Idaho Stampede: Minor League Basketball In A College Football Town

Locally known Coby Karl is a factor in drawing in fans for the Stampede in Boise, Idaho. - Christian Petersen

The NBA D-League's Idaho Stampede face a unique challenge in regard to capturing the attention of local sports fans in their hometown of Boise, Idaho. But with their new hybrid affiliation to the nearby Portland Trail Blazers, can the Stampede tap into a sports fan base that is already heavily dedicated to it's college football team?

In terms of location and relevance in their particular sports markets, teams in the NBA D-League vary when it comes to where and how the team is embedded into their respective sports community. No more so than in Boise, Idaho where the Idaho Stampede play their home games, it is a town dominated by the popularity of it's college football team.

There has been an increase of NBA teams assigning players to their D-League affiliates this season, and the Stampede hope it's assignees from the newly established hybrid single affiliate the Portland Trail Blazers, will help boost their status amongst the local sports fans. Given their close proximity to their NBA affiliate, the Stampede have revamped their marketing and branding strategy in an effort to grab the attention of Trail Blazer fans in the Boise area. Will it be enough?

Promoting a D-League team in a town where a prominent college football team exists is not solely a problem for the Idaho Stampede. Just ask the Austin Toros, who play its games in arguably one of the largest and most loyal college football fan bases in the entire country. While the Toros will never topple the Longhorns in terms of popularity in the Austin area, everyone will indeed support a winner.

The Stampede faced the Austin Toros on opening night of this season. The game also served as the Toros' ring ceremony and raising of the championship banner. 5363 people were in attendance that evening to watch the Toros topple the Stampede as they got their first win this season.

Friday night in Boise, the Stampede welcomed 1825 fans through the turnstiles as they got their first win on the season beating a hot Santa Cruz Warriors team. Across town, the Boise State Broncos were once again playing a game and snagging away potential fans from the Stampede. Albeit this time it was their basketball team doing the damage. Boise State has enjoyed early season success with their basketball program and saw a crowd of 11,210 watch as they beat a previously undefeated LSU team.

So to say that Boise, Idaho is not inclined to support basketball because football is predominantly where local sports fans gravitate towards, is not true. In fact, the Stampede roster itself if often comprised of former Boise State players, this year Coby Karl and Jason Ellis are the two former Broncos. In the arena, it is evident that Karl in particular is a fan favorite, likely because he is well known and "local" product.

That being said, is it necessary for the Stampede to play into their obvious obsessed local support of the university by having a select amount of former Boise State players on their roster, or is there enough of an interest in their NBA connection with the Portland Trail Blazers to bring in local hoops fans?

The answer is not an easy one, but in my brief experience from their first four home games, it is apparent that Blazer fans are in the crowd often rocking Portland gear. On opening night for the Stampede, a more than respectable amount of 3127 fans were in attendance to " Run With The New Stampede". Fans were also treated to Portland rookies Will Barton and Victor Claver playing in their first games as members of the Stampede on assignment. The Trail Blazers once again assigned Claver, and also Joel Freeland for this weekend's double feature with Santa Cruz. These type of assignments can help secure Blazer fans interest locally in Boise.

If the Stampede wish to have a piece of the local sports fan pie in Boise, exploiting their direct relation with the Portland Trail Blazers will be a key factor in doing so. Just as the Austin Toros have found success in establishing themselves as a successful counterpart to the Austin sports scene, the Stampede can coexist and even benefit from the rabid Boise State fan base. With a mix of winning results, and an increase of Portland Trail Blazer player exposure, the Stampede will be on their way to cashing in on an already well developed sports community.

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