Monday, May 27, 2013

Are the Nets really Brooklyn's Team? Does it matter? They know how to fill seats.

The Nets are Finally Brooklyn’s Team, declared Brooklyn Game contributor Andrew Gnerre on 4/22/13 after attended the team's first playoff game, detailing the excitement in the arena and concluding:
Saturday night was the moment. A celebration. The resolution of all the promises of the past six years. They kept telling us that Brooklyn would be better. And so far it had been, but only because we all knew it was supposed to be better. Fans were acting on the assumptions being fed to us by billboards and hashtags. For most of this first season, the Nets were more marketing campaign—a stellar one, to be sure—than basketball team.
But on Saturday night, they finally became Brooklyn's basketball team, and not just because that's what it says on your t-shirt.
How many fans from Brooklyn?

But exactly how much they are "Brooklyn's team" remains in question. A 5/24/13 piece in The Brooklyn Game by Steven Waldman mused Most Brooklyn Nets Fans Aren’t From Brooklyn?:
First, just 16.7 percent of those who watched the Nets on YES Network are from Brooklyn, according to information provided The Brooklyn Game by Scarborough Research. By contrast, 30.7 percent were from New Jersey, and 46 percent came from New York City as a whole. (Chart below)
Second, The Brooklyn Game's own web traffic follows a roughly similar pattern. Our recent user survey indicated that 26 percent or our readers come from Brooklyn vs. 40 percent from New Jersey. Our site traffic is in the same zone, and, according to, 30.8 percent of @TheBKGame followers come from New York City. In the state breakdown, 35 percent come from New York State compared to 14.7 in New Jersey.
The Nets declined to provide numbers on the geographic distribution of ticket buyers.
Note that, in September 2012, the New York Post reported that season tickets, at least, were tilted to Brooklyn:
“When you look at our season ticket base, you’re talking about roughly 45 percent from Brooklyn, 25 percent from Manhattan, 12 percent from New Jersey, and the rest is from the outer boroughs and Long Island,” explains Yormark. “We’re a fresh new alternative in the marketplace.”
But we don't know about overall ticket patterns.

The statistics quoted by The Brooklyn Game are not necessarily proxies for fandom. Surely some number of people who watch the Nets on YES are basketball fans in the area, not Nets fans. And serious fandom, reflected in those following The Brooklyn Game, surely excludes those who just want to see games because it's new and local.

Waldman suggests that it's understandable the Nets have yet to fully penetrate Brooklyn, given that serious local hoops fans already followed the Knicks, who had a surprisingly good season this year.

Is not drawing Brooklyn a problem?

Waldman writes:
Even if the diffuseness of the Nets fan base doesn't relate to either "brand equity" or the home court performance, it can't be a good thing in the long run that Brooklyn -- a city of 2.5 million people -- isn't supplying the bulk the Brooklyn Nets' fans.
Maybe, but as long as they have a base of season ticket-holders, they're doing fine. 

And if they're selling out the cheaper seats--remember, they raised the low price from $15 to $25--it's clear the Nets don't need "Brooklyn" to fill last-minute empty seats. They're free to try to maximize revenue from basketball fans within commuting distance, which includes a good range of locations in New York, New Jersey, and even Connecticut.

Waldman thinks that, though the Nets do have a presence in Brooklyn at community events and via local food, it would help if a player lived in Brooklyn.  

I agree, and wonder if the next rookie to sign will have a "Brooklyn clause" requiring him to live in the borough and become a "resident Brooklyn-credibility totem" (to quote David Roth).

I also wouldn't be surprised if the Nets' marketing expands well beyond the heavy Brooklyn themes. No Long Islander wants to wear a "My borough is thorough" t-shirt. (Frankly, no sentient Brooklynite should buy that either.) So I'd expect some regionalized branding.

Failed promises deter fans?

Waldman writes:
And it would be nice if the Forest City Ratner folks keep their promises about the development. Otherwise, some portion of Brooklyn will feel like rooting for the Nets is an endorsement of dishonest business practices.
While I appreciate that some people notice the Culture of Cheating surrounding the Atlantic Yards project, and others scorn the failure to deliver jobs and housing, I don't think dishonest business practices really deter fans. After all, the Knicks sell out despite a completely unnecessary annual tax break.

If the Nets want to sell out every game, all they have to do is practice some dynamic pricing.

Also, as Bob Windrem (aka "Net Income") wrote on NetsDaily:
And we suspect there is a huge growth in Nassau and Suffolk, which the Nets see as their next frontier. The two counties represent 11 percent of the TV audience and Bruce Ratner said Long Islanders represented only 10 percent of those attending Nets games at Barclays. Associating the Islanders with the Nets through the prism of Barclays Center is likely to help. 

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