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Hawks' play on Ashley Madison meant to drum up fan interest

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Atlanta Hawks turn to Ashley Madison for help with ticket sales (3:00)

ESPN sports business reporter Darren Rovell explains the Atlanta Hawks' new ad campaign involving people named Ashley Madison. (3:00)

The Atlanta Hawks want fans to have a love affair with them, so the team rolled out a digital marketing campaign Friday using three people named Ashley Madison to market its 10-game packages.

The campaign is a play on the cheating site of the same name. The site gained worldwide attention after its user database was hacked, revealing names of people whose credit cards were used for services.

"We were talking about how we wanted people to have a love affair with us, and we thought this was a playful way to do it," said the team's chief executive officer Steve Koonin. "Everyone thought it was a good idea, which actually scared me."

"We were talking about how we wanted people to have a love affair with us and we thought this was a playful way to do it."

Steve Koonin, Hawks CEO

"I'm Ashley Madison," the video begins. "Have you had a little rough patch with your first love? Maybe they just don't deliver the excitement you need anymore. Feel the rush of a new relationship with the Atlanta Hawks' flex plan. Ten nights of pure unadulterated excitement. And don't worry, your old team never has to know."

The Hawks set up a hotline with the number 855-HAWK-LUV, which forwards to a recording of a woman using a sexy tone to get fans to ticket representatives.

"The season ticket is, for the most part, purchased by an older audience," Koonin said. "We did this to target the younger demographic. We know we have a good product, but the first step is to get their attention."

A 10-game flex plan starts at $250 for an upper-level seat.

Koonin said the team is trending toward 10,000 season tickets sold, which is a far cry from the 3,200 sold last year. It's a marked turnaround for a team that had major issues after racist remarks made by its former co-owner Bruce Levenson and general manager Danny Ferry, which resulted in Levenson selling the team and Ferry departing the organization. Since then, the team has hired a diversity and inclusion officer, finished with a franchise-best 60 wins and was sold this summer to a new ownership group that includes billionaire Tony Ressler, Spanx owner Sara Blakely and entrepreneur Jesse Itzler.

The three people named Ashley Madison are two women and one man, all of whom live in Georgia. Koonin said he isn't counting out expanding of the ads by putting them on TV.