*NBA Teams Hope E-Brochures Will Assist Season Ticket Sales

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Hoping to increase sales of their season ticket packages, the Orlando Magic and the Phoenix Suns are taking a new approach to reaching out to their fan bases, and in doing so have become the first NBA franchises to utilize e-brochures in trying to sell season tickets.


From the last week of September through this week, the teams will have sent more than 14,000 e-mails to those in their respective databases as well as to potential prospects. The teams are working with MindArrow Systems, Aliso Viejo, CA, a provider of Web-based application service provider solutions.


However, both organizations -- which are using these campaigns as an attempt to sign up people for new abbreviated season-ticket plans and eventually turn them into full season-ticket holders -- said this is a test of new technology. But it doesn't mean they are moving away from direct mail. The teams will run their usual direct mail campaigns this season as well. But they will compare costs and results generated by direct mail and the e-brochures.


"The technology gives us a reason to try something new," said Ray Artigue, senior vice president of marketing for the Phoenix Suns. "This is a calculated experiment in that we are talking to a qualified database of people that we have done business with in the past. We are looking to see if this would be a more efficient and cost-effective way of communicating with those people."


The e-brochure does not require any type of plug-in or player to run it.


One of the major appeals of the e-brochure for both organizations was that it allowed them to send a personalized two-minute message to their fans containing a video message from each of the team's stars. The Magic's e-brochure consists of a message from Grant Hill and the Suns' e-brochure has a message from Penny Hardaway.


The video messages have both players discussing the upcoming season and why fans will want to be part of it. The stars mention that the best way to do that is to take advantage of the new season-ticket packages that are available. Recipients can obtain additional information, and the video also contains highlights from the past season. The new NBA season for both the Suns and the Magic starts Oct. 31.


The message -- which will appear in the recipient's mailbox with the subject heading, "A special message from Grant Hill" (or Penny Hardaway) -- will include options for obtaining additional information on the season schedule, how to subscribe to the team's newsletters and e-newsletters, and how to contact the team with a link back to the team's home page. It also will include the ability to forward the message to a friend and possibly win a prize for doing so.


"This method gives us the chance to talk directly to someone who is interested in our product and use one of our stars to do it," said Chris Dorso, director of ticket sales and marketing for the Orlando Magic.


The Magic sent 1,000 e-brochures out during the last week of September. This week it will be sending an additional 1,000. Those receiving the e-brochures are people who responded to a direct mail campaign that ran in early September.


That campaign targeted 50,000 people -- some in the Magic database and some who are not -- in the Orlando area and asked them to participate in a contest called Nothing But Net where they could win a game of one-on-one with Hill. More than 3,000 people responded to the direct mail campaign.


It will be sending a direct mail brochure on the season ticket plan to the other 1,000 respondents and testing which medium generates the best results.


The team also is making the e-brochure available to its sales account executives, who will be able to e-mail them to clients. Between the direct mail campaign and the e-brochure campaign, the Magic spent nearly $30,000.


The Phoenix Suns sent out nearly 12,000 e-brochures during the last week of September. All of those recipients are in the Suns' database.


"None of these people are prior season-ticket holders," Artigue said. "But they are either part of our fan loyalty program, have purchased merchandise from us or attended a Suns game."


Artigue, who would not comment on the cost of the campaign, believes the e-brochures -- which he described as a supplement to what the team is doing with direct mail -- have the chance to be more effective than direct mail because the approach combines sight and sound.


Viewership for the Magic campaign is currently at 32 percent, with 16 percent of those clicking through to the e-brochure. Mike Pennell, vice president of marketing at MindArrow, said click through represents someone purchasing season tickets, forwarding the message to a friend or clicking on one of the other options.


The Suns' campaign has generated a viewership rate of 27 percent and a click-through rate of 59 percent.


The teams produced the video messages and collaborated with MindArrow in the design of the piece.


MindArrow said it is aggressively seeking to work with other NBA franchises and that the NBA has expressed an interest in working with the company.
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