On Sunday, I witnessed a PR move that - at least to me - was sure to leave a sour taste in the mouths of some Tulsa Shock season ticket holders.
Today, I found out what the new plan of action is regarding this situation.
Instead of having another entire team signing or event, the Shock has decided to split up the autograph availability into groups of 3, 3 and 4 following the remaining home games. (Excerpt from an email from a Tulsa ticket account representative to a season ticket holder who missed out on autographs):
I hope all of you are excited for our last 3 games! Let's hope we can continue our winning streak! ;) I want to apologize for how things worked out at the last game with the autograph session. Please know I am on your side and wanted nothing more than for you guys to have the opportunity to do it that night.
For tonight, we will have 3 players after each of the next two games come out and sign autographs and then the final 4 players at the last game of the season. You all will get special passes to meet and get these autographs from the team.
Here are my (and this season ticket holder's) concerns/questions regarding this new arrangement:
- After every single game of the season, there are two players available for autographs. According to the STH, ticket account reps have the discretion to distribute autograph passes to people who request them at each and every game, not necessarily just season ticket holders. So, how is this any different than the usual post-game protocol?
- The initially scheduled event - after an open practice, during the day, on a Saturday - afforded the ticket holders more time and flexibility in a less ‘cattle prod through the line' type of atmosphere. Almost more of a ‘reward' feel for having season tickets. These new autograph sessions (Sunday's included) were not about interaction with the team, rather passing down your item for signatures.
- It's a night-time, weekday event in two of the three remaining opportunities. If it were me, I don't know that I would be as willing to wait around the arena until 10 p.m. to get an autograph if I had to work the next morning (as many people undoubtedly do).
- Why mix it up from something that sounds like it worked very well last year?
Here is what the Shock did last season, as described by a season ticket holder who was in attendance:
I went to the open practice last season, it was really cool. It started at maybe 6 I think and it was a weekday. They practiced and we could sit in certain sections during practice. They had tables set up all around the edge of the court - a table for each player and the coach. Some players doubled up though and sat together. The players just sat at their tables and we walked around to all the tables and got to talk to the players, have them sign things and take pictures. They were all really cool. The whole thing was really casual and fun and I think the players enjoyed it.
To be very fair, I'd like to disclose that I am not a season ticket holder and have never been to a Shock game (or any WNBA event, for that matter) as a fan rather than in the capacity of media. In fact, I have not been a season ticket holder in any sport other than during my time as a student and when I was considered a ‘recent graduate' of Oklahoma State. I rely on single game tickets to any events I am going to as a spectator.
Further, I am not an autograph seeker. I have KD's autograph and a couple of the other Thunder boys after going to an STH event as a guest of a friend. I have former Denver Broncos receiver Rod Smith's signature on a football card because it was sent to us (my uncle was his college coach at Missouri Southern). Other than that, the only Herbie Hancock I own is mine. I do know friends in both the WNBA and other sports communities that are very keen on getting signatures, and I know the efforts they go through to wait around for their favorites.
My opinions on this matter come with no real inside knowledge on the decision-making process that was made by the Shock in this situation. I did ask if the organization wanted to respond in any way and have yet to hear back. I have approached this situation from a PR perspective and the point of view from a select number of season ticket holders who contacted me with their frustrations and who hope that these frustrations will be resolved in future seasons.
So now my follow-up questions are these - do you think this is sufficient "compensation" after Sunday? Could or should anything else have been done, either to prevent this situation in the first place or to rectify the issue after the fact? And how would you plan next year's event if you were the powers that be?