I was initially approached by Leeds Metropolitan University (Leeds Beckett University as it is now known) to assist in making their basketball club commercially viable to compete in the UK’s top basketball league, the BBL.
Upto my arrival the club had had huge success on the court and were playing in the second tier of basketball in the UK with their sights firmly set on the step up. However, they had no commercial foundations for this move. They didn’t charge an admission, they had little sponsorship, no secondary revenue streams and no real marketing activity.
It really was a start from scratch project. The first port of call was creating a game night experience that provided fans with a memorable and engaging night of family entertainment. This included developing a fanzone which provided fans with an area to enjoy additional activities throughout gamenight. Fans were provided with concessions and a merchandise range to purchase for the first time in the club’s history.
The next step was to create and execute a marketing plan to drive increased attendances and also introduce ‘paid for’ tickets, which is never easy when people have been getting something for free.
Even with these big obstacles in our way I had a successful first season and the club was accepted to make the step up to the BBL. However, due to certain political issues within the university, they then made the decision that they didn’t want to operate the basketball club any longer. This left it down to myself and the head coach, Matt Newby, to take this on.
Ownership of a professional basketball team wasn’t on my radar but I have never been one to run away from a challenge and what a challenge it was. We had eight weeks to create a new brand, Leeds Force, and put together a financial structure to support a professional basketball franchise. I am not going to claim it was easy and after many sleepless nights we managed it. I had recruited a strong principle sponsor and several secondary sponsors which gave us the foundation to build upon.
Fast forward three years and I left the club in a stable place. We were competitive every season I was with the club and our crowd numbers grew with average attendances of over 400 in my final season including five games which completely sold out.
I am very proud of what we achieved in some very difficult circumstances. I may have given a lot to that club but I also learnt a lot during my time working with them. I will always have very fond memories of the moments that we shared in the purple and grey of Leeds Force.