TTD Leads Nuggets Fan Revolt in Denver

LOS ANGELES Much of Denver would be without Nuggets basketball this season, if it weren’t for the efforts of independent Thomas Taber & Drazen, the agency said.

Comcast was not carrying programming by TV network Altitude Sports and Entertainment, even after the National Basketball Association team’s home opener tip-off last Saturday. According to Golden, Colo.-based SkyReport, the cable provider comprises more than 65 percent of pay-TV service in the Denver area.

“It was really critical that we get that nailed down,” said Bryan Thomas, chief executive officer and president of TTD. The Denver agency had been tapped in June to lead the about-to-launch network’s identity and branding campaign.

TTD’s strategy urged Colorado’s famously passionate sports fans to put pressure on Comcast, as well Altitude-less satellite provider DirecTV, said Thomas. “We needed to go after them in a fairly aggressive way, in public,” he explained, with work encouraging a subscriber uprising and defection to servers that did carry the network, such as Dish TV and Adelphia.

ASE, a Denver-based, 24-hour sports network in operation since August, was created by Nuggets’ owner Stan Kroenke to showcase teams that formerly relied on the Fox network for exposure. Its initial game schedule included the Nuggets, the Colorado Mammoths lacrosse team, the Colorado Rapids soccer team, the National Hockey League’s Colorado Avalanche and several collegiate sports events.

“All the fans care about is, can I see my teams?” said Mike Drazen, TTD partner and creative director. “We needed to make people feel that Comcast [was] not playing ball with them.”

The three-week campaign included full-page, color newspaper ads, three 60-second radio spots and outdoor components, Drazen said. Each print ad blatantly suggested that Comcast would intentionally prohibit Nuggets fans from watching the games. In one, a hand was shown partially covering a jump shot by star forward Carmelo Anthony. Text read: “The Nuggets have a real shot and Comcast is blocking it.” In another, the cable outlet was likened to a large, bald-headed guy blocking the action from his aisle seat. A radio spot stated that Comcast offered three home-decorating channels, but not one dedicated to the Denver Nuggets.

By the end of that first game, Comcast and DirecTV had agreed to pick up Altitude in time for the team’s Monday evening contest. In celebration, TTD ran an ad in the Sunday paper reminding local sports fans that they deserved a network of their own. In big letters, text proclaimed, “Now you’ve got one on Comcast.”

“Mission accomplished!” said Thomas, adding that the pay-TV giants should be relieved with the happy outcome. “Another series [of ads] was ready to turn up the heat even more,” he said.