Monday, July 6, 2009

Random Thoughts for a Monday

There's plenty of stuff going on to talk about from the past weekend, after celebrating our country's birthday by blowing up small portions of it.
Hedo Turkoglu was slated to join the Portland Trail Blazers late on Friday afternoon, and then suddenly as the deal was rumored to be a done deal, it was done and now he's heading to Toronto. Even his agent said that he would understand if the Trail Blazers would feel a bit upset about being left out in the cold, and it seemed like this was a handshake deal that went south rather quickly. And columnists are jumping on the fact that Portland might not be the prime free agent destination, not because of the talent here but the town and what we have to offer here. John Hollinger from ESPN tried to talk a bit about not involving Hedo's wife in the discussions, which I think was a mistake from the getgo, while John Canzano did bring up the fact about whether Portland is too white or too uncomfortable for those people that are in the public eye.
What I think after reading all about this and understand what is going on was simply that Turkoglu meshed well with Nate McMillan and he got sold on the Trail Blazers after talking with him, but after walking around the city, Turkoglu looked at the comfort that Toronto would be offering and took the deal. Granted, Toronto has a Turkish neighborhood, it has international areas to it, and very diverse, but it's not cosmopolitan enough for some guys. If you want to have a more low key way of life or have a good area for raising families, Portland would be an amazing place for anyone. But if you are looking for a buzzing night life every night of the week, or needing to find the big party all the time, well, you are probably looking for another place to be. It's important to sell free agents on what we are as a NBA team, a very talented, young team with great amount of talent, and the town itself is a very good place to be but it's unique in some respects.
We let our famous people be for the most part, we rather see them in public and treat them with kid gloves in the respect that we let them do their own thing. Famous people can really blend into the environment, and for the most part, we let them do their own thing. But if this really was a top free agent wine and dine party, I would have invited Turkoglu's wife and brought in the top current players of the Trail Blazers and put on the show for him to sell it. The fact that they didn't do either thing really tells me that they thought the money and talent was enough, and for some players, that might be the case, just not in this situation.
Meanwhile, the Oregonian published an article about the MLS and it's marketing challenges. In the early days of the MLS, the league was marketed to kids and families as a fun event to take the kids who grew up playing soccer. And while the marketing worked for some, the fact that the attendance for most teams struggled emphasizes the problem with marketing to families. Most families have a limited amount of entertainment dollars, and will tend to pick whatever events are the flavor of the moment, and both soccer and baseball have seen problems with attracting young fans that used to play each sport to become season ticket holders of soccer or baseball. The fact that kids play the sports hasn't translated to true success at the gates.
And now you have two teams, Toronto and Seattle, that have changed their marketing to attract more of the younger, urban fans who have more disposable income to have them come out to soccer, using things like cheaper beer, chanting and singing, and generally having a crazy time. Seattle has even used their website to help fans pick the section they want for season tickets by asking about what type of fan experience they want, whether they want singing and chanting about, standing in seats, and other things. For young types who have seen how Europeans support soccer, it has translated into a big jump in attendance, but it is a rather tough line to walk, as noted in the article. What group do you market to - families, who want wholesome entertainment but have lots of choices and limited income, or young people, who want something a bit more edgy and have more disposable income, but may not understand what this soccer thing is all about.
Really, what the whole thing has shown is that marketing is all about speaking to different audiences, and it's important for teams to cater to different groups to help them see what the benefit is to coming to watch their sport. For some fans of the Timbers, they love the atmosphere of the Timbers Army with the chanting, swearing and TIFO, for others, it's cheap beer, for others, it's being able to watch top level soccer for a lower price, and for others, it's family time and good entertainment. And the Timbers need to market it that way, but do more to help fans understand what the experience is for them, and what part of the park works for them. You have to market the Timbers Army, but help fans understand that the section might not be for them, while it's also important to have a family section that people feel they can bring their kids to and feel like there's not going to be an issue. And finally, you have to have an away supporters section that is away from the home fans. In England, away supporters are kept away from the home side, and it keeps a lot of trouble from happening, and soccer fans travel a bit, so it's important that you have a place where away fans feel comfortable in coming to visit, yet not cause issues.
Girl and I went to see Duran Duran in Redmond last night, and for a bunch of guys nearing or over 50, they can still bring it. Ok, I'm not the biggest fan of their music, but two very important women in my life love them greatly, my wife and my sister, and I must say I enjoyed the show a lot more that I thought. Granted, I've heard their music enough so I knew most of the songs they played, and I can appreciate them as talented people, even if I wouldn't run out and buy one of their albums for myself. But being able to see them play for a few hours and sound very much like listening to an album with great sound and energy, it was a good time, and a great way to end our long holiday weekend.
Finally, the city council has another discussion relating to MLS on Thursday afternoon. From an email that I got today:
Important Final Hurdle for MLS to PDX

What:  Portland City Council Vote for MLS
When: 2:00 p.m.
         Thursday July 9 2009
Where: Portland City Hall
           Council Chambers

What a week for soccer in PDX!

If there was any doubt that MLS would be a runaway hit in Portland, those doubts were laid to rest with 17,000 people selling out PGE Park on Wednesday night that showed the world why we are called Soccer City USA.  

But we are not done yet.  We have a final hurdle to clear.  

As you are probably aware we took an important step several weeks ago when the City Council voted to decouple baseball and soccer and move forward on finalizing the deal to bring MLS to PDX.

This coming Thursday City Council is slated to take up three important final votes that are key hurdles in finalizing the deal between Merritt Paulson and the City:

1) Bidding Exemption
2) Pre-Development Agreement
3) Financing Package

The bidding exemption and pre-development agreement are important legal requirements that allow Paulson to start retaining contractors and turning dirt over at PGE.  They will also likely be voting on the financing package that will pay for the PGE park remodel.  At this time we have not seen the final package but it is our understanding that it retains all of the protections for taxpayers, the general fund and essential services that the earlier proposed agreement had while still providing the funding necessary to bring MLS to PDX.
So we have more work to do this week, so please make sure and email your commissioners about this. What they will be discussing is the companies that will be doing the work to PGE Park for MLS, getting the agreement determined with the firms that will do the work (and more than likely already have been working with Paulson about construction plans) and how we are going to pay for it all. It's vital that you make your voices heard, and make sure that the powers that be understand how important it is to bring MLS to Portland. Get this done, and then we can do work to ensure that baseball remains in Portland, because that is important as well to keep our entertainment options available and keep other sports in town. You all know how I feel about the MLS, I want it badly, and I will be doing my part to email to tell my elected officials what I would like them to know. If you email, remember to keep the points simple, but show passion in your argument and keep it positive. You cannot stop us, we are the Rose City.

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