Archive for the ‘Public Relations’ Category

This week, I’ll be writing a post for my Public Relations class that will examine the following article:

Mitrook, M. A., Parish, N. B., & Seltzer, T. (2008). From advocacy to accommodation: A case study of the Orlando Magic’s public relations efforts to secure a new arena. Public Relations Review, 34(2), 161-168. http://dx.doi.org.libproxy.uoregon.edu/10.1016/j.pubrev.2008.03.017

Before going into the academic study, I have included a description that I wrote of the development of the new Amway Center.

New Amway Center Description

Situated in the heart of downtown Orlando, the state-of-the-art Amway Center is home to the NBA’s Orlando Magic, the AFL’s Orlando Predators and the Orlando Solar Bears of the ECHL. It is the crown jewel of a city struggling to keep its economy afloat. In fact, Orlando at one point had one of the highest unemployment rates in the United States at 12 percent. In 2008, the Florida housing bubble burst, causing developers and buyers alike to lose financing for properties. Forbes recently ranked Orlando as the emptiest city in the country, with over one-fifth of all available rental units vacant.

Ironically, just as the bottom fell out of Orlando’s economy, Magic owner Rich DeVos convinced city and county officials in 2007 to approve a 1 percent hotel tax – apportioned as the sixth cent of an already existing 6 percent “tourist development tax” – to build the arena. The deal was sweetened for the city by the Magic’s offer to contribute $50 million to construction, $25 million to building rec centers in poor neighborhoods, $10 million towards a concert hall and $2.75 million to the city annually for 30 years. Additionally, the Magic offered to pay all cost overruns, which ended up totalling about $10 million for a total cost of $480 million. Unfortunately, the timing could not have been worse for the taxpayers, and local citizens were incensed.

Today, the tourist development tax is providing 15 percent less revenue than expected, due, obviously, to declining disposable income and tourism. Taxpayers will also have to pay the difference if the arena can’t bring in enough revenue to cover its increased expenses, including $1 million in annual rent. In early 2011, Orlando was still the seventh worst city in America for housing foreclosures, and the sparkling new arena now stands in stark contrast to the difficult conditions for many of the locals. However, the new arena is actually pulling in $24.00 in auxiliary fan revenue (money earned aside from the ticket price), 50 percent more than the previous building, Amway Arena. Despite the local outrage, DeVos actually utilized a local-friendly method of building the arena. 32 percent of all contracts given to construction firms were awarded to companies locally-owned by minorities or women, totalling nearly $100 million.

The Amway Center holds 18,500 people, has 227 food and beverage concession areas, a 300-seat restaurant, seven bars, 62 suites, 12 party suites, 1400 club seats that each garner between $4,700 and $5,400 per season, 68 loge boxes at $10,000 per seat, and three separate and exclusive club areas. It is estimated that these improvements will earn the Magic an additional $30 million in gross revenue in the 2011-2012 season. Additionally, the Amway Center was awarded LEED Gold Certification due to sustainable design and construction methods. The arena also boasts the largest video board in the NBA. All these new bells and whistles may come at a price for the average fan. Magic President Alex Martins, when the building first opened, said, “[The old Amway Arena] wasn’t designed for corporations and high-end fans who spend big money on amenities.” This indicates that the new Amway Center is designed for that purpose, hinting at the possibility that the average fan could be priced out.

Interestingly, the 2012 NBA Team Marketing Report lists the Magic’s average ticket price at $43.65, almost a full $5.00 below the NBA average and below such cities as Sacramento, Cleveland and Milwaukee. By comparison, the average ticket price during the last season at the old Amway Arena was $43.00. However, premium seating options are not included in this calculation, and given the availability of more than 4,000 potential premium seats, the number most likely would skyrocket. The Orlando Business Journal also reported that 7,000 seats below $25.00 are available for purchase. As a result, one can ascertain that the Magic have done a nice job by integrating low-end seating options with premium opportunities, allowing the average fan to watch the game at a reasonable price while recouping lost revenue by selling high-priced premium seating.


In this qualitative study, the authors sought to examine the reasons for the failure of the Orlando Magic’s 2001 public campaign for a new arena. To evaluate the organization’s role in the campaign, 10 current employees in the media relations, community relations and Orlando Magic Youth Foundation were interviewed in person. All 10 employees had in-depth knowledge of the organization, its relationship with the Orlando community and the new arena campaign. Interviewee responses were recorded and analyzed in order to determine internal sentiment regarding the effectiveness of the campaign for the arena.

The study’s authors framed the results based on the contingency theory of accommodation in public relations, which states that public relations campaigns move on a scale ranging from total advocacy for the organization to complete accommodation of the public.


The authors determined that nine variables played a role in analyzing the situation. The specifics of seven of the most important variables are summarized below.

Complexity and size of the issue: Because of the complex nature of stadium financing, the study reported that the citizens of Orlando did not fully understand the implications of a tourist development tax to fund the arena. The media, especially the Orlando Sentinel and local radio sports host Jim Phillips, reported distorted information lambasting the Magic for attempting to use taxpayer money to finance the stadium when in fact tourists would be footing the bill. The authors theorize that the Magic’s PR and media relations teams did not anticipate the complexity of the issue for the public and thus failed to appropriately frame the issue in its early stages.

General political/social environment/external culture: The study states that the citizens of the city of Orlando did not understand how the Magic actually benefited the community. As a result, they believed that the act of providing a stadium for the team would not be reciprocated with community initiatives. Unfortunately, this seems to be another failure on the Magic’s part. Professional sports franchises are deeply involved and intertwined with the community, and a lack of awareness of this indicates that the franchise’s PR employees were not succeeding in focusing media attention on community involvement.

Moves/counter moves: After realizing that public sentiment was not on its side, the Magic decided to move the arena debate out of the public eye. This decreased the amount of media attention on the subject and allowed the team to restrategize.

Multiple publics: The Magic were unable to frame the issue in a positive light for its many publics, including media, fans, sponsors, local businesses and the citizens of Orlando.

Media relations, community relations and team foundation characteristics: On the positive side, the Magic were able to unify its message among all top executives due to a weekly meeting with the directors of each department and the COO. However, this synergy did not seem to affect the push for an arena.

Organization characteristics: According to the study, the Magic has not been able to forge a strong bond with the surrounding community because of the team’s relative newness in the city. At the time of the initial arena request, the team had only been in the community for 14 years and had not yet been able to form a permanent relationship. As a result, the community did not feel as if the Magic were its neighbors and did not support the new arena initiative.

The bottom line: In 2001, the Magic was in dire need of a new stadium to offset the lack of premium seating in Amway Arena. As a result, team revenues were lower than ideal and caused owner Rich DeVos to lose money.

Moral conviction: The Orlando Magic Foundation had been an active member of the Orlando community and had given over $10 million to the community over the 14 years it had existed. However, community awareness of this seemed to be lacking.


This case study was unique to the particular situation and may not be applicable to any other new arena campaign. Additionally, the authors only interviewed Magic employees, which could provide a major respondent bias regarding the Magic’s handling of the situation.


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