Iced by Thrashers, Hawks Begin Agency Playoffs

Feathers ruffled by a losing season and empty seats, the Atlanta Hawks are looking for an agency to change their marketing fortunes.
Search consultancy Wanamaker here confirmed that it has sent out letters to 15 local agencies for the National Basketball Association team’s estimated $2 million account. Creative and media planning will be awarded, said Wanamaker president Ken Bose. Media buying will remain in-house.
The account has been handled in-house for the past year. Before that, Fitzgerald & Co. here was the incumbent.
Bose said representatives for the Hawks would schedule agency visits for the third week of May. A cut, likely to three agencies, will be followed by final presentations June 7-8. A winner is expected to be named by June 10.
“Sports marketing experience is a plus but not mandatory,” Bose said. “[The Hawks need] branding skill and [an agency that] feels comfortable with retail promotions.”
The Hawks’ problems go far beyond advertising, said Jay Wisse, vice president of the sports marketing practice at Richard French & Associates in Raleigh, N.C.
Despite a popular new arena, the Hawks have struggled to draw fans this season, Wisse noted. After several consecutive years making the playoffs, the Hawks have suffered a losing season rife with team discord. As of April 4, Atlanta was in seventh place in the eight-team Central Division with a 26-46 record, eliminated from the post-season.
The Hawks have also faltered in the competition for the local sports entertainment dollar. The city’s National Hockey League expansion team, the Thrashers, outdraws the Hawks by 16 percent. According to the March 27 Street & Smith’s Sportsbusiness Journal, the Hawks currently rank 23rd of 29 NBA teams in attendance. The Thrashers are ninth among 28 NHL squads.
“The Thrashers, just by virtue of existing, are going to cannibalize the Hawks,” Wisse said. “They’re new, they’re exciting, they have cool uniforms . . . These new expansion teams have the advantage of corporate support to sell [a pre-ordained number of season] tickets in order to get a franchise.”