Following up on Bob Johnson's claims, last year, that the Charlotte business community is failing to support the Bobcats, this move, especially the exceedingly dumb possibility that they tried to cancel their radio broadcasts, leaves a sour stench. It's more evidence that Bobcats leadership are inflexible in their thinking, unwilling to adjust to circumstance, and blind to what makes a sports team profitable.
It has been repeated before, and I'll add to the chorus: The NFL is the only major American sport that is a guaranteed moneymaker, due to its television contract. In MLB and the NBA, as chronicled in Moneyball and The Wages of Wins, respectively, winning brings crowds to the arena. Not a second tier name-brand star like Jason Richardson. Not loud, thumping, music and free t-shirts blasted from oversized nail guns. Winning.
Until the Bobcats win, they will not be consistently profitable. But there are a couple outside-the-box, non-basketball operations ideas they can try to increase their exposure in the Charlotte region and begin to heal the wounds left by George Shinn and the nasty Hornets debacle.
1) Auction season tickets
A team like the Bobcats, with a small base of potential season ticket holders, needs to figure out new ways to make their product accessible and grow that potential base of season ticket buyers. As it stands now, from a quick glance around the league, Bobcats ticket prices are comparable to other teams' prices. The goal should not necessarily be to squeeze out as much revenue as they can this year, but to get more people into the arena and developing a relationship with the team so that the revenue stream grows in the future. To that end, I think a ticket auction could be a way to get more people to care about the team and potentially even generate more total revenue over the course of the season.
Here's how it would work: Follow the eBay model. Have a "Buy Now" button by the seats being sold online. Sell seats at their set price if people call for them. Keep the most premium of seats, courtside and the ones behind the scorer's table, out of the auction. But for everything else, have rolling auctions run out on September 24, October 1, and October 8, or another set of dates that make sense. That way, anyone who wants season tickets can bid what they can afford.
It's certainly possible preseason revenues won't be as high, because there might be a glut of people who get pairs of upper deck seats for 2 bucks each, but I'm also certain that, for the same reason, season ticket numbers would increase. With more butts in seats, the atmosphere would be better, they'd sell more concessions, and, most importantly, there will be more people exposed to the team.
Those seats aren't going to be sold, anyway. Sell 'em for what you can.
2) Reach out to the Carolina Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes
Sports teams are a tribal expression of regional pride. If someone is a Panthers fan, it doesn't mean he or she is a basketball fan, but that person is likely a sports fan in general, and also likely identifies with the Carolinas.
The Bobcats, Panthers, and, perhaps, the Hurricanes could all benefit from mutual cross promotion. Bring Panthers players to Bobcats games and events. Bring Bobcats players to Panthers games and events. The common summer offseason should present an opportunity for the different organizations to get together, share information, and set strategies for marketing themselves and each other.
In immediately tangible terms, that probably amounts to sharing mailing lists and such. However, as with auctioning seats, the Bobcats' number one goal in these early years of the franchise's existence should be to build its profile and establish itself as a pillar of the local culture. When the Panthers and Bobcats promote each other, it's a win-win situation. Free cross promotion lends legitimacy to to the Bobcats and makes it easier for the Panthers to reach eyeballs year 'round.