what you have to offer or how you would like to grow. It can suck the life out of the room quickly if it seems like you’re complaining or bashing. So find the positive spin on things and keep the conversation light!
  • Keep them talking. Psychology tells, the more people talk about themselves, the more they like you! So all the more reason to come prepared with questions.

 

Step 3 – Ask for more.

As you’re wrapping things up, some good closing questions to ask are:

  • Are there professional associations you recommend I join?
  • I’m fine-tuning my resume, would you mind taking a quick look at it? (Definitely bring your resume!)
  • It’s been great talking to you and I’d love to learn more, is there anyone else here [at Company X] you recommend I speak with?
  • Do you know anyone at [another company] that I should speak with?

 

Step 4 – Say “Thank you.”

In the digital age, I don’t think it’s necessary to send a thank you card. It may even come across as a bit too much. So, just like you would for a “real” interview, send the person you met with a short email, preferably within 24-48 hours, to let them know how much you appreciated their time and mention something memorable you spoke about or learned.

Thank You Note

You’re now on your way to finding the company that’s the right fit for you. Good luck and happy informational interviewing!

Now that you’re an informational interview-ing expert, be sure to brush up on your Influencing Skills so you can get the most out of people, from your boss to bestie.

 

 

How to Give 2 Weeks Notice… and Survive After!

We’ve all been there.  You hate your job, you give notice, but in the spirit of not burning all of your bridges you stay on a week or two before you are actually done.  What can you do to survive the few last days???  Here are a few tips:

  1. Surf the Internet! Now is not the time to focus on why exactly you are leaving your job (though you certainly have your reasons), and the whole point of staying for a week or two was to maintain your positive image with the company.  So stay distracted and surf the Internet a lot!  Catch up on current events like presidential elections and the Olympics.  Do all that on-line shopping you were meaning to.  Find funny articles to tell your co-workers about, which leads us to….Office space quit your job
  1. Network with soon-to-be former colleagues. This can range from lunches cementing ties, to taking one last stab at building connections, to stopping by people’s desks to chat.  Who knows when you will need to reach out to people for information, a job a their new company, or just to say hello.  Sure management might see it as wasting the time of employees who are not leaving, but you are just reinforcing your impression of a wonderful person who just happens to be leaving the company.
  1. Re-brand your image on social media. Howcast made a great tutorial on how clean up your Facebook profile for potential employers:

    Now is the perfect time to take all of those pictures of you drinking in collage off your Facebook page!  Or at least lock that down, and beef up your LinkedIn profile.  Potential employers are going to be Googling your name and taking notes on how you present yourself to the world.  So take some time to think through how you want to be seen.  For more tips on re-branding yourself see this article on the Huffington Post.  All of your deep thoughts about re-branding your image will naturally lead to…

  1. Plan your career. Most people are reactive to their careers, accepting the first job offer that comes along.  Not you!  Now is the time to create a long-term plan career plan and execute it.  Maybe you have wanted to get further education, like an MBA degree, to help your career.  Or you know where you want to be in 10 years, and it is miles away from where you are now.  These last couple of weeks are the perfect time to dream big, and start thinking how you can accomplish your goals.
  1. Do some actual work. I know, it sucks.  But you still have to do your job to maintain the positive perceptions of those around you.  Your intent was to be professional, so make sure you are passing along information, training other employees on tasks only you know, and (generally) being a good employee.  It may be like pulling teeth in the last days at your job.  But a good reference from former employers who have worked with you is worth its weight in gold.  So do the smart thing and get some work done!

Now that you’ve survived the last two weeks…It’s time to start looking for your next job. Start with something simple: Mastering the Informational Interview.

And if you’re still having trouble surviving…Try Pokemon GO at work!

Steph Curry and Kevin Durant Can Play on the Same Team and Still Sell Sneakers

Currently, one of the biggest sports news stories is Kevin Durant’s decision to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder and join the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors, coming off a record setting 73-win season, just added one of the best 5 players in the NBA to already stacked roster.

KD
Art: Bailey Brautigan, Forbes http://www.forbes.com/sites/kurtbadenhausen/2016/02/14/the-nbas-endorsement-all-stars-2016/#2db05ded5096

Durant just signed a maximum contract with the warriors worth $54.3 million for two years. Durant also makes an amazing amount of money off the court: $36 million a year in endorsements. In 2014 he signed a 10-year deal with Nike to create a signature shoe worth about $300 million. Nike pitched to Steph Curry in 2013, but funny enough, they forgot to change the name of the presentation from Kevin Durant. Curry’s father Dell was quoted by ESPN talking about that Nike pitch meeting:

“I stopped paying attention after that… They have certain tiers of athletes. They have Kobe, LeBron and Durant, who were their three main guys. If he signed back with them, we’re on that second tier.” (Strauss, 2015)

Nike offered Curry less than $4 million a year. Curry signed with Under Armour (UA) and his signature shoe became the bestselling signature shoe other than Michael Jordan (Strauss, 2015). Curry has also signed many endorsement deals Including JBL, Brita, and Degree. His off the court earnings topped $12 million for the last season (Badenhausen, 2016).

