As we wrote 10 days ago, a New York Times survey of basketball fans showed that the Nets are the No. 1 team in only one county in the US, but that county is Brooklyn, where the Nets now have a 22-to-21 percent advantage over the Knicks ... after only two years in the city.
The numbers are based on what one blogger called, accurately, an "imperfect proxy," that is Facebook "likes." Still, the Times survey and other data show the Nets rising in popularity in the city. Ticket, suite and merchandise sales are rising and the Nets are making more investments in and around the borough and city.
First, the survey. Taking a deeper dive into the data, the Nets are tops in only seven zipcodes the ones that make up the hipster belt near Barclays Center plus the Bedford-Stuyvesant and Canarsie sections of Brooklyn, to the southeast. The Nets and Knicks are tied in Bushwick and Williamsburg. The zipcode where the Nets are most popular is 11215, the Park Slope neighborhood in Brooklyn. It's 26 percent for the Nets, 21 percent for the Knicks there along with eight percent for the Lakers.
The Nets are also close to the Knicks in popularity in most Brooklyn neighborhoods and a few nearby precincts in Queens, like Breezy Point, where the Nets are surging and are barely behind the Knicks, 25 to 22. But for the most part, the data shows the Nets have a lot of work to do in Queens, which is the Knicks' stronghold. Nets don't even break into top three in popularity in Queens.
More interesting is that the Nets are becoming popular in enemy territory, Manhattan. In the Financial District, one subway stop away from Barclays, the Knicks are still most popular with 26 percent, but the Nets are up to 20 percent, according to the Times survey. Throughout Lower Manhattan and along the East Side, the Nets are now second to the Knicks, ahead of the pesky Lakers.
New Jersey is basically a lost cause, although since there is no historical data, it's hard to tell how much has been lost (or gained in New York). The Nets aren't the most popular team in any New Jersey zipcode. Not even close.
The team is most popular in Passaic and Bergen counties, in places like Pompton Lakes, Oakland, Franklin Lakes, but nowhere more than 16 percent identify themselves as Nets fans. There are other "clusters" in Bergen County close to the GW Bridge and in western Union County. (Moreover, the percentage of Nets fans headed home to New Jersey from Barclays in the 2012-12 season was about 10 percent. We're told the number is smaller this season.)
There are other indicators beyond Facebook "likes." As Darren Rovell reported last week as well, despite the Knicks' billion dollar improvements to Madison Square Garden, "the Nets say they had a 14 percent increase in ticket buyers from Manhattan this season."
Rovell also notes, "In 2011-12, the team's last year in New Jersey, the team was 27th in the league in ticket revenue. This year, a league source pegs them at No. 5." Merchandise sales went from 31st in New Jersey to fourth in 2012-13 and seventh in 2013-14. Black-and-white is everywhere. The Nets also lead the league in money spent per fan per game. That's food and merchandise.
The Nets continue to find ways to brand themselves as Brooklyn and by extension, New York. Their Coney Island Nets Store re-opened this weekend, its second summer, and they will soon unveil plans for their $45 million training facility in Industry City. Don't be surprised if the Nets make a point that the Knicks' facility is in Westchester County. They aren't the Knicks in terms of popularity but they're doing just fine.