- Darren Rovell, ESPN.com Sports Business reporter
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There are guarantees from players proclaiming that they'll win an upcoming game. There are guarantees from businesses that if the home team shuts out another you can get what you bought the previous week for free. But what about a fun guarantee?
On Dec. 6, the Phoenix Suns will be the first team in NBA history to guarantee its fans that they will have fun at the game or they can get their money back.
"After that game, I think we were all struck by the fact that so many people were leaving our building with a smile on their face," said Jason Rowley, who took over as Suns president in late July. "Normally, when a team loses, fans are down. But not with us. And that was an eye-opening moment."
Rowley has renewed confidence after putting all of his staff through a hospitality management program before the season.
But he also has his challenges. The economic downturn greatly affected the city's real estate market, which just now is starting to turn around. Then there's the fact that the Suns haven't made the playoffs in the past two seasons, after making the postseason 18 times in the 22 seasons prior.
Perhaps even more challenging is that with Steve Nash off in Los Angeles, there's no particular player who brings out the masses. Draping Goran Dragic on billboards throughout Phoenix wouldn't exactly work. At least not yet.
"That's a big part of why we're doing this," Rowley said. "Just because our players don't have huge name recognition doesn't mean we're not fun to watch and can't compete. Sure, people relate to star power, but we believe in the team aspect and we're marketing this team as a team instead of a group of individuals."
The Suns aren't doing anything special Dec. 6. They're not offering concessions at special prices or featuring a famous performer at halftime. They're not connecting any sort of rebate with winning, the way other teams who have missed the playoffs have done for season-ticket holders.
What the team does every home game is enough, the Suns believe, to get someone to sample what they have to offer. And if they don't like it, they can get their money back in its entirety. Simply fill out an online form and send it in with your ticket.
"We know there's a risk to this," Rowley said. "But all we're doing is standing behind my product."
The team is not targeting a particular demographic. The idea is just to get people out and sample what the Suns have to offer.
"We haven't set any specific goals other than trying to use this to build long-term brand affinity," Rowley said. "If we can sell 50 people on buying single-game tickets to a couple games this season or sell those people on buying some game plans, we'll be happy."
It's no wonder the Suns are getting aggressive. Through eight games, they are averaging 15,063 fans per game, which is on pace to be the team's worst per game attendance figure since moving into a new arena in 1992.
3dSteve Ilardi and Jeremias Engelmann