NBA Draft Parties: Using Parties to Engage Fans in the Off-Season

As many arenas across the country sit empty and jumbotrons stay dark, NBA event teams continue to look for a 2015-NBA-draftway to engage with their respective fan bases and ticket holders. Event directors across the country are piggybacking on the upcoming NBA draft by holding draft parties to satisfy multiple objectives.

In this post, we’ll show how five teams show how event departments can use off-season parties to

  • Reengage previous season ticket holders as well as excite new prospective season holders
  • Partner with sponsors from the season and court (pun intended) potential sponsors
  • Build a community of fans to carry the excitement from the previous season or, in many cases, to show the promise of a season to come
  • Generate leads for team representatives for the upcoming season ticket sales
  • and, secondarily, unload previous season’s merchandise (no one likes to carry inventory through the off season)

Orlando Magic is offering free tickets to anyone who wishes to watch the first round of the draft on the jumbotron at center court. To sweeten the deal, they’re providing free parking and 50% off concessions, making the night more palettable for families’ wallets. By partnering with Chase and Mountain Dew, the Magic are encouraging people to purchase season tickets before or during the draft party by tempting them with a basketball or photo signed by Orlando’s first round draft pick. Remember that the Magic pick 5th in the draft so there’s a good opportunity for these season ticket holders to have a future prize piece of memorabilia.

Like the Magic, the Utah Jazz will host a free draft party in its arena with the draft seen live on the big screen. Fans will be allowed on the court and the night’s emcees intend to make the show a highly engaging and participatory event. To further entice fans, the Jazz are offering the first 500 people through the door 2 tickets to any pre-season Utah game for the 2015-16 season; gear will be offered at the arena shops with a buy one, get one-50% off deal. The Utah Jazz cheerleaders and mascot will all be in attendance for photos and to utah-jazz-draft-partysign autographs. The Jazz are partnering with Zero Fatalities for the draft party. Zero Fatalities is a Utah non-profit that encourages safe driving habits–from buckling up, to not driving when drowsy, to not texting and driving. The Jazz draft event and activities focus primarily on family and community engagement, with little emphasis on traditional sponsorship and sales. Unlike other teams, the Jazz missed the opportunity to gather leads and fan email addresses by requiring an event registration on the website. 

The Charlotte Hornets are tailoring their draft party toward prospective season ticket holders. Hornet representatives will hold an open house and provide tours on draft night to help future ticket holders select the perfect seats and court views for the upcoming season. The draft provides a backdrop that mimics the excitement of game time that won’t be possible for the next few months. Attendees at the open house/draft party will also be the first to preview the brand new Charlotte Hornets uniforms. While the draft will be shown, the Hornets’ draft party is targeted primarily at selling season tickets and engaging with prospects for lead generation.

For the first time in franchise history, the Minnesota Timberwolves have the number 1 pick in the NBA draft. Not to waste the opportunity, the team is hosting a large draft party at their home court at Target Center. Like most other teams, the event is free. Fans are enticed to join the Timberwolves’ Hardwood Club (their club of season ticket holders) by offering VIP access throughout the event for those who join before or during the draft party. VIP access includes a chance to win a pass to the #1 draft pick’s press conference as well as better viewing locations for the draft pick (on the jumbotron).

denver-nuggets-draft-partyThe Denver Nuggets, with sponsorship by Bud Light, are welcoming up to 500 fans to view the draft in the Land Rover Denver Club at Pepsi Center. Like most other draft parties, prizes and photo opportunities are offered. This is one of the few draft parties that is being held in a club area of the arena, designed to give Nuggets fans a taste of amenities that accompany season tickets. 

Several other teams–like the Sacramento Kings, the Philadelphia 76ers, and the Phoenix Suns–are endorsing fan viewing parties at area bars and restaurants but they seem to not have much more than food and drink specials, plus some promise of gear and prizes.

It appears that those teams who pick later in the first round are much less likely to hold large (arena-sized) draft parties, and many are not promoting fan parties at all. Regardless, since first tip-off for the next season is not until late October, the NBA draft provides a good excuse for fan engagement to potentially upsell those fairweathers to season ticket holders, and to show prospective corporate sponsors that their fans are worth the sponsor’s advertising dollars.