By ALAN SNEL
The newly re-branded WNBA Las Vegas Aces team may have struggled last season with the league’s worst record when the team was based in San Antonio.
But the good news about the team’s fresh start in Sin City for the upcoming season is that its new owner knows a thing or two about entertainment sales and marketing and has a few resources that can be harnessed to promote the franchise.
MGM Resorts International, the Aces’ new owner and the biggest casino-hotel owner on the Strip with the most properties, is poised to use its vast resources to spread the word that Las Vegas has yet another new professional sports team in its market. Let’s just say you’re going to hear the phrase, “maximize corporate resources,” in the Las Vegas media during the weeks leading up to the WNBA and Aces season that starts in late spring.
MGM Resorts has experience staging one-off NBA preseason games and the Pac-12 tournament championship, plus is a title sponsor of the growing NBA Summer League in Las Vegas. So , MGM Resorts will use its vast basketball data to target hoops fans to attend Aces games, said Lance Evans, MGM Resorts corporate VP of entertainment and sports marketing who will oversee the Aces’ business operations.
“We will be pretty surgical about who we talk to” about the Aces games, Evans told LVSportsBiz.com Friday.
MGM Resorts will deploy everything to promote the Aces, from the MGM Grand’s famed marquee on the Strip to traditional platforms such as billboards, newspapers and digital, Evans said. There’s not a lot of visible signs of an Aces promotion campaign right now, but it will be launched about 45 days out from the team’s season-opener and the marketing will be all around the market, Evans said.
The team is still awaiting the WNBA schedule, which is expected in the next week or two, Evans said. The Aces will have 17 home games and one preseason game, with the season starting in late May or early June, Evans said. MGM Resorts revealed the Aces’ name and logo Dec. 11
The Aces will also play a more compressed season compared to its summer sports competitors in Las Vegas such as the inaugural Las Vegas Lights FC of the United Soccer League and the city’s longtime Triple A baseball club, the Las Vegas 51s of the Pacific Coast League.
The one advantage for the Aces: their summer venue, the Mandalay Bay Events Center, which has a basketball capacity of just under 10,000, is indoors and will be a cool haven during Las Vegas’ notorious scorching summers. The Lights begin their preseason Feb. 10 with an exhibition match at Cashman Field and plan to play their games at 8 p.m. The 51s begin play April 5 and their home games are 7:05 p.m.
The Aces also plan to target female athletes at high schools, with their coach, Bill Laimbeer, and guard Moriah Jefferson, making the rounds to as many schools, female sports camps and clinics as they can hit, Evans said.
Even without a schedule, the Aces’ early fans who have paid for advance seat deposits will get a chance to pick their seats at a priority seat selection event Tuesday from 5-9 p.m. at Mandalay Bay Events Center. In fact, today is the last day for final advance seat deposits, Evans noted. He said MGM Resorts are not disclosing the advance season ticket sales.
The Aces’ game presentation is expected to be more lively and juiced up than the typical WBNA game. MGM Resorts is a co-owner of T-Mobile Arena, home of the first-year Vegas Golden Knights, which are credited by fans and players alike as creating one of the best game experiences in the NHL.
Evans said Mandalay Bay Events Center, which is undergoing improvements for the WNBA season, will feature an action-packed game presentation.
“The Golden Knights set the bar very high,” Evans said, referring to the Vegas Golden Knights’ game presentation at T-Mobile Arena.
The Mandalay Bay Events Center’s two main corporate partners, PepsiCo and Miller Coors, are expected to also back the Aces at home games, while MGM Resorts will also recruit local business partners for the Aces, Evans said.
Evans expects the biggest number of employees dedicated to the Aces will be for group, premium and season ticket sales, especially when MGM Resorts has so many other workers at its disposal who can chip in and help the launch of its WNBA property.
While the NHL Golden Knights and USL Lights have invited the public to watch their practices, it’s unclear whether Aces fans will get chances to watch their basketball team’s practices in person, Evans said.
But he said the heightened interest in local pro sports created by the Golden Knights’ historic first season will also help the Aces and the Lights.
“Without a doubt, we’ll benefit from the Vegas Golden Knights,” Evans said. “It will help us and the Lights.”
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