The Griffin Domestic Product
Along with his meteoric rise, the incredible Blake Griffin is moving the NBA's needle
LOS ANGELES -- In the locker room tunnel an hour before a recent home game at Staples Center, longtime Clippers team president Andy Roeser stands, by himself, and watches his prized rookie forward practice 15-footers from each spot on the floor.
Both men -- Roeser, a Clippers employee since 1984, and the forward, 21-year-old burgeoning superstar Blake Griffin -- exhibit exact focus on their tasks at hand.
Griffin shoots. Roeser watches, happily. Things are going well for the Clippers these days, with the franchise in the middle of its longest stretch run of fame on the national media circuit in recent memory, thanks to the prized forward.
Seriously, though. Try to find a Blake Griffin jersey online. The $205 authentic home white jersey is sold out on the Clippers' official team website. Most other options, replicas and the like, have only XXL sizes available, with the rest out of stock. The NBA has yet to release its annual midseason jersey sales figures, but sports business experts expect him to appear on the Top 15 list when it does arrive -- a rare feat for a rookie and a rarer feat for a Clipper.
There is a long list of Griffin-fueled financial impacts for and around the Clippers this season, from jersey and merchandise sales to tickets -- at home and on the road -- to rising parking prices and even an unheard-of demand for Griffin's rookie cards.
Call it the Griffin Domestic Product -- GDP.
"We're seeing all the trends that you would expect to see," Roeser said. "Ticket sales are up, attendance is up, television ratings are up, website traffic is up, jersey sales are up.
"And the jersey sales are the sort of thing that takes a little bit of a longer time to develop."
Entering Monday, the Clippers had played 12 road games since they began the run that vaulted them into the national spotlight in mid-December.
In all 12 of them, the host teams either bettered their average attendance numbers for the season or sold out their arenas. The teams -- which included the Sacramento Kings and Atlanta Hawks, two of the NBA's six worst in attendance this season -- sold about 1,300 more tickets, on average, when playing the Clippers than for the rest of their home games.
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Those numbers -- 19,411 fans per game in their past 12 road games, dating back to Dec. 18 -- would be the best in the league if they held up for a full season. Last season, the Clippers were 29th in the NBA with an average of 16,225 fans per game on the road.
The 1,300-ticket boost Griffin and the Clippers provide to NBA teams is no small number, either. It's the difference between, for example, the fourth- and ninth-best teams in the league, attendance-wise, or the 23rd and 29th. A thousand more sold seats, game in and game out, can in many cases be the difference between being in the red or the black come season's end.
How much of a difference? The last Fan Cost Index released by Team Marketing Research, for the 2008-09 season, put the average cost for a family of four to attend an NBA game at nearly $300. Extrapolate that out to 1,000 fans per game and a 41-game home schedule and the overall figure may surprise you: roughly $4 million.
At the pace Griffin has been going at the past two months, he essentially would produce $4 million each season for the 29 other NBA teams to split. On his own.
"Blake Griffin is a phenomenon, and he's now in a category of superstars that put people in the seats," says Jeff Fellenzer, a sports, business and media professor at the University of Southern California. "People are willing to open up their wallets for him, come to his games and buy his merchandise.
“"Blake Griffin coming to town has become an event."
People are talking about Blake all over the country and all over the world. We're a noticing a trend, too, where our attendance on the road is up. People are wanting to see Blake play in other cities as well.” --Clippers president Andy Roeser
And that's only on the road. In the same two-month span when road attendance has gone up, the Clippers are averaging a healthy 18,100 fans per game at home, filling the Staples Center to 95 percent of its capacity.
And before the end of L.A.'s current three-week, 11-game, 12,000-mile sojourn that ends with back-to-back late February games against the Lakers and Celtics, the Clippers will have likely boosted the attendance figures of a number of medium- and small-market teams, including the Minnesota Timberwolves and Oklahoma City Thunder.
They played the Milwaukee Bucks on Valentine's Day and the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday. Milwaukee designed a Valentine's ticket package around Griffin and the Clippers; New Orleans has included the Clippers on its 12-game "Contenders" package for the stretch run that features, among others, the Lakers and Nuggets.
"People are talking about Blake all over the country and all over the world," Roeser said. "We're a noticing a trend, too, where our attendance on the road is up. People are wanting to see Blake play in other cities as well.
"It's all very positive for us."
Indeed -- from December to January, the Clippers' official website experienced almost a 60 percent uptick in views, from 1.2 to 1.9 million, according to a club official. And that January figure was up about 90 percent from the same time last year. Roeser said the Clippers' television ratings are experiencing the second-highest increase in the NBA this season, roughly 80 percent up compared to last year. The only team to experience a bigger increase, according to Roeser? The Miami Heat.
Griffin is clearly behind most, if not all, of this. The Clippers were 21-32 through 53 games last season. Through 53 games this season, they were 21-32.
But, publicly at least, Clippers officials attribute the increase to team-wide changes. Clippers general manager Neil Olshey said recently it's important to remember the progress the squad has made since a tremendously horrendous 1-13 start to the season.
"Blake is the kind of guy you buy a ticket to watch," Olshey said. "But, at the end of the day, Blake was on the roster [two months ago] too, when we were 5-21."
All signs point to the Griffin-inspired ticket-buying continuing. Buzz for the upcoming Sprite Slam Dunk Contest, featuring Griffin, is at an all-time high. The Clippers are nearing sellouts, already, for two of their first three home games after the road trip, against the Boston Celtics and Denver Nuggets. Olshey delightedly notes that families from as far north as Fresno to as far south as San Diego are routinely making the trek to Staples Center to see Griffin. Tickets are cheaper than Lakers games and typically more easily available.
The pieces for the GDP to grow are in place, evidently. The question now is, as Fellenzer asks: "Will the Clippers take the opportunity, as they develop this potential superstar, to raise ticket prices and will the demand for Clipper tickets increase such that there'll be sellout crowds every night?"
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