In a discussion with a British sports business publication last week, Brett Yormark hinted that the Nets could be headed to Russia or even India next year, presumably in preseason, adding that he's already spoken to the NBA about it.
"One of my meetings (in London) was to stop to see Ben Morel at the NBA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) office and we're discussing where the Nets might be next year," Yormark told James Emmett of SportsPro's Brand Conference. "And we're talking about a possible exhibition game in Russia because obviously with the Russian owner, we got a great connection with that market. And there's even talk that we might go into India."
The NBA has identified both countries as priorities for its international marketing effort. Yormark provided no further details.
The news was part of a lengthy, wide-ranging and ultimately frank discussion that also included details on the contrasts between the Nets and Islanders moves to Brooklyn, admitting that the Nets "shut the door" on New Jersey with no negative effect and noting that the Isles' fans on Long Island have been resistant to the changes that come with their move. "The fans don't like that," he said of the Islanders adopting what he called Brand Brooklyn."They don't like change at all." He reiterated that the black-and-white jersey that some fans have vilified is "the No. 1 selling jersey in the NHL."
In other news, Yormark said the NBA is thinking of loosening its rules on individual teams' globalization efforts, adding that the Nets own black-and-white jersey is "a top three seller in China," that "the Chinese consumer does
gravitate to black-and-white as a color palette"and "Brand Brooklyn," a phrase he used repeatedly in discussing the Nets and Islanders. "It's iconic, it's global, it's hip, it's cool. It represents strength and grittiness, the Nets and Barclays CEO enthused.
He also noted the organization's fledgling venue business, which includes Barclays Center as well as the Nassau Coliseum and Brooklyn Paramount rehabs, is expanding. "You'll hear in the coming weeks, our first foray into Manhattan. Those decisions have all been driven, based on that we want to grow our venue business, create some scale." He added that the organization will soon announce a naming partner for the "Long Island Sports and Entertainment Village."
He noted as well that Barclays is interested in hosting some ESports -- digital online gaming -- championships and talked about the changes in his "personal brand." Here are some of the highlights...
On the Nets move from New Jersey.
"It was a bit of a process. When I first took over the Nets about 11 years ago, there was a thought that we should transition the name 'Nets' over. There was a thought at least initially -- and Jay-Z was a bit of the co-architect of the new brand, if you will, in Brooklyn -- that we should tap into the heritage of the brand, which was from Long Island."Then shortly before we ultimately launched, there was a thought of let's embrace Brand Brooklyn. It's iconic, it's global, it's hip, it's cool. It represents strength and grittiness. And we felt that was a better position for us to take, because Brooklyn was the brand. We felt there was enough equity, given the 35-year history of the Nets in New Jersey that we should keep that part of the name but marry it with this iconic global Brand Brooklyn. And I think we did an incredible job in transitioning the brand, really embracing all the good that Brooklyn has to offer."In many respects, when you look at a crowded market place like New York where there are nine pro sports teams and growing, you need a key differentiator to build that brand and for us, it was Brand Brooklyn."
On Imbuing a team with coolness.
"It was a combination of factors. Jay-Z was probably the biggest. He is an icon in Brooklyn. He provided us with immediate street credibility. He's a tastemaker and an obvious influencer.
"The third factor was working with adidas and making sure we would create a color palette that represented cool and hip but was also timeless. And that's what helped us identify the black-and-white as the lead colors for the Brooklyn Nets."
On the Islander transformation.
"The fans don't like me on twitter. One of the things I do use is social media to truly determine the fans appetite for either transforming a brand or modifying a brand. This has been a great process with the Islanders. Because when we left New Jersey, we were really shutting the door on the 35-year history of the New Jersey Nets and candidly, most of the people in the room, most of the fans today don't even remember the days in New Jersey. And itwas only three years ago that we played there.
"The Islanders is a very different process. There is a tradition that goes along with Islanders hockey. They won the Stanley Cup four times in the 80's. They do have a hard-core fan base, although they don't have many fans, those fans that do exist are very hard-core and very vocal. So for me, it was a brand balance. It was how do you maintain some of the current traditions and relocate those traditions into Brooklyn while at the same time embracing a new
fan base in Brooklyn and beyond and infuse that Brooklyn attitude and grit into the overall brand architecture. And I think we've done that.
