No Looking Back For Fever As 2013 Season Approaches

April 9, 2013

Certainly, the effects of winning the 2012 WNBA championship have been significant for the Indiana Fever. From ticket sales and corporate partnerships; and from media attention to word on the street – the Fever brand in Central Indiana is as strong as it ever has been. Growth has continued through an offseason that will end next month as the team re-unites to begin the 2013 season. With the championship behind her, Fever President and General Manager Kelly Krauskopf insists there is no looking back. The new season is exactly that – NEW.

Krauskopf, who has been the franchise’s top executive through 14 years of existence, nine playoff appearances, five berths in the conference finals and two trips to the WNBA Finals, recently took time with to discuss the recent surge of business and putting her team back on the floor in 2013. What were some of the residual effects from having won the championship, particularly with regard to sales and season tickets?
Kelly Krauskopf: “With winning a championship, it converts a lot of casual fans into invested fans. We’re up 85 percent in new full season ticket revenue from where we were a year ago. That’s almost unheard of. That shows the value of winning. People have made the decision to invest in our team in a committed way and we’re selling those now at a full value. Not only are we selling more full season tickets, but we’re doing it at a higher price point.

“We have gotten back most of our loyal fans and we’re filling in other seats and we’re obviously very pleased. Sometimes, you have a lot of people who didn’t get to reap the benefits from the playoffs in terms of better seating, as season ticket holders do. It definitely helped us to sell more new fulls for the upcoming season.”

FB: Talk about corporate partnerships.
KK: “On the corporate side, Finish Line helped kick off new sales for 2013. We’re seeing an increase in that area as well, and we’re still renewing business from last year. We’re already tracking ahead of our numbers from 2012. Right now, overall, we’re about 15 percent ahead, with more business being renewed.

“With Finish Line leading the way in terms of activation, we’re trying to create opportunities around promotion in the marketplace. With Finish Line specifically, our partnership is really going to drive more store traffic and online traffic. Fans will have the opportunity to meet players at Finish Line stores in the area. We want our fans to buy the new Fever Finish Line jersey and there will be opportunities for that. Those plans are in the process of being rolled out.”

FB: In what ways have you seen the Fever brand growing locally?
KK: “I see it more in terms of word-of-mouth conversation and name recognition. There has been a lot of local talk value. Every year you are in the market and have success as a team, and have such a great group of players that do things in the community as our players do, it just continues to raise your profile. Being the first team to win a basketball championship in our city since 1973, it really, really raised our profile. It was a sense of pride here for a lot of people. Bringing that to the city of Indianapolis, we really share in it with our fans. And we look forward to sharing it again on May 31.

“Winning does that. It brings a source of pride for people in your city and your community. And the way we did it, we had a little bit of that ‘Indiana’ mystique. We were the underdogs and what I heard from people more than anything was how inspiring it was that we did it under the circumstances that we did.”

FB: How does the WNBA’s contract extension with ESPN mesh with the Fever’s own momentum?
KK: “It is a great announcement that is a very strong indicator for the future. ESPN is the leader in sports television in our country, and to have them make that kind of investment in our sport and our league just cements our future. We’ll continue to grow together and I encourage everyone to tune in. It’s a great indicator of a partnership that is incredibly impactful for a league like the WNBA. There are a lot of leagues out there that would give anything to be in our shoes. We are very fortunate to have a partner like ESPN who continues to invest and help us grow. And we’re going to do the same for them, in terms of bringing more fans to their networks, for women and for women’s sports. It’s a segment of the population that we’re going to continue to grow.”

FB: What types of changes do you see in the types of fans or consumers that buy Fever tickets and merchandise?
KK: “Nothing more than what we have seen in the past 2 to 3 years which is a continued influx of male sports fans. The demographic has shifted in our arena, locally, from our own Scarborough research that shows that we skew heavier with males than females. There is probably a 60-40 split that is more heavily male. Whether it’s dads-and-daughters or just basketball fans, we are drawing male sports fans.

“I think it is a sociological indicator because men typically dominate viewership and consumption of sports. We’ve started to see this in our arena and in our fan base. They bring in females as well, but it’s been an interesting shift for our market. It’s just a pure basketball fan, I think. The game has continued to get better. We’ve got tremendous athletes. The sheer physicality and athleticism, the way the game is played, is very appealing and continues to bring in your standard male basketball fan.”

FB: Looking at the team on the court, is there an area that you’d like to improve?
KK: “First of all, we return the same group physically, except for Tammy [Sutton-Brown] not returning. Mentally, though, it’s a new year. That’s the key item to note. No year is ever the same. We’ll stay within the framework of our style of play which is rebounding, defense and attacking the rim.”

FB: Can you talk about Katie Douglas and Jeanette Pohlen and their rehabilitation schedules?
KK: “Katie (left ankle) has been released to play and is just now getting back into her rhythm and playing shape. She’s playing in Russia and getting back to her speed, and cutting and running again after the ankle injury. She’s doing well and we expect her to be back to full strength, if not stronger because her ankle’s been strengthened quite a bit. Jeanette (left ACL) had her surgery in November and has progressed very well. She really made some great progress and we’re hopeful that we can see her at some point this season – but only time will tell with her because everybody heals differently and returning after an ACL is something unique to each individual athlete.”

FB: How do you address motivation with the 2013 team after winning the championship last season?
KK: “We’ve traditionally been a very good team when we were the underdog. No one expected us to win a championship last year. Without Katie, one of the top two or three shooting guards in the WNBA, I don’t think anybody expected us to get past Minnesota in the Finals. We’re playing from a different mental standpoint now. That is so hard to re-create. Now, we’re going to go from the ‘hunter’ to the ‘hunted.’ Physically, we’ll have the same group. Mentally, it’s going to be a totally different year; a totally different vantage point from which we’ll be playing. How we respond to that will be the key.

“I think it’s dangerous to talk about a repeat. Anything about ‘repeat’ has never been in my vocabulary or Lin’s. 2013 is a brand new year. Every team is different and the motivational factor for each team is different. What happened yesterday, you can’t re-create for today. We’ve got great chemistry with our group but that’s where our group of players has to get together again and find out what it’s going to take to get that edge again. It won’t be the same as it was in 2012.

“I know these players and they have a tremendous amount of pride and they’re winners. Each one of them has very high basketball IQs and they totally understand this is going to be a different year. They know they’re going to have to find a different way to defend every night.

“So, we’ll stay away from talking about a repeat. The way we’re looking at it is we’re starting over again. My first goal was to re-sign our players. We still have a relatively young nucleus of rotational players. Erin [Phillips] is still young in her career, plus [Shavonte] Zellous, Bri[ann January], Karima Christmas, [Erlana] Larkins, [Jessica] Davenport, Sasha Goodlett. You know, we’re really looking at a nice mixed blend of players with Tamika and Katie being our ‘Veteran Two,’ if you will.”

FB: What is a future of the four young stars – specifically January, Phillips, Larkin and Zellous – who were starters in the Finals last year? Do your expectations of them change?
KK: “They just showed what level and what kind of players they are. They were on the biggest stage possible, with their backs against the wall. They performed, night in and night out, from the time that we started with Atlanta until we finished with Minnesota. It was clear that they were ready for the challenge. They are all individually very talented and mentally tough players.

“Physically, there are a lot of well-matched players in our league. But one of the things I try to look at when I evaluate players is how they handle pressure and how they perform in big games – and how they compete! How they compete, to me, is the biggest indicator. And those four that you just talked about, they’re all competitors. They’re at the height of their careers. Yeah, I expect them to continue even to grow and get better.”