As expected, an NBA lockout went into affect at midnight. While fans sulk and employees live with uncertainty, here’s a look at what’s positive about the National Basketball Association…
On the active roster: Dallas Maverick’s owner, Mark Cuban. Cuban is known to some as an outspoken billionaire who spends more time shouting from his seat behind the Mavericks’ bench than Jerry Jones does on the Cowboys’ sideline (that’s A LOT!). To me, Cuban is the most brilliant marketer and communicator to own an NBA franchise. And no, it didn’t take the Mavs to win their first NBA title for me to think so.
I fell for Cuban’s masterful marketing mind after reading his foreword to Jon Spoeltra’s 2001 book, Marketing Outrageously, where he wrote about his thoughts regarding broadcast.com, a company he sold to Yahoo! for nearly $6 billion: “To me, none of this is outrageous. It’s common sense,” he said, referring to his belief that sports fans would one day use their computers, connect them to the Internet and use them like transistor radios to listen to live games. (An update of the book was released in February of this year.)
This is a guy that in 2000 bought an organization that bled money and fans. He introduced the most people-centric skills to his staff and began to rebuild from the team’s foundation. The Mavericks, at the time, found it challenging to put people in the seats of an aging Reunion Arena. Today, even visiting teams gush about the Mavericks’ home and hospitality.
Cuban is more than calculator-business savvy. He obviously knows how to attract and create dynamic experiences for people who have dozens of choices with how they spend their discretionary dollars. Email and social media are his links to the masses, at least when he’s not mingling among them at games and other events. He understands the lessons of Effective Communications 101: listen and courteously respond.
While he’s competitive, and basketball and business seemingly fuel those engines, Cuban remains engaged with those outside sports. He realized the benefit of exposure to a mainstream audience when he participated in “Dancing With the Stars” and had fun with a cameo on “Entourage” before that. Charities cheer him on when he criticizes officials because each time he’s fined by the NBA (he’s racked up more than $1 million in disciplinary fees for officiating-related comments), he matches the dollar amount with donations. He is a passionate cheerleader, and he’s willing to put his hard-earned money where his mouth is.
In an ultimate act of gratitude for fellow Dallas fans, Cuban announced within minutes of the Maverick’s 2011 NBA title win that he would pay for the victory parade so that the city, which is operating at a $32 million deficit, wouldn’t incur an additional monetary hit. His generosity made for prompt planning and what looked to be a party that would last for awhile.
Cuban is not afraid to push traditional boundaries whether it’s his wardrobe (he’s a t-shirt and jeans guy) or how he communicates with fans. He’s tenacious, passionate and creative. We can only hope that there are others with Cuban’s dedicated love for business and life. Without them, we live stagnantly and unimaginatively. The likes of Cuban are original word of mouth marketers and sports publicists and we, on the outside, stand to learn a lot — if we listen, read, learn and break the rules once in awhile.