Curry
Art: Bailey Brautigan, Forbes http://www.forbes.com/sites/kurtbadenhausen/2016/02/14/the-nbas-endorsement-all-stars-2016/#2db05ded5096

Basically immediately after the news of Kevin Durant signing with the Golden State Warriors, speculation on how it would affect their shoe endorsement’s started flying.  For example, Yahoo NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted:

I’m going to argue this isn’t true. The KDs and SCs operate in separate spheres, appealing to different segments, and are going to work together to sell a lot of sneakers and make a lot of money. The signature market can be broken into four segments by how they use basketball shoes.

User Segment:

  • Functional
    • Care about the function use of the shoes to play basketball
  • Everyday Wearers
    • Want a shoe that they can wear all the time
  • Fashion
    • Fashion forward, wear the shoes for mainly for looks and brand
  • Collectors
    • Buy lots of shoes, first releases are important, not concerned with functionality

To analyze the difference in marketing strategy from Nike and UA, let’s look at the most recent release of each player’s signature shoes: KD 9s, and Curry 2s.

Looking at Nike’s strategy for the KD 9s, they are targeting primarily functional adult users. Watch the ad Nike released July 1st 2016:

The ad shows Durant driving to the basket making defenders turn to smoke. The purpose of the ad is to try and convey how the KD 9s will help you on the court. How the shoes will make you better as a player. Wearing the KD 9s isn’t necessarily about the “KD” on the back. Nike is creating shoes that are designed by Durant to be great basketball shoes. The other video released on Nike Basketball’s YouTube page to promote the KD 9s was just a discussion between Durant and the shoe’s designer, Leo Chang. Their conversation is mainly about the functionality of the shoe and its features

In contrast UA’s approach is not about the shoe’s functionality. They market the Curry 2s only based on the brand associated with Curry’s popularity and skill. The message is more: “if you like Curry, you’ll like these shoes.”

While the first KD 9 ad had no talking, the first Curry 2 ad starred Jamie Foxx narrating as Curry shoots jumpers. He talks about how Curry changed the game of basketball. There is no mention of what makes the shoes better. No features, no claims of basketball success attributed to the shoes. Just Curry being Curry. Curry’s other breakout ad was titled “Rule Yourself.”

It depicts 1000s of Steph Curry clones practicing dribbling and ends with the tag line “You are the sum of all your training.” Again, this is a very person-centric, not a shoe-centric ad. It is about work ethic and how you as an individual have control over your destiny. UA is primarily targeting Everyday Wearers. They are trying to convince people to buy Curry 2s to look and be like Curry.

This is also apparent in how they price the shoes. KD 9s start at $150, Curry 2s are $130. UA has consistently kept Curry’s signature shoe at a lower price than many of the other signature shoes. They are targeting an audience that is buying shoes for everyday use. These consumers are budget conscious. Nike is trying to sell people on the KD 9’s functional ability. These users, if they think the shoe will be the best for them to play basketball in, will pay extra for this advantage.

Because Nike and UA are targeting very different consumers with their shoes, I wouldn’t expect a lot of cannibalization between the two. Durant moving from OKC, a small market team, to Golden State, a big market team, will probably help him increase sales. When Carmello Anthony moved from Denver to New York City he saw a jump in sales (Powell, 2016). Basketball success also helps drive revenue, and the Warriors this year have a very good chance of being good. The top 5 bestselling jerseys in the NBA last year, 4 where in the finals this year: Curry, James, Bryant, Irving, Thompson. Although Curry’s Under Armour shoes are selling like crazy, remember Nike still rules the NBA. Until Under Armour can get a few more marquee signers, it is unlikely that his success will dampen the Nike who has 75% of all NBA players under contract.

Sources:

Badenhausen, K. (2016, February 2). NBA Endorsement All-Stars. Forbes.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/kurtbadenhausen/2016/02/14/the-nbas-endorsement-all-stars-2016/#2db05ded5096

Powell, M. (2016). Sneakernomics: What Kevin Durant to the Warriors Really Means for the Sneaker Business. Maine: NPD.  https://www.npd.com/wps/portal/npd/us/blog/2016/sneakernomics-what-kevin-durant-to-the-warriors-really-means-for-the-sneaker-business/

Strauss, E. S. (2015, October 7). You won’t believe how Nike lost Steph to Under Armour. ESPN.

http://espn.go.com/nba/story/_/id/15047018/how-nike-lost-stephen-curry-armour