Friday, July 1, 2011

What the Lockout Means for the Celtics Off the Court

By Zach Baru

With the National Basketball Association lockout in its first day, the Boston Celtics have found themselves in an extremely vulnerable situation.  If the NBA does indeed loose a partial or entire season, the Celtics will unfortunately have a few obstacles to face that other NBA teams will not have to worry about.  Blame the NBA, blame the NBA Players Association, but the truth is that this lockout just happened to hit the Celtics at the wrong time.

After the Boston Bruins Stanley Cup win, even if the Celtics do play some basketball this fall, they will see less headlines than last season.  There's no question that the region will have plenty of eyeballs on the Celtics, but the spotlight will not be as bright as last year.  This simply isn't the case in other NBA markets, as basketball often, but not always, beats hockey in popularity.  This can especially be seen in the south.  That is not to say this will happen in Boston all winter, but the Celtics might have to get use to seeing Bruins scores first.

Another headache for the Celtics is that nearly their entire image is marketed around the worldwide popular brand of the "Big Three".   The problem is that loosing an entire season could mean the end of that brand, if Kevin Garnett does not return.  And the way that he has been talking to the press since the start of last season's playoffs, this is looking more and more like a reality.  Can the Celtics brand survive with a loss like Garnett?

Celtics pride is undeniably here to stay, but if the lockout takes away a season, it easily could take away this chapter of the Celtics brand with it.  And a new marketing concept will be made.  We just may have seen the rise and fall of the promotion of the Big Three.   It has been quite a difference from the days of the '06-'07 season when the Garden was three-quarters full.  And that was on a good night.  What started with a press conference welcoming Garnett and Allen, became a national tour to sold-out arenas of fans just wanting to see those three players.

If a lockout does wipe-out the season, and Garnett does not return, it will be back to the drawing board for Celtics marketing.  They will need a new concept to brand, and a new image to capture.  Hopefully it will not come down to that.  Unfortunately, the reality is that the two sides between the owners and the players are no where near an agreement.  There is just too much money on the line, suggesting that this lockout could potentially go well into the winter, if not canceling the upcoming season.

And so the headaches continue for the Celtics.  With the Bruins winning their first Stanley Cup since 1972, and the future of the Big Three in doubt, there is no one to blame.  This lockout just happened to hit the Celtics at the wrong time.

Zach Baru can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at

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