Monday, October 07, 2013

Victory laps: Rebranding the Nets as "Brooklyn," Barclays Center as Yormark's "best deal," and the issue of "rate card integrity"

Sports Business Journal offers 20 Minutes with Nets and Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark, who crows about grossing more than $5 million in three days when the Brooklyn Nets issued new gear, while in New Jersey the gross was "practically nothing."

Also, the marketing magazine Contently offers Brooklyn Took It: the True-Life Love Triangle of a Borough, a Basketball Team… and an Ad Agency, which focuses on the Nets' successful rebranding, and transformation from also-ran to hot property, crediting the logo, the role of Jay-Z, the #HelloBrooklyn branding, the new arena, and the recent roster reboot. All that positions the Nets well in the next round to compete for free agents. 

Key quote:
"It used to be about the players,” [Adam Nisenson, vice president at marketing firm Active Imagination] says. “But the players come and go. They don’t necessarily always care about the city—and nothing against them, it’s a job and a business like it should be. But for the fans, the whole town, it’s what represents them. I think representing yourself as the city … it’s easier to get buy-in from your community.”
Indeed. Remember those Nets ads promoting Gerald Wallace (since traded) as All-NBA Defender and offseason fisherman.”

I agree with the critique by NetsDaily's Net Income (Bob Windrem), that Brett Yormark had far more impact than ad agency guy Steve Stoute; that the Dodgers don't really loom; and that Mikhail Prokhorov's willingness to spend was crucial.

Below, some excerpts from the Yormark interview from Sports Business Journal, with a few comments.

The market
On season-ticket sales: “This year we’re at about 13,000 right now. I’m not sure how much more we’re going to go. We’ve got to have product for the borough, for that individual buyer, for that group buyer. Our building capacity is 17,700, and rolling up to that number with a base of 13,000 is pretty easy at this point in time.” 
On whether he pays attention to competition within the market: “I don’t. We compete against ourselves. We think Brooklyn is a uniquely positioned market. We think of our program as an example. College basketball has an incredible history in Brooklyn … Boxing is another example to be a programming mix for us. We’re doing some special things there, too. When we think about programming, we think about what makes sense for Brooklyn. We don’t really think about the other guys in town. This market is big enough for us all to be successful.”
Of course they have to have a viable product--though initially a "lifestyle brand," not a "performance brand." The first year they had some slack. 

Even if he's exaggerating that he doesn't care about competition, he's right that Brooklyn and environs make a big enough market to absorb the arena. This isn't 81 games at Citi Field that need to draw more than 40,000 people.

The Barclays Center
What was your best deal? “I think by far it was the Barclays Center. It truly enabled us to move to Brooklyn and in many respects it’s defined me and our organization.”
I think he's right that the deal defines Yormark and the Nets, but in more ways than he thinks. Given the taint on Barclays, isn't it the perfect brand for this team and deal?

Selling everywhere
What about ads on NBA jerseys? “I’m for it. I think it’s an incredible opportunity to truly align a team with a brand.”
Can you sell on-court, apron advertising? “We’d like to. But we have rate card integrity and we’re looking for a big number, north of seven figures. Our goal is to sell it to an international or global brand.”
Note that the issue is "rate card integrity:--not selling it cheap--rather than old-fashioned integrity. And yes, Yormark is one of those pushing for ads on jerseys.

Grudging learning
What Twitter has taught him: “For me, it’s a lot about fact finding. For example, there was a big debate: Should we change the Islanders when we move to Brooklyn? And I went to Twitter and fans responded. And I became a little sensitized to their position. Initially, it was all about, let’s turn them black and white and truly embrace the borough. Because the main thing about Brooklyn is, if you’re all in, so are they. And I thought that would be the case with the Islanders, but I’ve changed my position a little based on the feedback we received on Twitter.”
In other words, he listened rather than forced it on the fans.
How do you manage up better? “What my guys want me to do is keep them informed, and to some degree maybe I over-communicate, but it’s really selectively using it and tapping in to what matters most.”
What can you do better as a CEO? “Probably not micromanage so much. Let people fail and learn and the next time they’ll do it better.”
I think "maybe I over-communicate" has to do with 5 am emails, and the like.

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