351 Elliot Ave. W, Ste. 500
Seattle, Washington 98119
Telephone: (206) 281-5800
Fax: (206) 281-5828
Web site: www.nba.com/sonics
The Basketball Club of Seattle, LLC, owners of both the National Basketball Association's Seattle SuperSonics and the Women's National Basketball Association's Seattle Storm, had seen the Sonics through several successful seasons in the 1990s, but the organization wanted to prepare for a future that would doubtless include down years. Increasing fan loyalty, the franchise believed, was the only way to guarantee ticket sales and TV viewership during losing seasons as well as winning seasons. The team's front office set out to achieve this through a combination of enhanced free TV offerings and marketing. After moving Sonics games from pay-per-view TV to local TV stations preparatory to the 1997–98 season, the team's executives charged Seattle advertising agency WongDoody with the task of publicizing the new schedule of TV broadcasts in a way that would strengthen the bond between fans and their team.
WongDoody, allotted less than $500,000 for the entire campaign, arrived at the concept of sending actual Sonics stars on unannounced visits to the homes of ordinary Seattle residents. The idea gave the campaign its tagline, "In Your Home," which made direct reference to the newly expanded TV schedule for the team's games. The depiction of Sonics players interacting with ordinary Seattle residents also served the important purpose of humanizing the stars, which was particularly important given the fan cynicism of the time, a result of negative stereotypes then abounding about overpaid, misbehaving, out-of-touch players. For the first two weeks after its fall 1997 release, the campaign was aired heavily on regional stations during high-profile prime-time programming; it then continued on the local stations with which the team had partnered for the new game-broadcasting arrangement.
"In Your Home" was a success, achieving goals of increasing both TV ratings and interest in the team among Seattle residents. It also became one of the most awarded regional campaigns as well as one of the most awarded sports campaigns of its time, winning top honors at almost every major advertising festival. The campaign was extended for the 1998–99 basketball season, though it was updated to show players in public locations like grocery stores and bowling alleys rather than in residents' homes.
The Seattle SuperSonics entered the NBA in 1967. Like many expansion teams (teams new to a professional sports league), the franchise struggled in its first few years of existence, not posting a winning record until its fifth full season of play. The late 1970s, however, saw the
Sonics become one of the league's best teams; it reached the NBA finals at the end of the 1977–78 season and won the league championship in 1978–79. After experiencing winning seasons in the early 1980s the team slumped in the middle part of the decade. Though the Sonics rallied in the late 1980s, the team did not become a consistent winner again until the 1990s. After bringing in George Karl as head coach in 1992, the Sonics averaged 60 wins a season (out of a total of 82 regular season games) for six seasons in a row. They did not win a championship during this time, but they became one of the most elite franchises in the NBA.
The Sonics, accordingly, had little trouble generating fan loyalty in Seattle. In fact, home games almost always sold out. The team's front office, however, was looking to the franchise's future and knew that the Sonics would not...