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Jon Spoelstra Interview
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We wanted to make a splash with a major name to celebrate our five year anniversary...and we found him in Jon Spoelstra. Jon Spoelstra is the President of Mandalay Sports and author of several books focusing on sports marketing and ticket sales.
Jon explains why it's so important to entertain, tells how he almost gave a jockstrap to every man, woman and child coming to New Jersey Net games and turns down the volume.
Spoelstra also tells us the only people who matter in entertainment and describes how he loaded a failing on-court promotion with pyro and blew it up in front of his fans.
Finally, Spoelstra shares why it's okay to fail, names the team he would want to watch for an entire year, and answers a challenging multiple choice question from Gameops.com.
Gameops.com: Tell us about your current position.
Jon Spoelstra: I am President of Mandalay Baseball Properties. It includes five properties, three playing right now: The Las Vegas 51's, Dayton Dragons, Frisco Roughriders.
Gameops.com: And you are the author of several books, including Ice to the Eskimos, Marketing Outrageously, and Success is Just One Wish Away.
Spoelstra: I also wrote an industry workbook on ticket sales, How to Sell the Last Seat in the House. That one is still selling. We get about 4 or 5 orders a month, and the book sells for $800 a piece....and I haven't got any complaints, so maybe it's under priced.
Gameops.com: I found a couple interesting facts from your past. In the three years you were with the New Jersey Nets you increased revenue 500% and at one point you were involved in an NBA trade...tell us about that.
Spoelstra: When I was with the Trailblazers there was a trade. We received a player named Don Buse, who was a starting point guard for the Pacers. We had a point guard named Darnel Valentine and he broke a bone in his hand, so we needed a point guard. So the trade was one week of my time in exchange for Don Buse. I think Indiana may have gotten the better part of that trade
Spoelstra: That depends a bit on the sport. Let's say in minor league where you have 70 games...no one except maybe retired folks go to every game. So we de-emphasize season tickets by design. We have 12-18 game plans, which means you are at about every 4th game. We keep a grid of formats, which 4 sets of shticks that we rotate things so people wouldn't see the same things until the 3rd month of the season.
There are some things we do nearly every game, like the dancing umpire....so fans begin to expect that. But we don't do it where it becomes predictable. We change the time of the game, or which umpire it is.
Gameops.com: So explain that element.
Spoelstra: The mascot tries to get the home plate umpire to dance....and stands there like a statue. So the mascot goes to the first base umpire and tries to get him to dance. Then the ref makes a little move, and it progresses until the umpire is dancing like crazy. The fans get fooled and they love it.
To wrap it up, the mascot goes back to tease the home plate umpire for not taking part. As the fans follow the mascot the first base umpire goes in for a squirt of water....and the real umpire returns from the dugout.
Gameops.com: So you see the entertainment not as a chance to sell, but strictly as the opportunity to entertain?
Spoelstra: There are plenty of opportunities to sell sponsorships. The lifeblood of our industry is selling tickets. The best way to sell tickets is to really be entertaining. I see a lot of breaks that are not very entertaining and are clearly done just to gain revenue.
Like the dancing umpire, which has been really successful for us. What if we ended it with the PA, "... tonight's dancing umpire has been brought to you by 7-UP!" It would tip people off and ruin the effect.
Our job is to entertain. We have other people to sell sponsorships...and still others to sell tickets. The one area we don't violate is the entertainment. It is the holy grail.
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