Industry Insider: John Doleva

By McKelvey, Steve | Sport Marketing Quarterly, March 2015 | Go to article overview

Industry Insider: John Doleva


McKelvey, Steve, Sport Marketing Quarterly


Title: President & CEO

Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame (Springfield, MA)

Education: BBA Marketing, Isenberg School of Management, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Prior Position: Vice President & General Manager, Sporting Goods Group, Spalding Sports Worldwide

This interview was conducted by SMA Vice President of Industry Affairs Steve McKelvey.

SMQ: How has the approach to marketing the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame evolved over the past 10 years or so?

Doleva: Unlike many sport marketing properties, the Naismith Hall of Fame is a 501c3 non-profit entity, with our base business basically being that of a museum. Given the global move to faster technology and having information at our fingertips, the notion of connecting with the past by a visit to a "backward looking" (historical) entity is a growing challenge. With modest advertising and promotion spending budgets, where our team has been successful is in greatly expanding our events around the country that bring the Naismith Hall of Fame alive and "on the road" and available to many more basketball fans where they live rather than us depending on them to make a trip to Springfield to connect with the Hall.

These new events help us connect with a much younger demographic, allow us to produce multiple premier basketball events despite not being part of a league or conference, permit us to expose our wonderful group of Hall of Famers who work diligently on our behalf, and frankly drive new sources of revenue and net proceeds to assist the Hall in its annual operation. Once dependent on admissions for nearly 100% of our annual revenue, we have reduced that number to just 20% and instead drive top-notch events where fans can celebrate both the past and the future of basketball with the Hall of Fame in their own region.

SMQ: How does the Naismith Hall of Fame position itself, and how is this positioning based on your understanding of the basketball fan?

Doleva: In the world of basketball, we like to believe the Naismith Hall of Fame is clearly positioned at the apex of basketball achievement; we are clearly not the largest or most powerful basketball entity but those that are in the Hall of Fame are clearly "the Best of the Best." The Hall of Fame's positioning statement is "To celebrate the Greatest Moments and People in the Game." And while we focus on our Hall of Famers, that positioning clearly allows us to also celebrate those that are not Hall of Famers but who have made a significant contribution to the game-whether it was a generation or two ago or whether it was from a game last night.

Further, unlike most of the major American sports Hall's of Fame, the Naismith Hall recognizes everyone that plays basketball; men and women, boys and girls; high school, college and pro; coaches, players, referees, and contributors from around the world. No matter what part of the game you love as a fan, you will find strong representation of that game in the Naismith Hall of Fame.

SMQ: Last year, the Wall Street Journal ran a story titled "Empty Feeling at Hall of Fame - Attendance Falls as Web Generation Shrugs off Cooperstown, Other Sports Shrines." It specifically referred to the baseball, hockey, and basketball Halls of Fame, as well as the recently opened NASCAR Hall of Fame. Can you elaborate on some of the factors that you feel have attributed to this trend?

Doleva: There are a variety of factors that have contributed to the challenge of continually engaging fans who find themselves with less time to invest in a visit to a Hall of Fame or museum; technology is clearly No. 1 as a fan can research Hall of Famers and Hall of Fame moments in the palm of their hand at any moment. Parallel to that issue is the amount of basketball content that is competing for the eyeballs of fans and each entity has an aspect of its own history as part of their content. The simple availability of time-perhaps two working parents, children with a wide variety of school, sports, and social conflicts-just finding time to visit an entity for three or four hours can be difficult. …

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