Mikhail Prokhorov may have famously said “We will turn Knick fans into Nets fans,” back when he bought the team in 2010, but the Nets chief marketing officer says in an interview published this week that Brooklyn’s team is about Brooklyn and as such, conversion is not part of the plan.
Elisa Padilla, the Nets chief marketer, told a branding agency on August 16 that the Nets “respect” their New York neighbors and that their marketing plan reflects that. Rather than go for the Knicks fans in their home base of Manhattan, the team believes there’s enough of a population and enough of an interest in Brooklyn to establish a Nets fanbase.
“From the beginning, our mindset wasn’t to come into Brooklyn and convert Knicks fans. That wasn’t on our radar. We had been very respectful, when you look at us on the map and you look at the 75-mile radius. We have been very respectful.
“We will not do any marketing above 14th Street in Manhattan. We want to be respectful of our neighbors. At the end of the day, there are 2.6 million people in Brooklyn. I think that there’s enough this year that we can fill up a 17,000 plus arena.
“For us, we want to be very authentic. We are the new kids on the block. In no shape or form, do we walk around with rose colored glasses, thinking that we want to compete with a legacy brand like the Knicks – and on the Barclays Center, like Madison Square Garden. That’s not our approach. We want to develop a really authentic relationship, if you will, with our fans and with our guests at Barclays Center.”
Of course, early on, the Nets did all they could to push the Knicks buttons, including a giant billboard, “the Blueprint for Greatness,” across from the Garden. Prokhorov was even quoted in New York Magazine calling Knicks owner James Dolan “that little man,” a comment that drove commissioner David Stern to set up a meeting between the two owners in 2013.
Padilla, who joined the Nets while they were still in New Jersey, says as well that the Nets believed early on that the New Jersey fans would not follow the team 11 miles and across two rivers. In fact, there were fewer fans making the trek than the organization had hoped for. So, the focus, she said, was always on Brooklyn.
“From the Nets perspective, we spent countless hours in countless meetings, talking about the strategy and the brand voice, and what it meant to the team. We knew that the New Jersey fans were not going to follow the team, due to the geographic location. We took the approach of, ‘you know what, this is really a huge opportunity for us, to really develop a new fan base.’”
It wasn’t easy early on, she admits. “When we launched on April 30th of 2012, we only had four players on our roster. The only thing that we had to on goal was our logo, and it was very successful for us.”
That logo and the uniform design, Padilla adds, turned out to be “timeless ... classic.”
As for the Nets, this year, Padilla didn’t get into specifics about wins and losses, team success, but instead focused on the team’s work ethic ... and fans’ appreciation of it.
“What I’m really, really excited about for next season, is that our new general manager and coach, had put together a team that, you know what, they’re going to work hard and play hard, and I know that fans rally around athletes that give their best. They may not win every single game, but I know that the team that they’ve assembled, is really going to play hard. You know what, fans know when players show up and fake it. We’ve lived through that, and I’m excited to say that there is something different on the horizon.”
She didn’t identify who may have “faked” it.