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Nets board member: Selling a team is not just about wins

A Night Of Style & Glamour To Welcome Newlyweds Kim Kardashian And Kris Humphries - Inside Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

At a sports marketing conference in Moscow, a member of the Nets board of directors said fans are embracing the team’s patient rebuild ... and that celebrity can sell tickets sometimes when wins can’t.

Sergei Kushchenko, Mikhail Prokhorov’s chief sports adviser and a Nets director, said the rebuild has excited the fanbase and it’s producing results on the team’s bottom line.

"We occupy the last place in the league, but ticket sales have increased. Sponsors are interested,” Kushchenko told Marspo, a European sports marketing conference. “We sell a story, saying to our fans: ‘Guys, please be patient, we are developing the project, we will recruit young players, especially those who are from Brooklyn’” ... an apparent reference to Isaiah Whitehead.

Although home attendance is up only a few hundred from last season, team insiders say the turnstile number — people who actually show up for games — jumped by about 1,000 this season. That helps with concessions, team gear sales.

Kushchenko, who’s also president of the Russian basketball league, added that sometimes other factors off the court will affect sales. He recalled what happened when Kris Humphries started dating Kim Kardashian while the team was still in New Jersey.

“Our season tickets sold out within two hours after one of our players started dating Kim Kardashian. Then I thought, what's the difference how we played?’ "- he said, jokingly.

He also credited the Nets “sports managers” for coming up with an “unconventional move” that he said helped sell out Barclays recently.

"The last story: we sold a full house at the game against New York with a margin of 20%, by hanging a banner of famous rapper Biggie Smalls. He was a Brooklyn guy,” noted Kushchenko, referring to the Nets decision to honor Smalls, the Brooklyn rapper on the 20th anniversary of his death.

In general, he told the conference things are changing in sports marketing, particularly when selling to a new audience.

“If you set the task to fill the arena - no need to get attached to the results and victories. The emphasis today is on the other. It is necessary to organize the show, a celebration, improve service, and then the fan will come.”