Not just “an” opening night, the opening night for the Charlotte Bobcats in their new downtown sports arena.
It was a happening to say the least.
The arena is an eyeful.
Beautiful in every respect.
State-of-the-art in every respect.
And the perfect venue to view the game.
As a fan, you feel as though you’re “in the game” not just watching it.
A sell-out crowd of 19,026 came to look at the arena, look at each other, and, oh yes, watch the Bobcats play the Boston Celtics.
As a sports fan, I was excited to see the arena, taste the food, buy something from the fan shop and watch the game. As a businessperson, I was excited to network, see the people who were there, be with key members of my staff and network some more. Too many people fail to see the business value, the family value and the personal value in attending a game.
You know, there’s only one opening night. All kinds of fan-fare, all kinds of music, all kinds of entertainment and Nathan’s hotdogs. I ask you, what could be better? Oh, yes, the game.
As my employees and I took our seats, I began to notice that there were major people walking around talking to one another.
A few of the celebrities in attendance included comedian Will Ferrell, University of North Carolina head coach Roy Williams, rapper Nelly, Bobcats owner Bob Johnson and Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory. There were also a ton of other major business players in town.
From a fan perspective, it was The Garden, Wrigley Field and Disneyland all rolled into one. From a networking perspective, it was fantasyland.
Then it was time for the game to start.
Players on the floor ready to jump-ball at center court. Suddenly, Brevin Knight, the Bobcats point-guard, heads toward the announcers table, grabs a microphone, turns to the crowd and says, “I want to thank everyone for being here and supporting us tonight in our new arena. I want to promise you that we will do our best and give our all for you, our fans.”
The place erupted with applause. I believe it was the single nicest thing I have ever seen happen at a sporting event between player and fan. First class. Total first class. Made me wish I had bought more tickets, so that more people could have seen that 30-second communication.
At the end of the third quarter I made my way to the mayor, who was sitting next to NBA Commissioner David Stern. “Can I get a two minute interview?”
The mayor whispered a few words to Stern, who then smiled and extended his hand.
I asked, “How do you like the arena?”
“It’s the new standard in the league,” he beamed. “The sight-lines (viewing angles and proximities) are incredible. I can’t say enough about how impressive it is.” Mayor Pat McCrory was smiling ear-to-ear with pride for the city. So was I. So were 19,024 others.
It wasn’t just a sporting event. It was a happening.
How did it sell me?
It excited me, and it evoked a pride in me that was easily transferable. It helped me provide a fun atmosphere for my employees. Not just a well-deserved reward for them, but also a place for them to get to know each other. It made me want more. More tickets and more games. No one came around selling me more tickets to the next games. I wanted to buy them.
As I was leaving the arena, I got a text message from one of my customers. He said he saw me on TV during the game. WOW!
After the game we went to the Sunset Club. A festive atmosphere to say the least. Every person I talked to who went to the game could not stop raving about the arena. Several who only had tickets for the opening game, told me they were buying season tickets, “as fast as they could.”
Today I’m making my season ticket plan — how I intend to use my tickets to build my business. I will use them for customers, employees, vendors, friends, and of course, family. This morning I received an e-mail from one of my employees wanting to put four tickets on reserve for a game when one of our big customers is in town. We plan to invite several of our best customers to attend games when their team comes to Charlotte.
Oh, I almost forgot to tell you. We won the game in an overtime thriller. Even though the Bobcats struggled, behind 10 points most of the way, no one left the arena. The victory celebration at the end was as sweet as I can remember.
No matter where you live, there are sporting events that are important to your community, the economic impact to your city, and the success of the businesses that thrive there. Do you have a plan that supports your teams, and at the same time builds relationships and makes more sales for your company? If not, get one right away.
And, if your business is in Charlotte, get yourself some Bobcat tickets before they’re all gone.
GitBit: Want to see my ticket plan to maximize the value of our season tickets, go to www.gitomer.com — register if you’re a first time visitor — and enter TICKETS in the GitBit box.
Jeffrey Gitomer, author of “The Sales Bible,” and “Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless,” is president of Charlotte-based Buy Gitomer. He gives seminars, runs annual sales meetings and conducts training programs on selling and customer service. He can be reached at (704) 333-1112 or e-mail