Hugh Weber- President, New Orleans Hornets Share PDF Print E-mail
Profile of the week
Hugh Weber is President of the New Orleans Hornets, where he oversees all aspects of the franchise, including the teams’ marketing/branding, basketball operations, community development, strategic planning and the day-to-day operations.
Following the Hornets’ 2011 playoff appearance, Hugh led the franchise to surpass 10,000 season ticket holders for the third time in the last five years with the sale of 3,700 new season tickets
During the 2010 offseason, Hugh remade a basketball Operations Department that runs at maximum efficiency and effectiveness. Using a collaborative philosophy, defined value system, and strong work ethic as key principles, Hugh assembled one of the best young organizations in the league, described by some as an “All-Star” team.
Prior to his role as team president, Hugh served as Chief Operations Officer and Vice President of Business Operations, overseeing all aspects of the New Orleans market while the team was headquartered temporarily in Oklahoma City from 2005-2007.
Hugh is also board member of a variety of community, economic development and entrepreneurship organisations including the Business Council of New Orleans, Greater New Orleans, Inc., Idea Village, New Orleans Jazz Institute and Committee of 100, a group of the top business leaders in Louisiana.
Hugh has four children, Brenna (16), Zoë (16), Hugh III (10) and Jackson (9).
By Ismail Uddin
What prompted you to make a career change from the Foods manufacturing industry to the NBA?
Many people seek out professional sports as a career, but I think it sought me. It was never a target for me personally, but I had a relationship with the owner of the team and when Hurricane Katrina hit, which devastated the New Orleans’s region in August 2005, he came to me and said “listen, I need someone that can help me as we make difficult decisions”. It was really more out of a personal call to help a friend. My thought was that I would do it for about six months, help him get settled and then go back to my duties of the time. I got on the ground about eight weeks later, the President at the time left and then there was just more work to be done. So, six years later here I am.
What kept you interested in the industry?
I had been used to running organisations that were much bigger. The first impression of an NBA franchise to me was that it was much smaller, much more agile, had more ability to be dynamic and change, especially for a team like ours that was going to demand changes. Moving to an alternative city for two seasons, then moving back and going through all that change, we had to establish a culture that was able to, in a healthy way, digest those types of changes and be ready for things. Having an organisation of 140 people versus what I was used to, which was much bigger, that was one of the first things that impressed me.
The second thing was when we talk about food and consumer product, we’re very aware of our brand, what our brand positioning is and how we do things. I’ve always been humbled and overwhelmed by the importance our brand has. Now, with the community and our fans, there’s a psyche of an entire region. Your brand is something people are very engaged with. For example, I could go to a barbeque in my prior life with a bunch of families and nobody wanted to sit around and talk about potato chips for an hour, but they certainly wanted to do that with basketball. That is an incredible position to be in, but there is an obligation to use that passion for your brand for good. That’s important.
The final thing that intrigued me was the challenge. In the consumer product industry, your product is very consistent. When people buy your product, they know what they’re getting, yet you can have a player get injured or there’s disappointment when you don’t meet expectations because the variability of your product on the court is very different. So, you have to find ways to establish consistency in your brand position and go beyond record. It’s a complex puzzle you get every morning and attempt to solve.
How has the “I’m in” campaign helped ticket sales?
We live in the 56th demographic market in America and people here really have an affinity for community. Anybody that’s supporting the community, anybody who is promoting what the city is about, fans will do whatever they can to save it. So, when the NBA bought the team, there was a concern that the team would be leaving. What we needed to do was, instead of convincing everybody that we were committed to being here, we had to change the dialogue and it became not about basketball, it became about the importance of the team to the community. What instated was this belief that you’re ‘in’ for this city, you’re ‘in’ this community and you’re ‘in’ for the team. The two were synonymous; by supporting the team, you’re ‘in’ for the community.
We actually went out into people’s homes and businesses over a hundred days and talked to them about the importance of the team and how committed the team was about supporting the region. Through that, we sold season tickets. We sold ten thousand season tickets last year at a time when we had an NBA lockout, we didn’t have an owner and the economy was terrible. All these things were happening but people were buying tickets, not because it was basketball, but because it was a statement of who we were as a region. That was what the importance of ‘I’m in’ was and we found that ‘I’m in’ actually resonates with our brand moving forward. It’s about the future of New Orleans, not the past. The Saints are really symbolic of the history and tradition in New Orleans, they’ve been around since 1968 and our brand is just different than that. We don’t have stability and legacy that the Saints do. So, our brand position in the way that people see us in the community is much more about the future.
