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At London conference, Irina Pavlova talks about women, family ... and bias

Brooklyn Nets

Speaking at a London conference on attracting more women to professional sports, Irina Pavlova talked about how the Nets have targeted female fans by creating opportunities for women to root for the team ... along with  their families.

Stefan Bondy reported she also said that her boss, Mikhail Prokhorov, had faced "ridiculous" criticism from "ignorant people" who've used Russian stereotypes to attack him.

Noting that the Nets first cast a wide global branding effort on arrival in Brooklyn, Pavlova told the Leaders in Sport Conference in London that the Nets eventually "segmented" the brand, and appealing to women was "important to us," both as working women and mothers.

She explained that the Nets marketing to women took a lot of different tacks, from creating the Nets as a "lifestyle brand" to offering different entertainment options at games where women and families were more likely to show up to pushing the idea of "cross sampling" at Barclays Center, hoping that a positive experience at a concert or family show would get a family to "sample" a Nets game down the road.

"It's about getting them into the building and getting them to like the building itself," Pavlova told an interviewer.  "Their first experience might be Disney on Ice. They're more likely to say 'let's go to a basketball game. We feel very fortunate to lure them in and get them to watch more basketball."

She pointed to ticketing plans offered to families once they decide to become fans, even if only casual ones, noting the team's Family Four package - four tickets to four games, with a $60 food credit. Those plans are geared to weekend or Friday night games, events that working women with families would more likely attend, rather than rushing home and grab the kids for a 7 p.m. start on a week night.

Once at games, she noted, there are kid- and family-friendly entertainment options, like face painting and balloon animals on the concourse. There's more of that, she added, on weekend games when more families and women show up.

Small things, she noted, can add to making the job of a mother easier, like the building's extensive wi-fi system that can keep women in touch and children entertained.  It's subtle but effective.

Pavlova also noted that it's not just about tickets to the games. The team's merchandise is tailored to women's tastes, noting women tend to buy t-shirts -- "and we have a variety of t-shirts" -- while men buy caps.

In general, Pavlova spoke about how the team's lifestyle brand had more of a mass appeal than the team expected and she's still amazed by it.

"My hearts skips a beat when I see a fan wearing black and white and I want to go over and hug them," she joked. "And  when i do, they often tell me they're not really a fan, but they like the colors." She added that even the deepest blue doesn't have the appeal of black.

She also gave shoutouts to Jay-Z for helping the team early, noting "he continues to play a role", and Brett Yormark who described as "detail-oriented CEO who walks the arena every morning" looking for issues big and small. That way, she argues, the arena will always look as new as the day it opened.

On the subject of Prokhorov and bias against foreign owners, she echoed what he has said in the past. Asked if he was faced with the same kind of prejudice directed at the Pakistani-American owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

"Early on, definitely. And again, still I read some stuff in the press and ignorant people will say what they say," responded Pavlova. "They are stereotypes that all Russians are crooks, they come in with suitcases with money. It’s hard to say anything to this. It’s just ridiculous.

"But it’s something you have to deal with and I think if there were any doubts about if our owner is serious or if he’s a businessman early on, I think with experience and basically showing people what you’re about, that’s when those doubts dissipate. But there’s always going to be people who say things that are just ignorant."

The conference was sponsored by Barclays and hosted by F.C. Chelsea which is owned by Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, a friend of Prokhorov.