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Charlotte Hornets 'Below Average' for Sponsor Sales

Charlotte Business Journal, October 08, 2015

By Erik Spanberg

Michael Jordan and the Charlotte Hornets added 35 corporate partners during the two-year transition that left the Bobcats name behind, but the NBA team lags the league average in sponsorship. A league-wide study by sports consulting firm IEG Research published this week puts Charlotte in the below average category with six other teams.

According to the consulting firm’s analysis, sponsorship spending reached $739 million combined for league-wide deals and individual agreements with its 30 franchises last season, an increase of 8.9% year to year. IEG did not designate sponsor revenue for its three categories of above average, average and below average.

Seven teams finished in the top tier: Boston, Brooklyn, Chicago, the Los Angeles Lakers, Oklahoma City, Orlando and New York. Of those clubs, only Oklahoma City and Orlando are comparable to Charlotte in size. The rest are major cities with larger corporate sectors.

William Chipps, senior content editor at IEG Sponsorship Report, the IEG-owned trade publication that published the rankings, attributed the Hornets’ below average status to market size. Two major backers, Budweiser and Wells Fargo, greatly reduced their support this year but the team also signed new backers, including FanDuel. McDonald's, Mercedes-Benz and Food Lion have also been added as sponsors by the Hornets since the conversion from Bobcats began in 2013.

Don’t fret too much for Jordan, the majority owner, and his team too much. In January, Forbes estimated the Hornets are worth $725 million. That put Charlotte 26th in value, below the league average of $1.1 billion, but still represented a hefty return for Jordan, who paid $175 million for the team in 2010.

Overall Hornets' revenue, according to Forbes, increased to $130 million in 2013-14, the most recent full-year figures available, from $93 million in 2011-12.

A similar study in April for NFL teams found the Carolina Panthers to be below average, too. The rest of the teams in the below average category with the Hornets are Denver, Detroit, Milwaukee, Minnesota, Philadelphia and Sacramento.