Last June, the Portland Trail Blazers were one of four NBA organizations that applied to launch a sister team in the WNBA's orange and white league. Sure, said WNBA brass, with one catch-the Blazers had to come up with 5,500 WNBA season ticket holders by October 15th, even though the league's fourth season wasn't starting until the following summer. That left the organization with only four months to sell nearly 50 percent of the seats before the first jump ball.
Team sales management knew that such a feat would be impossible with traditional sales management. Time was short, and there was no established product on the court.
Blazers database marketing manager Tony Cesarano was just coming off a successful Onyx Front Office installation for the men's team when he was told that Onyx would need to be rapidly deployed for the WNBA ticket drive. No sweat.
"It was nice," says Cesarano, who enjoyed the freshness of the WNBA group. "The other groups had pre-existing ways that they did their business, but the WNBA group was brand new." The NBA Blazers sales staff, for example, was content to use its 20-year-old model of ticket sales, whereas the WNBA's flexibility enabled the team organization to build a fully wired sales process from the ground up, with a minimum of delay.
Not surprisingly for such a deadline-driven campaign, the organization greatly valued its ability to see exactly how many ticket sales had been closed at any given time. The sales team could also call up an instant analysis of the success rates of various lead demographics and marketing campaigns. "The reality is, there are people rushing around working as hard as they can to meet this deadline. They don't have a lot of time to generate manual reports," says Cesarano.
This flexibility allowed account executives to plan their activities around the more choice customer segments. Because of the fresh new product, leads were flying in for the women's team far faster than for the Trail Blazers. With Onyx's granular customer classification, which allows users to classify customers based on a variety of criteria, the staff could direct more calls to prospects like women-owned businesses and former season ticket holders of Portland's now-defunct ABL franchise. In turn, it would also weed out less promising leads, such as 13 year olds from a Blazers-sponsored basketball camp.
Using Onyx to manage its targeted marketing campaigns, the team found out early that they needed to handle a flood of incoming season ticket requests-far more than they were used to seeing with the established men's squad. "We had a lot of incoming calls because of the newspaper and radio marketing we did," says Blazers account executive Nathan Currie, who took part in the ticket drive campaign.
The easy-to-use classification features in Onyx were a boon to the campaign, which rewarded loyal customers with preferred seating. "We were able to easily track existing Blazers ticket holders or former ABL ticket holders and get them higher on the priority lists for ticketing," says Currie.
The real success here was the team's ability to secure solid support for women's basketball by first reaching the customers who mattered most. "The Blazers were able to develop an intimate profile of the fan they're trying to sell to," says Onyx regional vice president Dan Mahowald. So when the first jump ball is tipped, the team knows they'll have a solid fan base cheering them on.
By The Numbers
Company: Portland WNBA Franchise (name TBA)
Line of business: A women's professional basketball team, to begin play in the summer of 2000
Point of pain: Needed to sell more than 5,000 season tickets, in just four months, for a team that didn't yet exist
Solution: Turned to Onyx Front Office to manage ticket sales and marketing activities and identify prime customer prospects quickly and easily