Aren’t you having fun (at Bucks Games)?

On January 3rd my cousins ​​family went to their first Bucks game. The Bucks played their second straight home game against the Washington Wizards after losing their first on New Year’s Day. They bounced back with a win that, as you’ll recall, featured Giannis’ career-high 55 points. No, I’m not jealous. Not at all.

They were understandably impressed with Giannis, but their impression of Giannis was colored by the wider spectacle of the game. My aunt was particularly surprised at the level of fun in the game. Giannis provided a wildly entertaining performance on his own, and yet every moment he wasn’t flying to the rim was filled with t-shirt tosses, credit card relays and, shudder, the reversing camera. It was hard for my cousins’ family to catch a breath between Janis’s exploits because they were figuratively and sometimes literally slapped in the face with entertainment. I thought their review was particularly interesting because I think the fun of the game is meant to attract basketball neophytes like them; instead, it seemed to have the opposite effect.

It got me thinking about the role of in-game entertainment at Bucks games and making a case that less is more.

Why is there fun in the game in the first place? There are many factors at play. First and frankly second, third and last are the sponsors. Two rows of fans wouldn’t be racing to spin a rectangle as fast as possible if said rectangle didn’t look like a BMO Harris Bank credit card. In-game entertainment is another way for brands to push their logos into the hoi polloi’s subconscious (not to mention their actual products, which are often used as prizes). That reason alone means it’s here to stay.

Second, in-game entertainment adds to the experience of being at the game instead of watching it at home. If the televised experience of a game roughly approximates the live experience, there isn’t much reason to actually go to the game — a fear that is partly reflected in local market disruptions. You’re spared from in-game ads (even if the in-game entertainment functions as such) and you can’t grab a T-shirt at home.

Third, as I mentioned above, the in-game entertainment is meant to appeal to the non-basketball crowd. A group of people might go to a game where basketball is just the backdrop to the fun. (Indeed, my cousins’ family went to the game in part because they had heard good reviews from my family, who you may recall were particularly enamored with The Amazing Sladek…) The in-game entertainment functions like cheeseburgers at Mexican restaurants—it allows group of people to go to the game even if one of them doesn’t like basketball.

Yet, for the same reasons my cousins’ family were surprised, I think the extent to which these latter reasons actually hold up is questionable. As for the second reason, I’m not sure the chance for a free t-shirt justifies going to a game in person. On to the third reason, the Bucks game is an expensive proposition for people who don’t care about basketball, and I’m not sure that a person who doesn’t care about basketball will care about the entertainment at the game (especially when a lot of those activities are basketball-related !). What’s more, the Bucks are a really good team! The product on the court is a lot of fun in its own right – even when the players aren’t scoring career highs. Maybe the Rim Rockers would have been better received on a team that didn’t jam every night.

Taken together, while the fun of the game won’t go away, I wonder if it should less from him. This would have clear benefits for fans who dislike him or are overwhelmed by him. What’s more, fans who like it will still be able to enjoy a lot of it – and hopefully the content that remains will be the most fun. (I’d be curious in the poll — what can the Bucks do at home? — about the proportion of fans who fall into those two camps — or three, including middle ground.)

But what about sponsors? I’m sure they could figure out ways to cram even more into the remaining in-game fun or other aspects of the ballpark experience. Plus, they probably want to be associated with good experiences — if some fans are angry watching the credit card show, that could be a negative for BMO Harris Bank (although bad news is often good news). Finally, and perhaps most importantly, if less in-game entertainment entices fans, like it or not, to continue attending Bucks games, it guarantees long-term sponsor attention.

Still, having made that case, there’s another way to limit the fun of the game, albeit one that puts the onus on the individual: ignore it. My uncle did just that and had a great time.

Read more

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *