Thunder has loyal, dedicated fan following
BY KELLY HINES World Sports Writer
Saturday, June 16, 2012
6/16/12 at 5:47 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY - Even before the Oklahoma City Thunder's postseason run to the NBA finals began, 99 percent of season-ticket holders opted to renew for next season.
The percentage of renewals, which began in March, puts the Thunder in the top three in the league, along with the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers.
"In the league the last 10 years or so, I think there's only been four or five franchises to do 97 percent or better," said Brian Byrnes, a Thunder senior vice president. "For us to be at 99 percent is just a remarkable metric of how loyal our fans are and how interested they are in this whole thing called 'the NBA in Oklahoma City.'"
Last season, Oklahoma City experienced a 94 percent renewal, one of only six teams to reach that percentage level. In addition to the Heat and Lakers, the others were the Dallas Mavericks, New York Knicks and Chicago Bulls.
While the Chesapeake Energy Arena seats 18,203, the amount of season tickets is capped at 14,100, giving the rest of the public the opportunity to attend games. More than 2,000 people are already on the waiting list for season tickets for the 2013-14 season, Byrnes said.
Despite the Thunder's unprecedented success in the team's fourth year in Oklahoma City, ticket prices won't change for next season.
"To take advantage of the fact that we're in the finals this year would not necessarily be consistent with how we're trying to build a long-term relationship with season-ticket holders and sponsors," Byrnes said.
"Even when the economists say supply exceeds demand, we still say we're building a brand. We want to make sure we're connecting with folks and not pricing them out of the market."
In addition to tickets, the Thunder's marketability has been seen through TV ratings. Tuesday's victory against Miami was the highest-rated Game 1 since the league returned to ABC in 2002.
The game received a 44.3 rating in Oklahoma City. In Tulsa, it earned a 27.7 rating and a 40.9 share while peaking in the last 15 minutes with a 35.1 rating and a 53.4 share.
"It's an unbelievable testament to this team's ability to connect with NBA fans," Byrnes said. " ... I think that really starts to dispel the notion that this is a small market and that small markets can't carry the league."
As of the spring, the Thunder was seventh in the NBA in merchandise sales. That ranking is expected to improve by the time the next figures are released.
"We've had the NBA tell us that retailers, particularly in Oklahoma but even just regionally, have ordered two or three times more product than what they're doing in other markets," Byrnes said. "That's a reflection of fan enthusiasm in this marketplace but also that this is the first time to get to this point.
"There's clearly a rush of interest for fans to get behind the Thunder."
Original Print Headline: Thunder has a loyal and dedicated fan following
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Fans cheer on the Thunder during Game 2 Thursday. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World