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Fans and Customers

The long road to acquiring an NBA franchise in Seattle can test patience and morale.

Edited by Joanna Nesgoda

While I understand the concern over these Ballmer / Clipper rumors, I have been somewhat confused by the extreme reaction to these reports compared to the somewhat muted response just a couple of weeks ago when a major new player, Victor Coleman, was introduced to the public.  As I stated in a previous article, that was a pretty good week; but it seemed like the public was more inclined to focus on bad news and ready to jump off a cliff than to risk embracing any sense of optimism.

One conclusion that I come to is that people's patience is simply wearing thin and their frustration with the process is growing more vocal and visible after years of unrewarded optimism.  Quite simply people have been at it for a while and feel like they are owed more of an explanation of where things are and how long they may be asked to hold on.  Their frustration with the lack of answers flairs up at any potential negative news and dampens the response to any good news.

As this process has dragged on through the years, I have been both critical of and a defender of the tight lips and limited PR put forth by Chris Hansen and his crew.

One poster, SMB282, summarized the issue quite well with a post in our last thread:

I'd say it's a massive chore to try to keep the morale of this group high on a day to day basis
But if you actually have some good news to report, the excitement will be huge and will seem to come right out of thin air, in a way. If that's the dynamic, as it seems to me to be, then I wouldn't be trying to placate anyone with PR either. Maybe that's a roll of the dice, but it's a better plan than taking on the role of morale-keeping cheerleader for such an emotionally fickle movement, as far as I'm concerned.

SMB282 hits the nail on the head with his assertion that maintaining morale without some tangible progress to point to is a massive chore requiring tremendous effort.  He rightly points out that if Hansen and his team were to take on this burdensome task their efforts would seem inconsequential compared to the real enthusiasm that would be generated by tangible progress in franchise acquisition.

So I get it.  I understand that prioritizing fan morale is a bad value investment.  It requires a huge investment of time and energy to generate just a small amount of enthusiasm during down times and likely results in very little impact on the level of excitement that will be easily generated at a more opportune time, such as when you announce the acquisition of a franchise.

There is sound logic behind Hansen's "scarcity has value" approach to public relations and I generally agree that he and his representatives are better off keeping their focus on the already massive effort of acquiring a team rather than expending energy to pacify our audience.  On almost every occasion where I have pushed them to engage more I have found in the end that the better path was for them to stay relatively quiet and let the emotions drop out of a situation before making any commentary.

If I were to argue more openly for greater public dialogue I would point out to Chris or any others that in addition to being great and loyal fans we also represent past and future potential customers of the Sonics franchise.  I always try to remind people in the NBA of the critical difference in terminology.  While fans give their loyalty to a franchise, any good business knows that the real loyalty needs to be shown the other direction, by treating your customers in a way that makes them feel invested in your success and valued by the organization.

So it is difficult to find a happy medium that addresses both the Hansen group's need to not get bogged down with the public mood AND their very real need to treat their customers well, keeping them informed and involved in order to nurture relationships for a time when they want something back from us.  Whether they want us to march on city hall, show the NBA our passion for the game or just buy tickets and cheer really loud when the team comes back, they are going to want something and their customers are not unreasonable to ask to be kept in the loop until that day comes.

In all likelihood this circus will pass and a month from now someone other than Steve Ballmer will own the LA Clippers.  All the drama and heartache of the last 2 weeks will wind up being mostly for naught and the group will go back to pursuing a franchise for this market.  What we will know for sure is that Mr. Ballmer is more interested than ever in paying big dollars for a team and that his relationship with Adam Silver is strong enough that they sit courtside at games together.

So what do you think? Do they owe us an explanation, or is now a pretty good time to stay silent and let events play out?