You have a new lease for the New Orleans Arena. How is securing a new lease going to provide and maximize revenue streams?
In order for us to really put the team in a place where a local owner would be attracted to buy it, we needed to do a few different things. We needed to improve our lease arrangement with the state, which included enhanced revenue streams through improvements to the building. There’ll be $50-60million that’ll be committed to a building that was done in 1998. That will radically change the assets that we have to sell, which will improve the team’s performance financially.
The second component of that was to make sure we had stability. We had outs in our contract, where if we didn’t hit certain ticket numbers, the team had the right to leave. For many of our fans, that was very troubling as they thought every year that the team could potentially relocate, so we made sure that the fan base, the region, the people and the businesses knew that this was a team that was committed here until 2024.
The other thing we needed to do was enhance our cable situation. We’ll extend that with a new cable partner that will give us better reach, better distribution and improve the financial performance of the team. All of those, while improving sponsorship and tickets in the last year was what was critical for us in improving the bottom line to the point where the Benson family would step in and take over leadership of the team, which has happened. If you were to script this out in the plan, it really went perfectly in terms of bringing stability to the franchise, stability to the region and aligning a metric for success financially.
The Hornets TV deal with Cox Sports is soon to end, what criteria will you be using to choose the next broadcast package and network?
Media rights are becoming more and more powerful each year. The content that we provide to regional cable providers is really very valuable and we needed to make sure we had the current numbers reflect some enhancement on the last, which was 10 years ago. More importantly, we really were hamstrung in the last ten years in terms of our reach in the region because we had large gaping holes in our distribution. We had many fans that lived within our community that could not watch our games because of the fact that they were on DirecTV or some other distribution network. It was important to us that we fill those holes within New Orleans, but also enhance our reach from Texas to Florida. We really want to be representative of the Gold South as a regional NBA team and getting the right partner to have our game seen across that geography would be critically important.
What social media strategies do you adopt?
We have a broad platform across virtually all channels. Obviously, the internet, with our website and ‘I’m in’ has its own platform. We created all the content and drive as many people to that portal as possible. A number of our staff, including myself, utilises Twitter. For example, every game this year used Twitter to run promotions to give away floor seats or club seats to games, where people would give suggestions about what the team could be doing differently or better. We’ve done those types of promotions to build interactivity with the fan base that’s really hungry for more and more content.
One of the things that we pride ourselves on as a brand and an organization is that we have an intimate connection with our fans. We are transparent and open. Every speech I give, every meeting we do, I give out my direct line to my office number, which fans do call. Instead of having a platform offering just digital technology, we actually try to use that platform to reinforce the brand which is about connection. It’s not just enough to tweet, it’s tweeting or retweeting personal information so people feel connected to who we are, what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. It’s more about how people feel and less about checking a box that we’re doing digital media.
You have a lot of local sponsors. Is that your sponsorship strategy to aim for local businesses?
We have put in a position, not to complain about what might be a detriment, but to lever our strength. Our strength is that we have a lot of small companies here. So, our strategy is one where we have to engage a lot of partners. We have one of the highest amount of partners in the NBA, over 180 partners that we really work hard to service and make them feel valued. We’re not in a position to have just a few seven-figure partners and just sit back and manage those relationships. We have to go very wide and deep and make sure that they all feel value from our partnership. It takes more work, but obviously it’s worthwhile and gets us to an aggregate number, which allows us to compete. It’s a strategy that fits this market.
How are you planning to market the brand globally?
