Open Letter To The Fans: Leave Them Wanting More

Zach Harper —  September 14, 2010 — 7 Comments

Advertising and promotional work are tricky things.

There has to be a balance between boosting the product you’re trying to sell in a way that makes it desirable for the customer and at the same time you can’t really insult their intelligence too much. At a certain point, you’re trying to trick your clientele to giving their “hard-earned” money to you for a service or product that you’ve convinced them they want or need. But transparency can still be a tactic used while trying to trick your potential customers.

As many Wolves fans have seen by now, there was an open letter to the fans in the Monday edition of the Star Tribune. And the strategy was something that wasn’t all that surprising and yet still refreshing to see. The Wolves front office took a page out of Eminem’s character in the movie 8 Mile to promote themselves as a necessary part of Wolves’ fans lives.

They criticized themselves and essentially brought certain criticisms of the organization and rebuilding plan to light before it could be used against them. It was just like the final rap battle in 8 Mile. Eminem’s character wins the competition by ripping on himself throughout the freestyle (warning: language NSFW). It’s essentially a version of reverse psychology to get you to let your guard down while they try to throw ticket package options your way.

But how much do you believe the message they’re giving you? Do you buy into the plan and the way it’s being executed? What about how they shaped their message in describing the players on their team?

The plan is a curious one because while they’ve done exactly what they claim they have wanted to do the entire time (younger, faster, more athletic), we don’t know that the team is truly any better than it was in the first place. Maybe there is more unknown with the future of how these players could develop and therefore it’s easy to think, “Sure, they could be better.” At the same time there is still too much confusion of how they get a #1 guy on this roster and how these pieces fit into the triangle offense.

While it’s unfair to criticize the EVERY move made by David Kahn simply because it’s him (even I’ll admit he’s done some good stuff in the year-plus he’s been in charge), it’s also ridiculous to defend him just because people are making fun of your team all the time. The justification of the Darko contract is baffling to me. Just because other teams spent money more irresponsibly on big men than the Wolves did doesn’t mean the contract is a valid move towards rebuilding. The execution of the plan is just as confusing as the figuring out how all of the pieces fit into the halfcourt system. It doesn’t mean that neither will work out but to say, “we know we’ve turned the corner” is a weird way to shape the sales pitch being given to Wolves fans in this letter.

The overall context of the message was well crafted and at the same time a bit of a head-scratcher. They opened with poking fun at themselves, stating the plan they believe in, being brutally honest about the present likelihood of success and describing the team and then ending it with an air of confidence before one more bout of humor. The letter was very well laid out and symmetric in its approach. But it was confusing how they could go 518 words of an organizational state of the union address with only mentioning the best player on the team as “one of the best outlet passers in the game.”

This was really the only weird/off-putting thing I took from the letter. Kevin Love is/should be the face of this franchise. I think you can actually sell tickets with him. He just became a cult hero of the basketball-following world during the FIBA World Championships and he gets a slight blurb. He’s by far the best player on the team and yet gets less praise attributed to him than the adolescent years of Michael Beasley received. Maybe I’m just nitpicking this point but I found it to be really odd and disheartening.

Other than that, the Wolves are telling the NBA world and more importantly Wolves fans to take a look into the glass house before they throw stones at it. They’re being fairly open and honest about their feeling of where the franchise is headed. And they’re even able to poke fun at themselves while doing it in a clever way to push tickets.

“Enough talk. It’s time to play.

Oh, wait. We forgot to talk about Rubio.

Next time. “
Way to go out on a high note.

Zach Harper

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7 responses to Open Letter To The Fans: Leave Them Wanting More

  1. Can’t wait to see the next installments in the series:

    “Let’s face it, our GM isn’t exactly Sam Presti, but at least he didn’t sexually harass a coworker.”

    “We admit it, we don’t think anybody on our team is going to be an All-Star. But we hope we’re wrong too.”

    “Second best forward named Kevin on the FIBA World Champions, that’s still pretty good.”

    “Of course you love the Vikings more, who wouldn’t? But they only play once a week so you can still fit us in!”

    Self-deprecating is great, but as Kevin Pritchard pointed out as an NBA franchise you’re selling your fanbase wins or hope, and to me this is another example of Kahn figuring he can use marketing to obfuscate the fact that he isn’t convincingly doing either of the above. That has always been my biggest problem with him – not that he is a so-so GM but this rather arrogant conviction that he can, by pushing the right PR buttons, stay one step ahead of the fanbase regardless of whether he actually does the job he was ostensibly brought in to do, which is make the Wolves good. Whatever, he’ll be making his self-deprecating jokes on ESPN in 18 months.

