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The transformation from "punchline to juggernaut"

Brooklyn Nets/Adam Pantozzi

In the annals of branding, the Brooklyn Nets are a case study. You already know the numbers. The Nets went from 31st (behind the Sonics) to 4th in merchandise sales; 30th to 16th in attendance, with 26 sellouts, up from one. Each was the biggest increase in the NBA last season, as was the jump in local television ratings. This season, the numbers are on the rise again: 2,000 new season ticket-holders and a dramatic increase in future Hall of Famers on the roster.

But the numbers don't tell the full story: it's more about image than dramatic increases in numbers. The Nets are no longer the laughingstock of the NBA. They are a serious title contender. It's something that is lost on Knick fans and others. The Nets have established themselves in New York., an online magazine that looks at the nexus of content and branding, examines the transformation, "How the Nets marketing department managed to completely change the face of a franchise in two short years is one of the more amazing transformations in the history of sports."

The article exaggerates some aspects of the transformation: Brett Yormark was --and is-- more important to the rebranding than Steve Stoute, Jay-Z's marketing partner; the importance of luring Dodgers fans is minimal --a 12-year-old in 1957 is 68 now, not much of a demographic. It also under estimates the role of Mikhail Prokhorov's millions (billions?) in the makeover, barely mentioning him. There's also one error: The "Broook-lyn" chant didn't start at a Hawks game in March ... nor was it encouraged by the scoreboard. It began October 13 in the Atlantic City Convention Hall at the end of the Nets' first preseason game in black-and-white ... and it was spontaneous. Inconvenient but true.

All that said, it's a good look at what the Nets have accomplished ... and what's left.