As our team gains more success and notoriety on the court, as that exposure becomes greater, where you have more nationally televised games and more expanded reach through success that always opens the door for national and international companies. That’s a very traditional route.
The second thing is since we’re so closely connected to community, as our city improves and as the perception of our city grows, so too we go. We saw that with the Saints, where they were perceived to be the underdogs and now after the Super Bowl, they’re perceived to be a powerhouse and have greater scope and reach internationally. Now, the NBA has greater reach internationally and we have more fans internationally than the NFL does so we’re probably more naturally positioned to take on international companies.
At the same time, those companies have to invest and are investing in this region when they buy sponsorship. So, when Mercedes-Benz put their name on the Superdome, they could’ve put their name on any deal, but they were specific reasons they picked the New Orleans Superdome, not the least of which is the number of national events that would come to this region. This city is a small city, but it is host to many big events, whether it’s national college games, All-Star games or Super Bowls. That’s the kind of attention and impression international companies will look for to promote their brand.
By getting the first pick of the 2012 NBA Draft, what commercial gains can you get through this?
Well, there are the local commercial gains, where fans are more excited because these are the types of ticks that come along maybe once or twice in a lifetime. The perception of the team in general is that it’s a team that’s on the rise; it’s got a young coach, its young players working hard, it has a great opportunity to be maybe where Oklahoma City (Thunder) is today. That hope is what you sell. People want to be part of something special.
It also helps that the focus is now on the number one pick and who that person is. Then they’re talking about our team in every article across the country and across the globe. As you get your team on people’s radar, you’re in the conversation. Being relevant is important.
What will Tom Benson bring to the organisation?
He brings a great deal of experience having owned the NFL franchise for over 25 years. They bring a great wealth of expertise in terms of running a championship caliber franchise. If you think about it from a marketing standpoint, they have 68,000 season ticket holders, being able to merge data, focus and better serve our fan base while getting people interested in a different product is going to be tremendously helpful. If you look at those two things, I think it’s going to be very interesting. We’ve seen NHL and NBA teams co-market in the same market, but never in the same market have we seen the NFL and the NBA marketed together. There’s a great optimism in terms of what the Benson family brings in terms of being able to really maybe turn this into a title town type of mentality and bring good things to the city.
It has been suggested that if he takes over he will change the name of the team. Is there any truth to the rumours?
Mr Benson has said publicly that it’s going to be a priority for him to name this team something that is more indicative of the region. The history behind this goes back over 10 years. When the team first came from Charlotte, the mentality was that we’ve just taken Charlotte off our uniforms and now put New Orleans on. The team didn’t totally connect itself to the city. It totally changed when we came back in from Oklahoma City. It went from being just an NBA team that happened to be in New Orleans to being a New Orleans business that happened to be in the NBA. When that happened the connection over the last four or five years has been tremendous. People have really seen the effort that the team has done throughout the community.
There are people who say the Hornets are as much of our city as anything because of the way you guys conduct yourself. Then you have a whole different group of people who say we really do need to get something that is more in black of who we are. It’s probably 50-50. Regardless of what happens a lot of people are talking about it, they’re excited and they’re suggesting names.  The likelihood is very high that the potential name of the team will change. It will be an exciting re-launch of this team and certainly should be fun.
What will it take for the Hornets to go to the next level commercially? How do you look to expand globally and reach newer audiences?
Globally, there’s a couple of ways we can do it. We’ve always been very aggressive working with the league to play games internationally. Four years ago we went to Berlin and Barcelona and played exhibition games. We believe that will be a part of our plans on-going because New Orleans really is a destination, an international city. We want to be able to reflect that globally. As this team is rebranded there will be a great deal of excitement in terms of new merchandise, uniforms and those types of things which traditionally gets you back in the discussion. As the team gets better, internationally we’ll be able to go and do things. We have more visitors to our website that are not from this region, that are from global areas and we will continue to try and harness that as best we can. But, right now we do not have any mechanism to monetise that because most of our sponsors are more focused on what happens within the region.

