On the New York Times website they recently put up an interactive map of NBA fans by facebook likes. Here, they segmented fans based on the number of likes each NBA team had on their facebook page and grouped the results by counties (or in Canada's case Provinces). Unsurprisingly, the Bobcats had one of the smallest percentages, with only the Nets, Kings, Pelicans and Grizzlies having smaller or similar sized areas. One main reason for this is obviously bandwagon fans, something that will always exist unfortunately. However, the Bobcats were a marketing disaster, with constantly changing uniforms, colors, and logos, it was a nightmare trying to market this team. With the current re-branding to the Hornets I want to explore possible ways the Hornets can expand their reach.
If you go to the counties that surround Mecklenburg such as York, Gaston, Iredell, etc, current Bobcats likes are on par or slightly below typical bandwagon teams such as the Lakers or Heat. Mecklenburg is strong Bobcats orange, a good thing, but the Hornets need to focus brand growth in the Charlotte Metro area. Forbes has the Charlotte metro as one of the fastest growing municipalities in the US. The Hornets need to target these areas and get their message to them in great quantities. The Bobcats played a couple preseason games outside the Charlotte area, but that simply is not going to cut it going forward. Hopefully the new Hornets gear will catch on just as fast as the old Hornets. They need to stock shelves of every sporting store in the Charlotte area with Hornets jerseys, shirts, hoodies, hats, everything Hornets. I went into a Dick's Sporting Goods store in Rock Hill looking for a Kemba jersey, all they had were a couple shirts, a hat and a hoodie. That is pitiful considering Rock Hill is 20 minutes away. Another way they can market these areas is by having events there. Bring the players for autographs and have a public practice or something. Plenty of the areas in the Charlotte Metro have small college arenas that are capable of holding such an event. Hold a youth camp there in the summer. The Hornets just need to do a better job of marketing outside the city limits of Charlotte.
Winning also helps to deter bandwagon fans liking out of market teams. Hopefully the heritage of the Hornets and the recent success we have had can help these "fans" jump on the Hornets bandwagon. The old Hornets were a staple of 90s culture. They were good but not great on the court, but people loved them. I feel this current roster is very similar to that with very down to earth, hard working guys (Kemba, Al, MKG). If they can sustain their winning ways, becoming relevant in the Carolina's would become a lot easier. However, if you look at the map, teams that have not been good for a long period of time such as Milwaukee, Minnesota, Portland, and Utah all have very large market control over their respective areas. I believe for the near future, the goal for the Hornets should be to work their way up to a Milwaukee or Portland level of relevancy. These teams own the market for pretty much all of their state. They also have a name that is tied to a particular city rather than the state(or states in our case) as a whole. In theory, we have both North and South Carolina as a target market. The goal of the Hornets should be to own the fanbase in all of North Carolina and at least the Northern part of South Carolina.
Every city on that map outside the mainstay franchises has problems with the bandwagon fans. However, with the return of the Hornets brand and heritage, I hope the marketing and PR department do a better job in targeting the Charlotte-metro and surrounding areas to help grow this amazing fanbase. Winning would obviously be the easiest way and the Hornets seem to have a bright future, but that shouldn't be the only reason someone becomes a fan. Feeling a part of something, going through the ups and downs (many downs in our case) and actually enjoying the success of a team should be why you become a fan. The Hornets need to find that love that the area had for them in the 90s again. Because then watch out, that map would be purple and teal and we would be the ones with the bandwagon fans.