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Smoke and Mirrors

Bobcats make the best of, well, not much

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It wouldn't surprise me one day to see the Charlotte Bobcats in a college textbook on marketing and advertising. The chapter might be called "How to Promote A Product When You Don't Really Have One Yet 101." Being an expansion team, they now have nothing but a snazzy logo and a name to promote until there's a team actually playing ball; in the meantime, the Bobcats have been making chicken salad with those shreds for over a year.

The advertising boss ponders strategy with staff. "Let's see: no players to show, the arena still looks like a parking deck, no past games to put in commercials or on billboards, and that idea to have Ed Tapscott and Bernie Bickerstaff play one-on-one dressed as Shinn and Wooldridge, well, consider that one dead, guys."

No, the well-funded franchise has manufactured public events, milked footage of ACC hoops greats to remind the community that we like basketball (duh), and press-released anything that might draw media interest: cheerleader tryouts, job openings, website traffic numbers, a cable network. When the first players are announced on June 22 on live TV and a Founders Hall public event, we'll see the marketing games really begin.

On the broadcasting front, the Bobcats have been busy building a TV production team and getting a broadcast affiliate system shored up. MIX106.1-FM has gotten the radio rights (it already carries Sting games), with the familiar voice of Steve Martin, who will be doing the play-by-play. Martin's been working in New Orleans in that capacity for the Hornets, but was still based with his family here in Charlotte. It's a welcome change for him, no doubt.

On the TV side, former Memphis Grizzlies announcer Matt Devlin has been tagged to be the TV play-by-player. Color analysts for TV or radio have not been announced yet.

I'm also hearing from WFNZ-FM and Primetime sports talker Mark Packer that his show could very well go multimedia, running on TV as well, on the Bobcats' C-SET cable network, still in its evolution phase. Imagine MSNBC's Imus in the Morning with barbecue sauce stains on the shirts. "I've always wanted to put the radio show on TV," Packer says. Talks are continuing.

Stay tuned.

E-mail at Shannon.Reichley@cln.com

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