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January 28, 2010

A Marketing Quandary: How Do You Sell a 4-40 Team?

City Room
by A.G. Sulzberger

Hey, why send a reporter to read through boring Master Closing documents (which might reveal embarrassing information about your development partner's Brooklyn land grab) when you could be doing a puff piece about "Team Hype" instead?

The outreach reflects the Nets’ effort to build brand loyalty – “seeding” the fan base, in the words of the team’s chief executive, Brett Yormark — in Brooklyn, in anticipation of a long planned move to a proposed arena at Atlantic Yards. But because the move is not expected to take place for at least another full season and still faces a number of hurdles, the team has also been trying to maintain the loyalty of those New Jersey fans who are actually buying tickets.

Actually, the move will not take place for at least another two years — if ever.

This dual marketing effort would be tricky in the best of circumstances. In light of the team’s record, Mr. Yormark said the strategy had been to “sell fun, not wins” to the fans in New Jersey and “to sell hope, to sell the going-forward story” to the fans in Brooklyn.

In some ways the children at the Brooklyn Hospital Center were the perfect audience for athletes who had no interest in talking about the 33-point loss a few nights earlier — the team’s 11th straight defeat.

Many of the youngest were fixated on the furry mascot accompanying the athletes, Sly the Silver Fox. One boy had to keep being reminded that the men played basketball, not baseball. And others simply watched the scene unfold with the morose look common to any medical waiting room.

Sly Fox does have broad appeal, as the photo would indicate (click to enlarge).

Even the adults who recognized the players mostly offered their critiques out of earshot. One hospital employee posed for a photo with the two then retreated to the other side of the room to admit that he stopped watching the team, adding, “I don’t know what their problem is.” A doctor, while praising the young talent, called the season “embarrassing.”


Posted by eric at January 28, 2010 2:24 PM