A few weeks back, I was visiting New York and had the opportunity to go to a Brooklyn Nets game. Having grown up a Knicks fan in Albany, and now a Warriors fan based in California the last 15 years, I was intrigued to see what Brooklyn’s basketball team was like. I have to say I was extremely impressed. And as an ad guy, I found a trip to the Barclays Center a master class in branding!
The Nets’ move from New Jersey to Brooklyn may have only been about 20 miles, but it’s a world away. That shift in location brought with it a shift in attitude, not least of which comes from the association with Jay-Z and hip-hop in general. The Nets feel like a team that aspires to represent more than a location. I may never change my allegiance from the Knicks as “New York’s team, but the Nets could take ownership of a tagline much greater: that of a generation!
The colors are stark — a simple black-and-white motif — and the music is omnipresent — driving beats with a real sense of swagger. The arena is clean, centrally located and everyone who works there is smiling, helpful and demonstrates a true excitement to be in the house. The food is delicious. The logo is everywhere, on hats, banners and signage. Brooklyn even takes advantage of its star quality courtside, with actors and sports stars lining the court for a show-like experience in the “borough that sports forgot” for many years. It feels like you’ve stepped into an exclusive event, more so than when you enter Madison Square Garden, which is clearly recognized as the world’s stage.
While the Knicks may have a sense of history, the Nets represent a feeling of “now.” They may not be as good as some of their peers, even though they’ll make the playoffs this year. Regardless of their status as a contender or not, there’s a feeling of excitement and a level of engagement not present at other arenas. They bring you in. They get you pumped.
Why should you care about this perspective? As an ad guy, I tell people to look around and find inspiration from the least likely of sources. When the Nets decided to move into New York, many people were pessimistic about their ability to succeed. How could they gain a foothold in the city owned by the Knicks? The answer was simple: to present a different experience, one that resonates with their target audience. They learned what their audience wants (swagger was key among them) and delivered it in everything they did: food, colors, logo, music, the events they host to balance out the arena. All of it carries over to the brand they’re putting out there.
As a brand manager, you tackle the same set of challenges. Though you may not have the same tools in your toolbox to work with, the solution is the same. Understand your audience and deliver what they want in a way that expresses what you want them to hear.
The Nets are not the only shining example of branding in the sports world, but they are certainly one of the newest to take that step into reimagining and relaunching their brand. To me, as a student of advertising, it feels like what Cadillac did about 12 years ago when they rode the opening drum beat of “Rock N Roll” by Led Zeppelin to relaunch their brand for a new generation. Remember that?
How are you identifying the needs of your customers and moving ahead with them?
By Cory Treffiletti
Cory, senior vice president of marketing, BlueKai, is a founder, author, marketer, and evangelist.
Courtesy of MediaPost