Alright, just a caveat, I talk about this every year, so to those who have been around RF for a while, please excuse my redundance. As another NBA season is almost upon us, we are finally getting a chance to see the completely reshaped Raptors. I can’t remember the last time I ever saw a team undergo this kind of overhaul, so to say that I am excited about this season is an understatement.
The thing is, I am an NBA fan and a Raptors fan. I watch pretty much every game, usually attend a couple each year and obviously spend a lot of time reading and writing about them. I’m in, I’m hooked. But in hockey mad Toronto (and the GTA), MLSE is missing the opportunity to grow the Raptors brand through preseason games. The difference between the NBA preseason and almost any other preseason is that you are pretty much going to see the team that is going to play during the regular season. If you go out to a Raptors preseason game, you’re going to get to see Calderon, Bargs, Bosh, you’ll see the rookie DeRozan getting minutes and whenever the team has deemed that Hedo van Winkle has finally had enough rest, you’ll get to see him too. It’s a small roster, you will get to see guys play. So why doesn’t MLSE emphasize this in any advertising? Where is the hype? You just completely reshaped your team and you are now putting it on display…but nobody outside of your core group of fans knows about it. It’s the team’s 15th year in the league. Shouldn’t there be some excitement?
Outside of the problem of not marketing the team properly, MLSE is completely missing out on growing their brand by offering pre-season tickets at the same price as regular season tickets. This makes absolutely no sense to me. At last night’s game against the Wiz, there were (supposedly) 11,936 fans at the game. If you’re just working on a numbers basis and are talking about an arena half full at full pop or full and half price, then okay, it evens out, but to do so would be extremely short-sighted of what your final goal is. The Raptors should be focusing on long-term growth of the Raptors, specifically in the GTA. Long-term growth is where you will see real revenues increase if you have to break it down to numbers.
Wouldn’t MLSE have liked to see the ACC rammed last night, with many of those people first time viewers of a live Raptors game? Wouldn’t they have liked to have all of those people go home seeing a Raptors win with a rookie throwing down impressive dunks and the team scoring evenly across the board? Isn’t that the kind of thing you would like a new fan to experience in their first trip to the ACC for basketball? If you are trying to get more people to become Raptors fans, cut your pre-season ticket prices to make it that much more appealing to new fans. People might be willing to try your product if they know it isn’t going to require a second mortgage. They might think it was worth it to get a ticket at half price if they would get a good view of the game and who knows, they might fall in love with the Raptors.
I’m not saying that MLSE has to slash all of the tickets either. Why not just say that all of the tickets from the golds up (or even the reds up) are half price for all preseason games? Maybe even throw in a special concessions package with it, just to make it that much more appealing? Attend a pre-season game and maybe also take that ticket down to the gear shop where you can use it for 20% off team merchandise? Do you get what I’m getting at here? It’s about turning people into fans.
This is the time when you should be locking up fans for your 15th season. Realistically, you should already have had that plan underway a LONG time ago. When you come off a season where the team looked terrible on most nights and you are promising a new and improved package, wouldn’t you want to get that out to as many people as possible? Wouldn’t you want a bunch of young people (and basketball demographics do tend to skew younger) to think, “Hey, this is a pretty good preseason deal…guys, wanna go?” Come on MLSE, look past the ends of your noses.