Roar of Approval

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on September 16, 2013 under Commentary | Be the First to Comment


I can’t say that I’ve been lucky enough to visit every NBA arena during my time as a blogger. The ones I have been to have their own uniqueness to them. The different areas around the league provide different types of entertainment and have different degrees of fan interaction on game nights. If you talk to most people who travel around the league, they will tell you that the Dallas Mavericks provide a top-notch “show” for their fans.

“This is a focus of the Mavs,” Mavs owner Mark Cuban told the Two Man Game via email. “People come to games to have a unique experience. We want to leverage all the elements that we can so that every fans has a memorable time.”

Whether it is the Mavs Maniaacs, Mavs Dancers or funny videos on the big screen, the Mavs make sure the fans who come to the game are entertained.

That entertainment factor is something that is certainty lacking in arenas I’ve been to over my four years of covering the NBA. The thing that separates the Mavs from a vast majority of the league is their ability to keep you entertained when the game stops for a timeout.

A Mavs game or just a game in general holds different levels of importance to different people. It can be the fun thing to do on the weekend, the sacred spot for a diehard fan, a date night with a loved one, a fun event for corporate partners or it could be the monthly event for a family of four. Whether it is comic book-like animations they’ve originally created or spoofing the latest pop culture commercial, Cuban and his staff go above and beyond to create an atmosphere that creates a universal appeal to their fans.

“We realize that people don’t remember the score or the jumpers,” Cuban continued. “They remember the way they feel at the game. They remember who they are with, the connection and the feel.”

Personally, I am more interested in the game on its own, but I can respect the amount of work that goes into what is being done for the entertainment. I also know that it is often well-received by the fans that come to the games. If players get a sneak peak at what is going on during the timeouts, they often get a chuckle out of it. The connection doesn’t magically happen on its own. There is a staff that works together on the game nights to ensure those positive feelings at the game by a spectator are created. Paul Monroe, vice president of marketing and communications, runs a two man game of his own with Steve Letson, vice president of operations and arena development, on game nights to make sure that everything operates smoothly.

Letson will take his spot alongside press row and Monroe will sit atop the arena in the press box and they’ll communicate through headsets to their staff of roughly 15 employees to make sure everything is operating according to their plan.

They go over their “scripts” for how they want to coordinate the music in the arena, the videos that are played during timeouts or when the Maniaacs (the big-boned male dancers) or Mavs Dancers come out for a performance. Monroe and Letson basically put on their ringmaster outfits and do what they can to ensure they provide a top-notch spectacle for the fans, even when the game takes a break.

“Our department is really the key department that oversees and run our game night entertainment and everything that surrounds that, other than the 48 minutes of play on the court,” Monroe told the Two Man Game. “We let coach (Rick) Carlisle, Donnie (Nelson) and Mark (Cuban) and the great staff take care of that.

“We want the fans, whether they come into the arena or watching it on the broadcast or hear about it later, to have a great experience whether the team wins or loses. That’s the key of it, the fun and excitement and entertainment value.”

It’s quite a task they work through 41 times a year during the regular season and during the playoffs if they are able to make it. Their work over the years has resulted in building a reputation around the league. That reputation can be seen in their numbers at the gate.

Since Dec. 15, 2001, Dallas has sold out 473 regular-season home games, which is an NBA-best-sellout streak. Dallas has also sold out an additional 60 playoff games during that same stretch. According to the team, the listed capacity for American Airlines Center is 19,200 but that can be surpassed because of attendance in the suites. Since moving into American Airlines Center (2001-02 season), the Mavericks have posted a record of 368-116 (.760) at home during the regular season. Dallas has sold out all of its games in each of the past 11 seasons.

During the NBA offseason, the team’s active streak of consecutive sellouts took over the top spot for all major professional sports. The Boston Red Sox held a streak of 820 games (794 regular-season games and an additional 26 in the postseason) that ended on Apr. 10, 2013. Now, Dallas owns the current active streak.

The streak is quite impressive when you think about how things operate now in society. Discretionary income is dwindling. It dwindles down even more when you’re in a metropolitan area such as the Dallas/Fort Worth area. The Mavs are competing against the Dallas Cowboys, or playoff baseball from the Texas Rangers, Friday night high school football or the popular concert act coming into town.

“Of course you want to keep it (the sellout streak) going. Every year is going to be a challenge to see if you can maintain it. We look at it game by game,” Monroe said. “I’ve been in the industry for 16 years. It’s about putting butts in the seats or getting a fan or customer in.

“When you have a great presentation or a great game or a great team, when you have all of those ingredients, it’s still a lot of hard work to get that fan base. Sometimes the mentality of it being sold out can hurt you because there are always going to be seats to be sold. There’s going to be inventory out there.

The team will hold the rest back for individual-game sales and walk-up purchases. They do that to make sure fans don’t feel left out in the cold when the opportunity presents itself for them.

The methodology and entertainment value worked last season as the sellout streak continued. Many would say it was impressive that the Mavs were able to keep their streak going last season. They had 13 games at home before Dirk Nowitzki returned from his knee surgery. They had a stretch in December and January where they lost 13 of 15 games, including a six-game losing streak. The team lost a lot of games in overtime and blew leads in games to teams they shouldn’t have lost against.

With a cast of new characters, the marketing staff of the Mavs did their job to ensure everyone was entertained and fans came to the games, even through the rough patch to start the year. If they made it through those figurative down times, they would do fine as they were in the thick of the race for the 8th playoff spot to finish the season.

The fans easily could have turned away from the team during those rough times after being spoiled with 12-consecutive seasons of making the playoffs and 11-consecutive 50-plus win seasons. The fans could have also turned on the team and booed them off the floor, but that didn’t happen.

The business of basketball is something the Mavs have been able to take advantage of through their versatility. While they don’t have a mission statement to their approach of entertaining their fans, the vision is quite clear.

“The underlining tone is really all about the fans,” Monroe said. “We want to excite the fans, whether they come to the game or not. We’re trying to put on 45 of the largest parties in the Metroplex. That’s what it is.

“You can come at any age. You can be young or you can be married or you’re coming in as a parent or grandparent. You just take off your shoes and get out on the dance floor and go at it, have a great time and think about how you had a great experience.”

A winning team usually helps the cause, but the Mavs and their creative marketing staff have done a lot to provide an entertaining experience for the variety of fans that come through the doors at the American Airlines Center. While the experience might seem like standard operating procedure, perspective around the league sheds some light and shows that the Mavs might not win every game, but they make sure fans leave the party entertained.

Bryan Gutierrez writes about sportsmen. He also attended Ball So Hard University. Bryan channels his inner-Clark Kent on a day-to-day basis. You can follow him on Twitter @BallinWithBryan.