Hornets Abuzz As NBA Idles

While the lockout of players by owners of National Basketball Association franchises threatens the 1998-99 season, there is ongoing playoff action taking place in the front office of the Charlotte Hornets.
Officials with that North Carolina-based NBA team, heading into its 11th season, are in the process of selecting their first official advertising agency.
According to vice president of advertising and promotions Renea Bared, who has been with the club since its inaugural season, the search is down to three shops. She declined to identify the contenders.
Bared said she hopes to make a decision next week, noting that the team is confronting other marketing challenges.
“We’re looking at addressing a number of issues,” Bared said. “We’d be [conducting a search] even if there wasn’t a lockout.”
The key factor driving the review is game attendance. When the Hornets took the court a decade ago, it represented the first professional sports franchise in the emerging Southeast city.
At that time, the team had no trouble selling out through season ticket purchases, filling its arena every night. Years later, as initial fanaticism abated and no championship banners appeared, sales of season tickets have declined.
“We had tremendous early suc-cess,” Bared said. “But what it left us with was, essentially, a private club. We had so many season ticket holders–when you do that you make your market very small and we haven’t aged well with our fan base. Now we’re interested in broadening that base and working on making relationships with future season ticket holders.”
Bared said the advertising budget this year would likely be about $500,000. The team has worked with various agencies in the past on a project basis.