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Nets new No. 2: ‘Big Three’ has amped up ‘every business metric’

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Toronto Raptors v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

In his first interview since taking up the No. 2 job at the Nets parent company, BSE Global, Michael Wandell reports that the “Big Three” of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden have pushed the franchise brand to new heights.

Even with the pandemic emptying Barclays Center, Wandell, Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer, told Terry Lefton of Sports Business Journal he can see numbers jump.

The addition of the superstars has amped up “every business metric.” Lefton quoted Wandell as saying. Social media has exploded, as have sales of Nets licensed merchandise at the team’s online store and TV ratings... particularly since the arrival of Harden.

Here are some specifics...

  • The Nets’ James Harden welcome graphic was the team’s most engaged Instagram post of all time and that same post on Twitter drew seven times the number of the team’s followers on that social media site.
  • Online revenue for netsstore.com has nearly doubled online sales from ALL of last season, and we aren’t to All-Star break yet.
  • In the first two weeks of Harden’s time in New York, Nets ratings on YES surpassed Knicks ratings on MSG despite the Knicks surprising season, In fact, Wandell noted, ratings on YES Network are up 69 percent overall since Harden’s first game with the team on January 16.

Of course, it’s not just the local ratings. The Nets are pumping up numbers for the national broadcasters. Four of the Nets five games on their current West Coast swing are being broadcast nationally, on ABC, TNT and ESPN.

The Nets - Clippers game on TNT earlier this month averaged 1.6 million viewers to garner a 32 percent increase in viewership on TNT over last year’s corresponding game. In New York, the game averaged 196,000 total viewers (peaking at 339,000 during the 10:00-10:15 pm quarter-hour as the game came to an exciting close).

Wandell, who was hired in mid-December, had most recently served as Senior Vice President of Global Partnerships with Dodgers. Prior to that, he was Vice President of International Business Development at the NBA where he focused on creating large-scale global partnerships across Asia, India, Africa, Europe, and the Americas. His tenure with the NBA also included time in Beijing and Shanghai overseeing all business development for NBA China.

With the Nets, he’s responsible for BSE Global’s ticket sales, corporate hospitality and global marketing partnerships as well as the long-term brand strategy for the company. He told Lefton that Nets ownership, led by Joe and Clara Wu Tsai, was a big factor in his decision to join the Nets ... as was the organization’s international ambitions.

“You had a team with new ownership, in the No. 1 market with a committed ownership group and a desire to sell internationally,” Wandell said. “That made it more interesting and relevant to me than any property.”

While waiting for the return of fans to Barclays Center, which will start on reduced scale a week from Tuesday, Wandell said the Nets are pushing for changes in the arena infrastructure. They will include “a revamped courtside club for premium customers, a new team store with doubled square footage, and 2,500 square feet of new LED signage at the arena’s main entrance,” Lefton noted.

Some of the renovations are already underway, others still in the planning stages. For example, the addition of new entrances along Flatbush and Atlantic avenues has yet to get underway and Verizon will soon install 5G service throughout the nine-year-old building.

Wandell confirmed the interest in sports betting, which awaits changes in New York law. As reported by Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Report, BSE Global has been lobbying for the changes. Wandell called it “an eight-figure opportunity.”

He spoke as well about changing the long-time strategy of piling up corporate sponsorships at Barclays Center. He said he wants to put quality above quantity in assembling the sponsorship portfolio.

“Less is more; the idea is for us is to hyperfocus on fewer, larger and more strategic partnerships,” said Wandell, noting the recent 5G sponsorship with Verizon as an example. “We’ll be doing more with fewer brands, so you’ll see the number of partners here decrease, while we drive revenue the other direction.”

Overall, Barclays, the Nets and Liberty have about 100 sponsorship deals in place, Without saying how many will be excised, Wandell told Lefton it will be along the lines of what took place during his Dodgers tenue, when 125 sponsors were whittled to 68 by the time he left, late last year.

Before Mikhail Prokhorov bought interests in the team and arena 12 years ago, the organization was strapped for cash and took on endorsement deals of all sizes to ensure revenue flows needed to entice financing.