For the record, I am a Sixers fan, and I love Allen Iverson.
Three years ago, yesterday, Allen Iverson asked for a trade from the Philadelphia 76ers. “As hard as it is to admit,” he said, “a change may be the best thing for everyone.” Eleven days later, Iverson was traded to the Denver Nuggets, seemingly having played his last game as a Sixer.
This September, Iverson signed with the Memphis Grizzlies. He played three games (starting none) and averaged 22 minutes, 12.3 points, 3.7 assists, and 1.3 rebounds. However, the veteran could not accept his role as a bench player, and his relationship with the Grizzlies quickly deteriorated. In early November, he left the team for personal reasons, and on November 25th, he announced his intentions to retire from the National Basketball Association.
Ironically, on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, Sixers starting point guard Lou Williams broke his jaw. Immediately, the rumors began. Will Allen Iverson rejoin the Sixers? With Williams out for eight weeks, the move actually made some sense for the team. Not only would they generate massive buzz, but they would have the chance to renew a once troubled relationship with one of the greatest players in their team’s history, a player who just wanted a chance to start and prove he still had game. All of the pieces fell into place, and Iverson signed a one year deal with the Sixers in early December, starting his first game two nights ago.
Why the Sixers made the move
Obviously, Allen Iverson is a great player and a future hall of famer. He ranks 6th all-time in points per game with an average of 27, behind NBA legends like Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain. He’s a great player and he says he can still play. With the Sixers’ record well below .500, his scoring abilities were definitely a factor.
However, before Iverson signed with the team, the Sixers were having massive problems with ticket and merchandise sales, fan morale, and generating buzz. Without Iverson, they were looking at a half-empty arena for the foreseeable future, unless the young team could turn things around. With Iverson, they could generate immediate buzz (and jersey sales). Obviously, Iverson’s first game back was absolutely packed. Now, for the Sixers, the key is: how do they keep building on that initial buzz?
The Answer: Social Media
A major difference between Iverson’s last tenure with the Sixers and this one is that social media was not prevelant in the sports world back then. Now, the National Basketball Association is leading the way. Both the Sixers and Allen Iverson are on Twitter, so that’s a start.
My advice for the Sixers: make the rest of this season the “Allen Iverson Show.” He’s one of the greatest players in your team’s history, and more importantly, the fans of Philadelphia love him. You can start by taking advantage of all those extra tickets. It’s not like just because Iverson signed, you are going to sell out every game (or come close). So, here’s an idea: give away three (Iverson’s number) pairs of tickets in every section of the arena for three straight home games. Have your Twitter followers submit creative photos of themselves with their Iverson jersey/gear and give the tickets to the followers with the best photos. Then, give anyone who entered a coupon code for a pair of $3 tickets to a home game of their choice. Use Twitter as a place to inform the fans about anything and everything that is Allen Iverson. Post behind-the-scenes videos and photos, promote the Allen Iverson bobblehead giveaway you’ll surely have, and let people know that if they want news about AI, Twitter is their place.
My advice for Allen Iverson: Be you, be real, be honest, and keep showing the fans you care. For most people, you are that selfish bad guy who didn’t want to talk about practice. You say that’s not you anymore, that you’ve grown up and changed. I saw your emotional press conference, and I saw you kiss the floor after you were announced Monday night. We see your passion and your love and your good side, but that has to extend to social media. For starters, your Twitter profile still says you reside in Detroit and play for the Pistons. That needs to be fixed. Also, you need to stop letting other people take control of your account. All they do is link to your fan club and talk about Reebok! I saw, on September 25th, you wrote us a short Twitter novel about your experiences in Spain. It was great, but remember, Twitter is about 140 characters. If you take control of your account, tweet for yourself, and show the fans you care (e.g. film videos, respond to tweets), we will continue to show you love.
Obviously, the team has to have a balance of Allen Iverson and everyone else. They don’t want to create problems within the team because of Iverson’s presence. And clearly, if Iverson is a bust on the court this season or gets into some trouble, it won’t matter much what he’s doing in social media. But social media can provide both the Sixers and Allen Iverson with exactly what they’re looking for.
So, I’ve opened the conversation, and I’d love to continue it in the comment section below. How do you think the Sixers and Allen Iverson can capitalize on his comeback, knowing that the team wants to sell (tickets and merch) and Iverson wants to renew his image? How much of a role will/should social media play in all of this?