Can Timberwolves Turn Wins into Engagement?
As the Minnesota Timberwolves end the regular season Sunday with their seventh consecutive sellout and prepare for Tuesday’s play-in tournament game, which could net them a playoffs spot, management is strategizing about how to sustain the momentum.
For the first time since the Kevin Garnett era, the Timberwolves are on pace to renew 90% of their season ticket base, said Ryan Tanke, chief operating officer of the Timberwolves and Lynx. The team is averaging 16,000 fans per game and has jumped from lowest attendance in the NBA to 20th this season.
“The Timberwolves challenges on the court the past two decades are well known,” Tanke said. “Now that we’ve got a sustainable opportunity on court, we want to maximize that.”
The Timberwolves made the decision not to raise ticket prices for next season and to expand lower priced options that have proven so popular. With lower level season tickets starting at $23, the Timberwolves offer the best value package in the NBA, Tanke said. For next season, they’re adding 1,000 seats at $40 per ticket.
“We’re not looking at how to make the most money; we’re asking, how do we engage the largest swath of new customers,” Tanke said.
To do that, the organization has engaged Kraft Analytics Group (KAGR), a Massachusetts-based data analytics company that serves numerous professional sports teams across the country. Part owner Alex Rodriguez introduced the Timberwolves to KAGR, having employed the firm when he was evaluating a bid on the New York Mets.
KAGR CEO Jess Gelman says the Timberwolves’ current success in ticket sales reflects more than a winning team. “The impact of what they’ve done [this season] in sales and retention is outsized compared to their performance,” she said. “It’s not just a team you want to support right now, but because they’re such a big part of the community.”
While that affirmation is reassuring, Tanke said the team is also looking for new strategies to engage tech-savvy fans and broaden corporate sponsorships. The effort, he said, is being driven in large part by Rodriguez and Marc Lore, who joined the ownership group exactly one year ago in a multi-year plan with Glen Taylor that allows the duo to become controlling owners in 2023.
“As we started to onboard Marc and Alex, we decided there was an opportunity to look under the hood a bit together and think about how we might reemerge from Covid, and the challenges of the last two years in a bigger, bolder way,” Tanke said. “Glen is having a lot of fun; Marc and Alex are having a lot of fun. Anytime you can bring firepower in from outside, it’s a great opportunity. This organization looks different than it did a year ago, and it’s going to to look different a year from now. We’re just getting started.”