On the court, the Milwaukee Bucks are well on their way to staging the greatest one-season turnaround in NBA history.
As a business off the court, the organization is making comparable strides.
Aside from the breath of fresh air – and cash – that new majority owners Wes Edens, Marc Lasry and Jamie Dinan brought to the team, their decisions to hire Jason Kidd as head coach and Peter Feigin as team president are paying immediate dividends.
Feigin cited the following metrics to gauge the Bucks’ success at the BMO Harris Bradley Center: ticket revenues are up 13 percent from last year; attendance is up 22 percent; and merchandise sales per attendee are up 10 percent. Meanwhile, the team’s television viewing ratings on Fox Sports Wisconsin have soared 350 percent.
In sum, the new Bucks have created a buzz in this town.
Contrast that to when Feigin arrived in Milwaukee only to find that Bucks merchandise was not even for sale in local Kohl’s Department Stores.
“The Bucks (were) a classic distressed asset,” Feigin said.
Feigin is placing a high priority on connecting with the Milwaukee business community. The Bucks had spent the past 15 years “apologizing to, begging and asking,” instead of “selling” to the business community, Feigin said. In particular, the team is targeting small and medium-sized businesses.
Feigin is a natural-born marketer. Speaking in animated soundbytes, he is a walking, talking reporter’s dream.
“We are sprinting,” Feigin told members of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce and its Council of Small Business Executives. “I have a little more immediacy than the normal person does. We are going to change this city.”
Feigin said executive leaders of the Milwaukee Brewers and Green Bay Packers created a “roadmap” to help guide his journey to establish the Bucks as a statewide asset.
Feigin said he has spoken to some people in Waukesha County who “act like Milwaukee is 50 miles away” and others in Madison who “haven’t been to a Bucks game in 15 years.”
Feigin said the Bucks want to become “part of the fabric” of the community, and much of that effort will come from teaching their young players to embrace the city and interact with its people.
In particular, the team wants to build loyal followings among young professionals, ages 25 to 35, Feigin said. If the team can turn them into loyal fans as they become parents, they will bring their children to games, and the Bucks will be part of the next generation’s life story from the beginning, Feigin said.
“We need to re-engage the family,” Feigin said.
The quality of life in Milwaukee, aside from the cold, has been the biggest surprise for Feigin, who is living in an apartment by himself on the city’s East Side until his wife and two children move here from New York.
“This city and the state does the crappiest job of marketing itself in the world,” said Feigin, adding, “People don’t move away from here. And if they do, they move back.”