"On Opening Night, which is next Friday, you'll see a lot of traditions that existed in Long Island for 43 years that have transferred into Brooklyn. At the same time, we're going to infuse that Brooklyn attitude. In fact, we launched a third jersey where in the NHL you can wear it 12 times. And it's black and white and it speaks to the colors of Brooklyn. It speaks to the borough in a very authentic way. And in some respects, it tries to create connectivity with Brand Brooklyn Nets.
"The fans don't like that in Long Island. They don't like change at all. However, the new fans in Brooklyn love it because you've got to speak that fanbase in an authentic way. ANd I think we've done that. And in fact, since we've launched that jersey, it's been the No. 1 selling jersey in the NHL. So there is a demographic that is gravitating to it. Again, we want to speak to that new fan while at the same time we can't alienate that old fan because you want to grow that ticket base. So, you don't want to give up what you've had."
On going global, within NBA restrictions.
"Adam Silver and his incredible team is looking to provide more flexibility, meaning teams can truly globalize themselves. I was here yesterday for meetings and one of my meetings was to stop to see Ben Morel at the NBA office and we're discussing where the Nets might be next year. And we're talking about a possible exhibition game in Russia because obviously with the Russian owner we got a great connection with that market. And there's even talk that we might go into India. So from a Nets perspective, we continue to push that envelope to try to globalize the brand and the franchise.
"And for us, we've done it in lots of different ways to date, whether it's playing globally, whether it's having an identity that speaks to the global market place. We're a top three seller, our jersey, in China. The Chinese consumer does gravitate to black-and-white as a color palette. They like Brand Brooklyn. And with our digital platforms, we're able to speak to fans throughout the world. And again, the league is giving us more latitude to do that on a daily basis.
On bigger plans in real estate, aka the "venue" business.
"I don't want to say that real estate is driving our enterprise growth or how we look at brands but it does play a major factor. Once we identify from a real estate perspective where we want to go next, whether it's Nassau (Coliseum) or Paramount (Theater) or some of the other things we're working on in our pipeline, then we really do look at the brand architecture of that particular location, the identity of that particular venue, whether it exists or not, and
how we want to position it.
"In the recent decisions we've made, they have been driven by real estate, getting into the real estate market in Long Island, furthering our footprint in Brooklyn and you'll hear in the coming weeks, our first foray into Manhattan. Those decisions have all been driven, based on that we want to grow our venue business, create some scale in and around New York and what's driving that is really the real estate values."
On his personal brand.
"I'm very conscious of my personal brand and I think I reinvented my personal brand as my career has grown. In Jersey, not that I was about 'more is more," but we were in survival mode. So my brand had a different meaning in Jersey. In Brooklyn, it's changed. I think as you grow in your career, and you entertain different environments, your personal brand goes along with it. As we've positioned ourselves as a premium product in Brooklyn, as we've taken the 'less is more' philosophy, that's had a little bit more of a rub off on my brand."
On ESports and Barclays Center.
"I'm engaged with some of the ESports developers and IMG and Turner Sports just announced a new initiative in ESports. They're going to play their championships ultimately in a venue. So I'm embracing it. We're in the context business. And from a venue perspective, I've got to embrace all forms of content because I want that content to play out in Brooklyn. So, I've been negotiating, in fact, with those parties to bring some of that content into Brooklyn. From a building perspective, I like it. because we've got 365 days to fill...
"To take it one step further, to the extent that we can participate, from an equity standpoint, we're pursuing that now, too."
On naming rights partner for Nassau Coliseum.
"We are about to name a naming rights partner for that venue. We can't disclose that today. We went about it in a different way. The project itself is more than just the coliseum. We're developing 200,000 square feet of retail right next door in phase 1. Then probably later, in three to five years, we'll do another 200,000 square feet in retail. So ulimately, we'll have about 400,000 square feet in retail that compliments the venue. SO it's going to be a year
"What we've decided to do and thankfully, we've been successful in doing it is we sold the naming rights to the entire project because I think rebranding the Coliseum would have been challenging. It's 43 years old. It's implanted in everyone's mindset. Even if we tried to rebrand it, they would have always called it 'the Coliseum' or 'Nassau Coliseum.'"
"So we decided to take a different approach. And I think the approach we've taken is quite different than has been typically done in naming rights but it delivered us not only a great strategic partner but a great financial deal."