Tuesday, October 14, 2008

There's A Tear in My Bear...

Our older readers will appreciate the Hank Williams Sr. reference.

I was going to call this "Tears of a Clown," but Geoff Calkins is no clown. He is a good sports writer, an enthusiastic writer with a wry sense of humor in some of his articles, and a friend to the 3 Shades of Blue blog.

That being said...I take issue with this article.

I know, I know. It's from Oct 9. Get with the program, Zac.

The truth is, I am slowly getting back into Grizz news. After taking a vacation with the fiance down to Miami where I *looks around for the government* partook in an illegal cigar despite Cuban embargos, and had too many drinks at Trader Vic's, this was the story that caught my attention.

Meet New Grizz, Same as Old Grizz.

Really? We wear putrid uniforms, start a revolving door of WTF cares players like Batiste, Archibald, Chris Owens and Ike Austin, and our coach has a shinier dome than the Hubert H. Humphrey in Minny?

Nah...They aren't the same old Grizz players. The same old Grizz marketing mentality and the same old Memphis is more like it.

For an article that claims its optimism by saying that the way to look at FedEx Forum on that night as 1/16th filled, this article is not very optimistic. However, he goes on to basically give statements that show why the arena was not very full on that night. The caliber of players, it was a middle of the work week game, etc. The article closes with the statement "All they (fans) need is the team."

Geoff, my friend, we have a team. A much improved one. You're exactly right that noone seems to notice or care. You are also right when you say the city feels alienated from the team. However the tone of your article makes it seem like its the players' problem. It is not. We have more talent, and I will tell you why they are not noticing.

Marketing.

Marketing has been the achilles heel for the Grizzlies ever since they got here. They didn't feel the need to market because it was new and fresh. When that wore off, we had the new arena smell to market the team. Then, it was 3 playoff appearances and 3 straight sweeps in the first round with no wins. There has never been a long standing effort to connect the team to the city other than the great, and I mean great work they do with St. Jude Children's Hospital. When are the talking heads going to realize that 2 panels on MATA buses and a couple of billboards just don't cut it?

Advertising has been a long-standing problem in this city, as long as I have lived here. Unless you see the one billboard (which seems to be the solution in this city, one billboard will do it) for Mednikow or Laurelwood, you will not know where it is, or what is there unless you are a longtime resident. Another fun fact about that: The billboards are located in the part of town Laurelwood is in, the area where yes most of their customers come from, but already know it is there. How about one in Germantown, or Collierville, or downtown? Settling for the status quo will surely win you that area, but how about expansion? The only thing bigger than the usual base is a bigger one. Local real estate experts in the city talk up the South Main district as a burgeoning retail and residential option to be in the city. How many people know that its there due to advertisements? Not everyone reads RSVP magazine, or the Downtowner. They shouldn't have to. It should be advertised. Seemingly, they are happy with the slow growth they get from word of mouth. Speeding up the process by advertising doesn't seem to register. When I was in Miami this week, there was a billboard on every building that they had condominiums for rent or for lease or even sale. True enough, this is most likely due to desperation of moving units in the midst of a home crisis, but the advertising worked. Without fail, people would see the signs on the building, and stop in the sales office. Even I did, because if my condo in Destin doesn't work out, Miami is always a viable option, sans the nose candy trafficking. There were also billboards for the Heat. The Heat, who went 15-67 and had an empty arena on most nights with a legitimate NBA champion star Dwayne Wade. Billboards. Commercials on the television channels. The news media talked them up, talked up Beasley. There were advertisements for public appearances by the players on the daily! This is how you connect with a city. You do all of these things and you do them with frequency.

The block parties are a good start. However, when something has low attendance, the consensus of the marketing department seems to be "Well that didnt work so we shouldnt do it anymore." FALSE. It's working. What doesnt work is for it to be so erratic. You do it once, you dont do it again...thats what creates discord and a sense of ineptitude and not caring about the city and fans. You keep it up, and the numbers will go up eventually.

I'll give you another example.

One Beale is a now-defunct condominium/luxury hotel project that was to be situated on a great piece of real estate on Beale St right by the trolley tracks and pedestrian bridge. If the visual isnt working for you, right across from Waterford Plaza. If you dont know what that is, well, it probably isnt properly advertised. Ba-zing. I digress.

One Beale was the most ambitious residential proposal that came to fruition since I have lived here in Memphis. The sales office operated out of the old Landry's right there on...I believe it is Wagner Place. This was to be a beautiful sight. Expensive luxury condominiums with river and city views, a Hyatt hotel, a spa, and a chef-driven restaurant. No advertisement except for a billboard right above where said property was to be located, a website with renderings, and the occasional one to two page spread in RSVP magazine which was nothing more than what you could see on the website. This was Memphis' legitimacy in the condo market. This was big. Why was this not pushed as a possible destination for retirees in the entire Mid-South market, or America as a whole? To Elvis fanatics and music lovers alike, Memphis IS a viable tourist market, and a place you could plunk down cash for a second home. The project was said to fail due to "a slowing and shrinking market and decreasing demand." The fact is, the project would be in construction today if they had sold enough units to justify starting construction so the building wouldnt be sitting empty. Proper advertising would have made that happen.

Notice the correlation.

Bringing the Grizzlies to Memphis was the most ambitious proposal Ive ever heard of since I have been in Memphis. It was going to be a beautiful sight. Luxury suite boxes, hotels around the corner of the arena, and a private restaurant for game-goers. There is no advertisement sans a few transit buses and a few billboards, but nothing to generate much excitement and especially foster a closeness with the town. Oh, but there was a website with information and the occasional one to two page spread telling you things you already could find on the website. This was Memphis' legitimacy in the sports market. This was big. Why was this, and is this not pushed as a big night out, a great night out on the town, the only professional sports franchise in Memphis? Why is this not the focal point of this city along with college athletics? People say the two cannot co-exist but thats only because one is marketed and the other is not, and yes, winning speaks for itself, I understand that. This project is being said to be failing due to decreasing demand and a dwindling market. The fact is, if they had marketed this thing right from the get-go they wouldnt be saying "Well it doesnt work now if we try" because if done correctly, the whole building wouldn't be sitting empty.

Proper advertising is what will make that happen.

It's not the team, Geoff. It isn't even the fans to a certain degree. The fans have nothing to pull them back in because the team's management wont throw them a line.

3 comments:

David Jones said...

I think it's a bit early to say the team is much improved. It will be a huge surprise if this team wins a significant more games (let's say 5) than it did last year.

You can argue that we have some exciting young talent, but I would respond by saying that we've heard that same line every preseason. Potential and young talent are nice, but they are nothing new for the Grizzlies.

Tim said...

^^ Thats not true at all. We have ALWAYS been built around Pau Gasol and this is actually the first season that we are not. Which means we are totally new and improved b/c yes they are young but these are the most talented group of guys we have had. You just cant build around Gasol and we are finally changing our path and building a good team.

David Jones said...

I'm not trying to argue that we aren't setting ourselves up to be better in the future (I'm optimistic, but there's still a chance this team will never be good and we'll have to go through more iterations of rebuilding.)

I'm also not trying to argue that staying with Pau was a good long term or short term plan.

However, I am arguing that by any measure you use, you cannot say that this team will be better this year than any other team the Grizzlies have fielded. We've had several young teams before that won 25-30 games (and at least 3 that were better than that), and there was just as much optimism and uncertainty with those young teams as there is now.

Therefore, I think Calkins' argument is fair.