Spurs well positioned to endure the lockout

San Antonio’s unique position as the strongest NBA market in terms of fan interest should make the Spurs less susceptible to fallout from the lockout than other league franchises.

Bill Nielsen, vice president of sales for the Scarborough Sports Marketing Group, said the Spurs have traditionally dominated his company’s measurements of fan awareness and support in the NBA.

And because of that support, Nielsen doesn’t believe that a lengthy lockout will erode local support and interest for the team.

Scarborough’s most recent list indicates that 61 percent of thousands of fans interviewed in the San Antonio area have either watched a Spurs game at the ATT Center, listened to a Spurs game on radio or watched a Spurs game on television in the last year.

That figure is the best of the 29 NBA American markets the company surveys. Toronto isn’t included in the Scarborough list.

“That’s a very healthy number when three out of five persons in San Antonio have that kind of contact with the team,” Nielsen said. “In layman’s terms, it indicates that if you live in San Antonio, you are going to be a Spurs fan.”

Because of that broad-based community awareness and support, Nielsen said the Spurs shouldn’t feel a lockout-related pinch that might be inflicted on other NBA teams once the league’s labor differences are settled.

“It bodes well for them,” Nielsen said. “I wouldn’t expect there to be a hangover (after the lockout) because of that traditional support they have.”

The Spurs ranked at the top of Scarborough’s most recent list of NBA franchises, which was generated for the first half of 2011.

Cleveland is second at 58 percent, followed by Boston (50 percent), Utah (47 percent) and Phoenix (45 percent) among the top five franchises. New Jersey (11 percent) is the lowest.

Scarborough has analyzed sports teams, leagues and markets among other consumer research for more than a decade. The Spurs have traditionally ranked at the top of the NBA’s “watched on television/attended/listened on radio” rankings during that time.

The NBA’s top numbers in that category don’t match those of other teams in other major sports in Scarborough’s “WAL” rankings. The NFL’s New Orleans Saints lead all professional sports franchises at 87 percent. The St. Louis Cardinals in Major League Baseball have a “WAL” ranking of 73 percent to lead franchises in that sport.

But the Spurs’ traditional number at 60 percent is a solid one for any sports franchise, Nielsen said.

“I’m impressed with that number considering they haven’t won a title in several years,” Nielsen said. “When you win a title, it traditionally pushes your numbers to the top. Look at New Orleans. But the Spurs have held solid.”

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