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"Hello Playoffs": Nets promote "Blackout in Brooklyn" theme; Yormark yo-yo's on promise of t-shirt giveaways (updated)

The Brooklyn Nets are eagerly promoting their "Blackout in Brooklyn" playoffs theme, with coverage this morning on Fox 5 New York and in the Daily News (which sponsors the arena plaza). Nets/arena CEO Brett Yormark got typically chummy with hosts Greg Kelly and Rosanna Scotto (his soon-to-be sister-in-law).

What Yormark didn't say--which has infuriated some fans--is that the Nets would be giving away special playoff jerseys, as do other teams, and as he apparently promised last week on Twitter.

Yormark did give jerseys to the hosts, as seen in the screenshot above right, but otherwise, as in the photo below left, it's a revenue opportunity on the arena plaza.

Update: Yormark later said on Twitter that fans would get free t-shirts, at least for the first game.

Photo outside Barclays Center last night
"We're very excited," Yormark said, calling the move to Brooklyn "transformative... We wanted to bring Brooklyn a great team, a playoff caliber team."

So the Nets start the playoffs Saturday against the Chicago Bulls, and "very few" tickets are available.

Yormark said it would be "a celebration of Brooklyn, the last playoff game was 1956. The market's been relatively underserved. we're coming out with our playoff theme... asking everyone to wear black and vote yes for the Nets."

He went on to describe how the theme is being reflected in special food offerings and, guess what, there was the arena's executive chef, joined by a couple of Brooklynettes, to show it off.

Yormark described how the Nets went from 31st in the league in merchandise sales (behind even the defunct Seattle SuperSonics) to fourth, and how playoff tickets are being printed in black and white.

What about those t-shirts?

I previously observed that the "Blackout in Brooklyn" theme is a little ominous for those who remember the actual 1977 blackout.

Fans are exercised about the t-shirt issue.The Brooklyn Game's Devin Kharpertian wrote yesterday, Nets selling — not giving away? — “blackout in Brooklyn” shirts.

He cited a report by ESPN Sports Business reporter Darren Rovell that the Nets were selling selling black t-shirts, for the price of $22.

By contrast, in Oklahoma City, the Thunder gave away shirts at every game to color the arena blue or white. Nets ticket office personnel

Yormark's seemingly forked tongue

As Kharpertian noted, a fan reported that Nets ticket officials "emphatically said the team would not be giving away t-shirts for the first playoff game."

But Yormark on April 13 seemed to promise on Twitter (see screenshot at right) that t-shirts would be given the front door.

Kharpertian calls it "potentially another misstep in a season chock-full of marketing issues for Brooklyn," including when the team "shut down their clever, off-beat PR account," the boost in prices of cheap seats (as I've reported) from $15 to $25, and the requirement that fans pre-pay for all potential playoff games.

His conclusion:
My advice to the Nets: you want to create a real community in Brooklyn? Make people feel like you're inviting them to something. Don't make it about how much money you can take from the community now. Get them involved in a way that doesn't feel like you have to "buy in."
Brooklyn is a long-term game. You're here for a while. Take the hit. Give away the damn shirts.
Update: Later, Yormark concurred.

An approving sports voice

Yesterday, the New York Times's Howard Beck wrote an assessment, Nets Can Grow, and Brooklyn Can Learn to Cheer:
Most N.B.A. announcers do not stand and lead cheers. But then, most fans don’t need the cajoling. [Nets announcer David] Diamante is only doing what’s necessary, injecting enthusiasm into a crowd that is sometimes too hip, too casual, too detached for its own good.
Eighty-one games into this inaugural season, newly branded Nets fans are — like the team they follow — still learning, still carving an identity, still developing emotional bonds.
From retail outlet on Barclays Center plaza
As the comedian Jimmy Fallon, a season ticket-holder, was quoted acerbically observing in a recent GQ article: “No one’s standing up. See? They need to work on this. This will not be here in a year. It’s a new team. They haven’t figured out what they want to be yet.”
The good news, seven months into the Brooklyn era, is that the Nets have turned out to be a pretty good team, with a growing (if sometimes aloof) fan base, wildly popular merchandise and promising results on and off the court. 
...The arena has been filled to 97 percent of capacity, with an average attendance of 17,196 and 22 sellouts — better than any of the Nets’ last 14 seasons in New Jersey. Their games have drawn an average of 93,000 viewers on YES, a 238 percent increase over last season. The network has set the single-game viewership record twice this season. 
The Nets’ sleek black-and-white jersey is fourth on the N.B.A.’s best-seller list. In the neighborhoods surrounding Barclays Center, fans wearing Nets gear outnumber those wearing Knicks gear by a wide margin.
No mention of the missteps noted by The Brooklyn Game, though Beck does describe the variable on-court performance by point guard Deron Williams and shooting guard Joe Johnson.