  2. Sorry, but Kevin Love is hardly the best player on this team.

    Let’s examine the evidence.

    He put up great numbers on a 15 win team. So what? His numbers were on an awful team and contributed nothing meaningful in terms of winning games.

    He was a cult hero in FIBA play and yet did not see any meaningful minutes in the important games. You could replace him on Team USA with any other warm big body and the outcome would have still been the same.

    Perhaps instead of spending all this energy trying to hype Love and worry about what Khan has to say about him let’s just let the managers and coaches, like Coach K deciding not to give Love important minutes, do their work. Who knows, we may actually win a lot more games with Love being an energy player we can use off the bench to beat up other team’s 2nd and 3rd string bigs.

  3. I really liked the letter. I prefer brutal honestly over sugar-coating any day of the week.

    I think your K Love comment may have missed the mark a bit only because if Love was praised about his World Championship contributions, the opposite could be said….such as: “Love is a great player and all but are any people going to show up for what’s essentially the 3rd best player on a contending team?”…or something to that affect. I like the conciseness (is that a word?) of the letter. I am preferring Kahn’s approach compared to McHale’s “deer in headlights” sort of leadership.

    I know you’re going to hate this remark but I love the Darko signing. The reason I like it so much is when he was playing actual defense last season, albeit mediocre defense, it seemed MILES ahead of where any other Wolves center has ever contributed. I don’t care how “talented” Rasho appeared to be because he never seemed to care about doing anything let alone play proper defense. It drove me nuts when people were talking about how much better he was routinely getting after having a 20-10 game once every 2 months. Also….Felton Spencer, Luc Longley, Stanley “big fella” Roberts…blech. I don’t know if it was just the timing of seeing defense in a throwaway season or what but I enjoyed seeing someone who at least seemed to care about doing it.

  4. I completely agree with your analysis of the open letter that I was surprised to see when I was reading the Star Tribune on Monday. It is amazing that they only mentioned Kevin Love’s outlet passing. There should have been a full paragraph on him. Also, if I remember correctly there have been other open letters (http://www.startribune.com/blogs/84920072.html) that after awhile I think will start to get stale. If the amount of turnover continues then these letters might come back to hurt the reputation of the Timberwolves management. For example in the letter that I linked to they wrote about Al Jefferson making Team USA. Well if they thought Jefferson was so good then why did they trade him for two non-premium 1st round picks and Kosta Koufus. These letters might haunt them over the years as they trade away or release players they built up in these letters.

  5. I still completely disagree with the general disdain for the Darko deal, and agree with Khan on this one…the dude is making 5 million a year, it’s not like he is a salary cap eye-sore…we need length badly at the center position and even mediocre play out of Darko would be sooooo worth it.

    it’s not just this year, it is every year…you have to pay for height look at the past ten years

    Eric Dampier: 12 million a year for 20 minutes a game
    Jerome James: 5/80 million….did he even play 80 games for the Knicks
    Marcin Gortat: 5/34 (i’ll admitt I’d take Gortat in a second at this price, but my point is more about the fact that he plays 10 min a game)
    Eddy Curry: does more need to be said?

    Those are just a few examples, as T-Wolves fans we can’t forget the summer Rasho left for like 8 million a year and we signed the Khandi Man for 6….I’d take Darko at 5 over either of those two…

    I’m not even a Darko apologist…I’m predicting 8 ppg 7 rpg and 1.5 bpg…nothing spectacular…but to get a compotent defensive presence we can afford 5 million a year with an opt-out in year three

  6. Justin nailed it.

  7. What I don’t understand is, how is this new era of transparency different from the old era of transparency that was kicked off by the several open letters to fans Kahn issued last year? Also, I’m surprised not more was made of the following announcement in the second open letter:

    “We also have eight players currently on the roster who were selected in the top-seven of their respective drafts: Michael Beasley, Kevin Love, Wes Johnson, Jonny Flynn, Darko Milicic, Corey Brewer, Martell Webster and Ricky Rubio.”

    MY GOD, THEY’VE SIGNED RUBIO! I don’t understand why Kahn is being so discreet about this, burying such an important piece of news in a 10,000 word letter. He is so humble, this makes the Kevin Durant extension tweet look like Lebron’s decision on ESPN!

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