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Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Mark Cuban: T-Shirt Metalhead


Mark Cuban dispenses a lot of business wisdom on his blog. Some of it strikes me as fascinating, much of it strikes me as brilliant, and occasionally a little of it strikes me as excessively adrenalized.



He's just like that. He's Mr. Vigor, which is great, as long as you don't confuse it with Mr. Timeless Wisdom (who, in fact lives down the block and makes the best hash browns).



Today, he's crowing about how he knows things that all the focus groups and survey's don't: namely that it's crazy to turn down the music or tone down the in-arena entertainment, because people love t-shirts.



I know, it didn't really follow when he said it either. I'll let Mark Cuban explain:

I have gone to NBA games in every arena and many NHL and MLB games across the country . Without exception, the response to T Shirts being thrown into the audience exceeds the response to actual game action for all but the most exciting of game action moments.



The minute the T Shirt cannons or slingshots come on the court, field or ice, every man, woman or child of any age is up screaming their head off trying to get a free T Shirt . They have no idea what is on the shirt. They know the chances of getting one are slim, but it doesnt matter. Its T Shirts gone wild.



Its a huge marketing lesson.



The Customer is always right, but often they tell you want they want not by their responses to your inquiries but by their actions.



Sporting events are special because they allow customers to be part of and participate in an energetic environment that is unique. Some leagues are trying to minimize that energy by reducing sound, lights and other activities. Its a huge mistake. Maybe they should take a step back , or better yet a step up and sit with their customers and watch how they act during a game.



Its much more rewarding than sitting through a focus group.
I'll admit--I love the freaking t-shirt cannon too. My friends have even made fun of me for this. But let me explain both why I like it and why Mark Cuban is, I'm convinced, drawing the wrong conclusion when he assumes people who love the t-shirt cannon love all in-arena distractions.



See, I go to the arena because I like watching basketball, and sure, I like the excitement of being in a crowd. But there are a lot of things about it that I endure to get that. I don't like sitting down for long stretches. I don't like being bossed around by security guards. I don't like being marketed to that much, especially when it's masquerading as entertainment. I don't like $7 bottles of water. I don't like being told to get excited when there's nothing to get excited about. I don't like the artifice of the forced smiles, whitened teeth, and big sticky hair on those dancers.



We could talk about the objectification of women, but the topic I'm really on here is the objectification of us fans. Half the time it seems like all they want you to do it sit back and take in ideas about how best to be parted with your money. Basketball? What's that?



But when the t-shirt cannon comes out, it's a rare chance to get out of your seat and do something, instead of just sitting there being marketed at all night. Suddenly there's something to get the competitive juices flowing. And it's like a big game of catch too. Who doesn't like playing games better than sitting? (And I don't even want the t-shirt. I'm on a campaign, as it happens, to get rid of as many t-shirts as it takes so that I can close that drawer easily.)



You chuck something at me from dozens of yards away, in pretty much any setting, and I want to catch it!



When they do the parachute drop thing, I even sit up and hope to snag one even when I'm on media row.



But does that mean I want the music in the arena super loud at all times? Not at all. I like the squeak of sneakers. I wish I could hear what the players and coaches were saying to each other. And more than anything, I like it when the crowd noise if born of genuine enthusiasm for something the players did, not some cheap chalupa ploy.