Trail Blazers to Fans: 'We Hear You.'

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The Trail Blazers get a reality check.
The Portland Trail Blazers had an okay season on the court last year. They made the playoffs and won three straight games to take the Dallas Mavericks to a decisive seventh game before exiting in the first round. Off the court, however, was a different story. After a season marred by drug charges, league suspensions and a fist fight between two Portland players that landed one of them on the bench, the team earned the nickname the "Jail Blazers." The Oregonian newspaper devotes an entire section of its website to the Blazers & the Law.

"They're very, very angry," says Paul Grignon, creative director at The Mandala Agency in Bend, Ore., of fans' attitudes toward the team. "There's a lot invested by the fans of Portland, because the Blazers are kind of Oregon's representative to the outside world." Late last year, Grignon and company came up with an idea for a campaign in which fans vent their displeasure with the team. Along with director Doug Cheney of Spokane production company North by Northwest, they shot the campaign on spec and took it to Blazers management, who liked it but didn't want to use it just yet. This summer, however, the team's front office has launched a comprehensive campaign to improve the team's image by cutting ticket prices and reaching out to fans. The team has also vowed to adopt a player code of conduct, part of a 25-point mission statement that appeared in a full-page ad in The Oregonian earlier this month, under a quote from team owner Paul G. Allen. "We are beginning a new era for the franchise," Allen declared.

Meanwhile, The Mandala Agency's spots served as the intro for a meeting with season ticket holders on August 6. The two spots show a shot of the Trail Blazers' locker-room. From inside, we hear an ordinary fan reading the team the riot act, suggesting they try to get by on a teacher's salary or sell insurance for a living. As the screaming fan leaves, we see a line of people, all waiting to have their say. The super reads, "We hear you."

"That's the strategy they've chosen, and they've started to release our stuff to the season pass holders," says Grignon, adding that when, or whether, the campaign will reach broadcast audiences remains to be seen.

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