Is there a market for whine?

Steve Buffery -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:15 AM ET

The job of the Raptors marketing people became more difficult this week with the news that star player Vince Carter, officially and unequivocally, wants out of Toronto. The marketing people already were behind the 8-ball in terms of boosting season-ticket sales, given the fact the club missed the playoffs the past two seasons.

And now an anti-Carter backlash appears to be brewing as the Raptors prepare for training camp, which begins Oct. 5.

"Certainly it's more of a challenge to them," general manager Rob Babcock said yesterday, when asked of Carter's trade demands hindered the club's marketing. "But we've got good marketing people and they'll be able to deal with it."

Perhaps, but ticket sales last season were already down by more than 650 fans a game from the season before and there are worries that a backlash against Carter will drop attendance again, although as of yesterday the season-ticket renewal rate was at 82%, which is right on target according to Raptors officials.

The Raptors have long used Carter as a main marketing tool to sell tickets and interest in the club. Interestingly, his presence already seems to have diminished this season.

The team's 2004-05 media guide will focus more on the club's 10th anniversary than on Carter or any other player.

As well, a trip to the club's official website this week features three players displayed prominently at the top of the main page, and Carter is not one of them (They are rookie Rafael Araujo, Donyell Marshall and Rafer Alston). Babcock is not concerned about any dip in interest in the team.

"The best way to do any type of marketing is to win basketball games," he said.


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