There is a lot of chatter among Canadian "Make It Seven" crowd about how hockey in the south "has failed" or "can't succeed" and so forth. While there some southern franchises do face real short term difficulties, what the "hockey can't work in the South" mindset fails to appreciate is the awesome power of demographics. Hockey in the South has two huge long term factors working in its favor: continued population population gains from internal migration and faster than average corporate growth in the South. The sunbelt continues to lead the way in the growth of people with disposable income.
One poorly understood story in the recent history of the Thrashers, is the degree to which the team is sustained by the local corporations even while suffering through year-after-year of losing teams. Unlike attendance which is regularly reported in each boxscore, corporate support numbers are not freely disclosed by teams. About one year ago Big Picture Guy calculated an estimate of the corporate support numbers on his blog Under Review. These estimates placed the Thrashers around the middle of the league at 18th overall, it wouldn't surprise me if Atlanta ranked a bit higher than this in the actual numbers. Big Picture Guy's estimate for Phoenix turned out to be very accurate for Phoenix where the actual number was just revealed in the court case.
The Atlanta metro region is home to a large number of Fortune 500 companies, many of which spend a significant amount at Thrasher games either as primary sponsors, advertisers or as purchasers of luxury boxes for entertainment purposes.
Just this week Atlanta gained another Fortune 500 company as NCR announced that it was relocating their headquarters from Dayton, Ohio to Atlanta's Gwinnett County suburbs. Many of NCR's biggest clients (Home Depot, Suntrust) were already located here. I wouldn't be at all surprised if NCR spends some money entertaining clients at Philips Arena down the road. In the past, I've written about the massive long term shift in the US population towards the sunbelt. Long term population and business growth favors the sunbelt and that region will be home to growing amounts of disposable income. The NHL is in the sports entertainment business, it is wise to position itself in markets where the disposable income will increase over the next several decades.
Why did NCR come to Atlanta? Atlanta Business Chronicle writes:
Relocating to Atlanta — the commercial capital of the Southeast — makes sense for the company. Four of the cities in Ohio — Youngstown, Canton, Dayton and Cleveland— are among the top 10 dying cities in America, according to an August 2008 report in Forbes. "They [NCR] can’t recruit talent to move to Dayton, Ohio," the source said.
Who are the Fortune 500 companies in Atlanta? Below is a list from Atlanta Business Chronicle. Some of them you've heard of and some of them you might not.
- 25th (overall) Home Depot - major Thrashers corporate sponsor
- 73rd UPS - major Thrashers corporate sponsor
- 111 Delta - major Thrashers corporate sponsor
- 118 Coca-Cola - Thrasher advertiser
- 149 Southern Company - Thrasher advertiser
- 211 SunTrust Banks - Thrasher advertiser
- 243 Genuine Parts Co
- 306 AGCO
- 388 Newell Rubbermaid
- 486 Asbury Automotive (moved from New York in 2008)
Two other Fortune 500 companies within Georgia:
- 152 AFLAC (Columbus GA) - also a Thrashers advertiser
- 367 Mohawk Industries (Calhoun, GA)