Good job, good effort, Steve Ballmer.Image: Getty Images
It took seven years, but Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer has finally resorted to paying fans.
It’s hard to be the Clippers in Los Angeles. They’re not like the New York Mets or the Chicago White Sox, who are the second most popular baseball teams in their respective cities. The Mets and White Sox have their own storied histories and hometown loyalties that have been cultivated over decades. The Clippers, however, began in Buffalo as the Braves in 1970, moved across the country to San Diego and renamed themselves the Clippers in 1978, then moved to Los Angeles in 1984 after Magic Johnson’ Showtime Lakers had already won two championships. The Clippers offered an alternative to that prestige by being the most embarrassing franchise in professional sports.
Ballmer has put in much effort to change that reputation since purchasing the team in 2014, but while the franchise might now have more dignity, it’s still hard to get fans in the seats on time and engaged — for anything in Los Angeles, but especially a Clippers game. So the team’s latest idea? Simply purchase fan loyalty.
For the entire month of November, people who attend a home Clippers game have an opportunity to win $10,000. For fans to be eligible they must have their ticket scanned 15 minutes prior to tipoff, be in their assigned seat wearing Clippers colors, and be enthusiastic from the moment the game begins. For those curious about what kind of enthusiasm the Clippers are looking for, just study Ballmer videos and do the same.
This isn’t just some promotion or perk for season ticket holders. Every fan in the arena who arrives early has a chance to win as long as they show the proper Clipper spirit. The first winner of the LAB Challenge was Saturday night during the Clippers’ win against the Minnesota Timberwolves. The winner was revealed following the end of the first quarter, a woman sitting in section 105. There are seven more home games this month, and the next winner will be chosen tonight as the Clippers take on the Chicago Bulls.
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This is a great idea, but Ballmer should take this a step further. People know that he’s a Microsoft guy worth billions of dollars, so there should be multiple giveaways per game. It doesn’t have to be $10,000, and it doesn’t have to be announced. On random nights they should have a card underneath the seats. The people in those lucky seats could win $1000. Instead of giving away bobbleheads and T-shirts, the first 400 people to the arena receive a new Microsoft tablet. He might not even have to pay for those.
The Clippers don’t have tradition, glamour, or excellence to market. A lot of their fans root for them out of spite for the Lakers. They should just be shameless and build a robust fanbase through fan bribery. They can get sponsors involved in this. Many teams do the free food giveaways if the home team scores 100 points, or an opposing player misses consecutive free throws. The Clippers should do it at 90 points or one missed free throw. Free Jack in the Box meal for every home win, free fries from McDonald’s every time Paul George scores 20 points — no I’m not trying to ruin the health of Clippers fans with fast food.
A new arena for the Clippers will be constructed in Inglewood. What better way to get fans to come out and pay for that parking than with this slogan:
Other teams may make you feel good with civic pride but we the Clippers will give what you really want, cash and prizes!