Hugh Weber Featured Profile Cropped

Hugh Weber is President of the New Orleans Hornets, where he oversees all aspects of the franchise, including the teams’ marketing/branding, basketball operations, community development, strategic planning and the day-to-day operations.

Following the Hornets’ 2011 playoff appearance, Hugh led the franchise to surpass 10,000 season ticket holders for the third time in the last five years with the sale of 3,700 new season tickets
During the 2010 offseason, Hugh remade a basketball Operations Department that runs at maximum efficiency and effectiveness. Using a collaborative philosophy, defined value system, and strong work ethic as key principles, Hugh assembled one of the best young organizations in the league, described by some as an “All-Star” team.

Prior to his role as team president, Hugh served as Chief Operations Officer and Vice President of Business Operations, overseeing all aspects of the New Orleans market while the team was headquartered temporarily in Oklahoma City from 2005-2007.

Hugh is also board member of a variety of community, economic development and entrepreneurship organisations including the Business Council of New Orleans, Greater New Orleans, Inc., Idea Village, New Orleans Jazz Institute and Committee of 100, a group of the top business leaders in Louisiana.

Hugh has four children, Brenna (16), Zoë (16), Hugh III (10) and Jackson (9).

By Ismail Uddin


What prompted you to make a career change from the Foods manufacturing industry to the NBA?

Many people seek out professional sports as a career, but I think it sought me. It was never a target for me personally, but I had a relationship with the owner of the team and when Hurricane Katrina hit, which devastated the New Orleans’s region in August 2005, he came to me and said “listen, I need someone that can help me as we make difficult decisions”. It was really more out of a personal call to help a friend. My thought was that I would do it for about six months, help him get settled and then go back to my duties of the time. I got on the ground about eight weeks later, the President at the time left and then there was just more work to be done. So, six years later here I am. 

What kept you interested in the industry?

I had been used to running organisations that were much bigger. The first impression of an NBA franchise to me was that it was much smaller, much more agile, had more ability to be dynamic and change, especially for a team like ours that was going to demand changes. Moving to an alternative city for two seasons, then moving back and going through all that change, we had to establish a culture that was able to, in a healthy way, digest those types of changes and be ready for things. Having an organisation of 140 people versus what I was used to, which was much bigger, that was one of the first things that impressed me.

The second thing was when we talk about food and consumer product, we’re very aware of our brand, what our brand positioning is and how we do things. I’ve always been humbled and overwhelmed by the importance our brand has. Now, with the community and our fans, there’s a psyche of an entire region. Your brand is something people are very engaged with. For example, I could go to a barbeque in my prior life with a bunch of families and nobody wanted to sit around and talk about potato chips for an hour, but they certainly wanted to do that with basketball. That is an incredible position to be in, but there is an obligation to use that passion for your brand for good. That’s important.The final thing that intrigued me was the challenge. In the consumer product industry, your product is very consistent. When people buy your product, they know what they’re getting, yet you can have a player get injured or there’s disappointment when you don’t meet expectations because the variability of your product on the court is very different. So, you have to find ways to establish consistency in your brand position and go beyond record. It’s a complex puzzle you get every morning and attempt to solve. 

How has the “I’m in” campaign helped ticket sales?

We live in the 56th demographic market in America and people here really have an affinity for community. Anybody that’s supporting the community, anybody who is promoting what the city is about, fans will do whatever they can to save it. So, when the NBA bought the team, there was a concern that the team would be leaving. What we needed to do was, instead of convincing everybody that we were committed to being here, we had to change the dialogue and it became not about basketball, it became about the importance of the team to the community. What instated was this belief that you’re ‘in’ for this city, you’re ‘in’ this community and you’re ‘in’ for the team. The two were synonymous; by supporting the team, you’re ‘in’ for the community. 

We actually went out into people’s homes and businesses over a hundred days and talked to them about the importance of the team and how committed the team was about supporting the region. Through that, we sold season tickets. We sold ten thousand season tickets last year at a time when we had an NBA lockout, we didn’t have an owner and the economy was terrible. All these things were happening but people were buying tickets, not because it was basketball, but because it was a statement of who we were as a region. That was what the importance of ‘I’m in’ was and we found that ‘I’m in’ actually resonates with our brand moving forward. It’s about the future of New Orleans, not the past. The Saints are really symbolic of the history and tradition in New Orleans, they’ve been around since 1968 and our brand is just different than that. We don’t have stability and legacy that the Saints do. So, our brand position in the way that people see us in the community is much more about the future. 

  • «
  •  Start 
  •  Prev 
  •  1 
  •  2 
  •  3 
  •  Next 
  •  End 
  • »
(Page 1 of 3)
 

Add comment


Security code
Refresh

Featured Profiles

superload.me filesmonster