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Keys to a Lockout
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By Pat Walker

It’s been more than two months that front offices around the NBA have been playing the waiting game, this on the heels of a four-month work stoppage for their NFL counterparts.  The lockouts have greatly affected off-season timelines, given the uncertainty of when things return to normal.  But I’m not here to discuss CBA’s and billions of dollars…rather I’m here to provide a few pointers on what game ops staffs can do to stay prepared for the day when the keys arrive and the lock is opened.  After all, as soon as work returns to “normal”, it’s going to be at a breakneck speed to catch up for lost time.

1.     Plan for a non-traditional Media Day

Over the years, NBA teams have been trend setters for their use of players in video board features and marketing campaigns.  This year, there is a strong chance that Media Day, as we know it, will not take place at all…given it takes place at the opening of training camp.  With the possibility that you won’t have player footage, create a Plan B that includes your mascot, dance team and interactive groups to create video features and fan prompts.  Not only does this secure elements for you to start the season, it also gives your fans a chance to get to know the faces they see throughout the arena at every game.  Who knows, you might be setting a new trend for the coming decade.

2.     Prepare “as if scheduled”

The NBA schedule has been released, but there is no guarantee as to whether that will hold true to form.  That being said, it’s still best to begin reserving dates with your top halftime and anthem acts.  While you need to hold off on a final confirmation, it’s easier to push back the reserved date if the season starts late instead of scrambling to fill when the lockout ends.  Obviously, this requires up-front communication with the acts, but most of them are likely up to speed on the lockout details.

3.     Don’t get complacent

Zoning at the office This pointer seems like an obvious one, but we’re a breed of “busy bees” in game ops and when things slow down, we have a tendency to relax and catch our breath.  Focus on avoiding that tendency in wake of the lockout because once it’s go time, things will proceed fast and it will be difficult to jump right back into “game mode”.  Instead of passing time playing solitaire at the office, gather your crew and go clean out the prop storage.

4.     Budget evaluation

You may have just gone through this process, but ensure you spend time outlining specific line items.  Create updated estimates for a full 82-game regular season as well as a shortened campaign (the ’98-’99 game was reduced to 50 games).  If the lockout continues, budget revisions may be requested by upper management, so know ahead of time where you can make adjustments.  This will make the process easier if it comes to fruition, as well as make a good impression on your bosses.

5.     Brainstorm

Throughout my career in sports, one of the trending topics is staffs are constantly challenged to find time to brainstorm new ideas.  A lockout provides one of those unique moments when there will be a lot more free time than your staff is used to…and for that matter, every department’s staff.  Take advantage of this “light calendar” and set up the brainstorm meetings with other departments that you have always talked about, but never seem to make the time to execute.  Group Sales is an obvious group, but reach out to Marketing, Sponsorship, CR and PR…it will make all of you more effective in the long run as well as better prepared when the keys arrive.

Pat Walker

Patrick Walker is the President of Pat Walker Productions, a Seattle-based event production group. Pat shares over a decade of expertise in Game Entertainment and Operations in a monthly column called Walk & Talk and blog posts on Gameops.com.

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