As for the loss of Jay-Z, who "gave the franchise a legitimacy it sorely needed after decades of irrelevance in New Jersey," that's not needed now:
But that presence was more critical last fall, and in the years preceding the move, than it is today. The Nets are established now, their place in the Brooklyn consciousness secure. The perceived value of Jay-Z as player recruiter never materialized, despite his popularity. LeBron James never came... 
On their best nights, fans start the “Brooklyn” chants without prompting, stand without being told and scream from start to finish. Occasionally, they need a nudge. But it is just Year 1, after all.

Playoffs theme on video

To pump up fans, according to NetsDaily, the Nets have created the video below, which debuted at last night's final-season game and will run on arena screens during the playoffs. (Note one slogan: "My borough is thorough.")

A fan's notes

Bryan Joiner yesterday wrote on The Classical, The Home Team: A year with the Brooklyn Nets: a dull team, but the home team., about his desire to have season tickets for a team, and how it was finally fulfilled when the Nets moved 12 minutes from his apartment:
It has been better than I'd hoped. Everyone has a different idea of what it means to go to a basketball game, and I’ve used my access to bring a whole host of friends, even those who don’t like sports but are willing to go for the sake of the in-venue Fatty Cue and cheese-covered corn. I’m probably a typical Nets season ticket holder, in that I’m a so-so fan of the team—the Knicks fans absolutely slaughtered the Nets fans during their visits, and the Celtics, Lakers and Heat fans didn’t do too badly themselves—but this year was all gravy from the get-go. The Nets had finally shown up, and that was the important part. I had shown up with them. And so had Maria.
What the Nets lack in presence on the court, they make up for in the stands. This is a good thing, because this Nets team is rice-cake level bland.
... [Fellow fan] Maria’s skipping the playoffs. She didn’t feel like shelling out the cash. I can’t blame her. This team was never about winning a championship. The championship was getting the team here, and getting ourselves into the building. I’ve been playing with house money since game one. It’s all I ever wanted, and it’s as much about Maria as it is about the Nets. On the court, the Nets are doing work. It’s all fun and games in the stands. I’ve had more fun than I deserve, and exactly as much as I’d dreamed. It's not their victories I'm worried about, and I suspect I'm not alone.
Barclays grows in consciousness

Crain's New York Business wrote yesterday, Barclays takes on the Garden in huge title fight: Brooklyn upstart makes major gains over its venerable rival in the battle for share of the national consciousness under “famous New York City arenas.”:
On a recent episode of ABC's hit show Nashville, the two country-music mega stars, played by Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere, arrive in New York City for the biggest show of their tour. It's no surprise the crooners sell out their concert, but what's perhaps unexpected is where. The newbie Barclays Center, rather than the world famous Madison Square Garden, gets the big-league cameo on prime-time national TV. And that was just one of several recent star turns for the new Brooklyn stadium on the block.
In February, Barclays was mentioned on an episode of How I Met Your Mother, when two characters got kicked out of the stadium. And next month, "Barclays" will be a clue contestants on Jeopardy! will need to know about, sources said.
These days Barclays is not just giving the Garden a run for its money as an alternative venue for the Rolling Stones or the Ringling Bros. circus—now it's competing with its rival as the arena associated with New York City in the national consciousness. And some of that attention came merely because it offered producers a better deal than the Garden.
"The truth is, [that episode of Nashville] was originally written for Madison Square Garden," said Loucas George, producer of Nashville. "We reached out to Madison Square Garden, but they wanted to charge us a lot of money to use their name, which I thought was crazy because we're basically giving them a national ad spot."
I love how the Jeopardy reference is attributed to "sources said." I'd bet the "sources" are people associated with Barclays who are not supposed to be publicizing it.

A new celebrity comes to fore?

Nets Daily reported yesterday:
Tech investor and social media pioneer Alexis Ohanian told Bloomberg News Tuesday that he's "absolutely" interested in buying jay-Z's shares, equal to 0.067 percent of the Nets team and a somewhat larger percentage of the Barclays Center holding company. Ohanian is a native of Brooklyn and Nets season ticket-holder.
Diedre Bolton, host of Bloomberg's "Money Moves" asked Ohanian, founder of, about his interest in the team.
"You're a big Nets fan," noted Bolton. "Jay-Z has to sell off his stake which is pretty small. Would you buy it?"
"Absolutely," answered Ohanian. "In fact, I have tried to make as many public and private overtures as I can to let HOVA know that I would absolutely be honored to buy those shares."
...[Ohanian] posted Wednesday on NetsDaily, saying he hoped to "make the Nets the most internet team in the league" and posted this image. Ohanian has been nominated for the TIME 100 this year and previously was named to Forbes "30 Under 30."