Nets Have The Sizzle, Will The Steak Follow?

Last week the Brooklyn Nets started their countdown clock to the long-discussed opening of Americas newest showplace, the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. Not a day goes by without another announcement of a concert, high school hoops extravaganza, new billboard going up, community visit, concert or “innovation” as the organization continues to scream “Look at Me” to anyone who will listen or not.

The team has re-made itself on the court under GM Billy King, re-signing Deron Williams and adding Joe Johnson while adding a host of other new faces to go along with the new look and their new arena. Every week there is a new boast of a sponsor or a ticket milestone, along with more than a few rumblings of other major attractions like an NHL game or the Women’s Final Four in the offing soon or down the line. Promote, promote, promote and never miss a moment to remind someone that a new building will be coming into vogue in at least part of the world’s largest media market, in its most populous borough.

There is probably no organization on the planet which has tried as hard to find ways to place itself in the media than the Nets and the Barclays Center in the past 18 months. From the added exposure coming from Kris Humphries’ ill-fated and short lived Karadashian experience, to the constant push of brand partners and the man who is pulling the pieces together from a sales side (Bret Yormark), everyone has at least a casual knowledge of where the Nets will be.  Every day there is a reason to at least be intrigues by the goings-on in Brooklyn, whether you like NBA basketball or not.

Now of course all of this is not going on in a vacuum. Just across the river Madison Square Garden is undergoing their second summer of renovation, occasionally parachuting in with updates for the media on what a renovated MSG will look like like. Following their Olympic performance, stars like Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler have made their way back to Gotham to grab their own headlines with teammate Amar’e Stoudamire taking in the US Open or attending Fashion Week, and if the NHL does start on time, the Rangers have made themselves more media friendly with their marketing of Henrik Lundquist and company. There is also the Nets recent home, the Prudential Center, which still remains the most accessible arena in the area thus far, with a team (the Devils) that has done a great job of engaging in the social space.  So the Nets and the Barclays Center have take the aggressive approach to position themselves and their partners as the “must see” venue of the fall, each and every day in the marketplace.

Now will it work?  First of all the market is big enough to adequately support the venues full time. The amount of shows and events coming through such a wide media market with amazing public transportation hubs can keep the event calendar flowing. The rebirth of New York as a tourist destination has also helped fill the distressed inventory of MSG in recent years, and that draw to a borough not far away should also help the Barclays. Will the team play well enough to have fans show up night in and night out for games against subpar opponents?  Will the arena be a technological innovation along the lines of Kansas City’s Livestrong Park, which has emerged as the most tech-savvy of all new facilities to date? Will die-hard Knicks fans who have to traverse Penn Station on their daily commutes be drawn consistently to an aggressive  vibe in Brooklyn? What happens when the sizzle comes off the new arena in a years time? Old habits are tough to break, and that’s when the real selling will come in…on the rainy days when there are few “firsts” left in the Nets bag of tricks. As much as the Jets have sold hype, the bottom line is their Stadium co-tenants, the Giants, have found smart and innovative ways to engage their fans AND win, which in a market like New York, is what you need.

There is no doubt the Nets and their PR and Marketing teams have created sizzle. Now they have to serve the steak as well. Great first step, one worth watching for what the next one will be.