It was the late Hall of Famer, Al Davis, longtime owner of the Oakland Raiders and NFL pioneer, who coined the phrase: Just win, baby.
No matter what the sport, it was as simple as that. At the end of the day it was and— for the most part—still is about winning championships. Owners are emptying their checkbooks to reel in marquee free agents while general managers are trading away the farm for what they hope is the very best player in the game.
Championships, though, almost certainly equate to a spike in revenue and, of course, better brand recognition and loyalty. Teams that win and win often have the most devoted fans, both locally and nationwide. Last year the NFL raked in $9 billion in revenue, and that number is only expected to grow exponentially in the coming years with ridiculous TV deals spewing from every which way.
Courtesy of Investorplace.com
Teams that sold for $70 million a few decades ago are now worth up to $1 billion on average. Not every sports franchise can stack up with the likes of the New York Yankees, Dallas Cowboys or New England Patriots, the elite brands in professional sports. In total, the three have combined for 13 world championships in the past 20 years.
At least for the aforementioned trio, winning in part shaped each of their brands into what they are today. A team with 27 rings like the Yankees is much more endearing than a team with zero.
But how about those that suffered through decades of mediocrity (or a brand that’s been OK for years, but is striving to be great)? A recent profile written by David Halbfinger of The New York Times spurred thought of how some teams with limited success are bolstering and reinvigorating their product.
Let’s hear it for New York
A new multi-million dollar, multi-use, state-of-the-art arena: Check.
A stylish, yet plain, logo and color scheme that will appeal to the right demographic (males between the ages 12-35): Check.
Oh, and don’t forget to pencil in the “greatest rapper alive” for eight consecutive sellout shows in the advent of said arena’s much anticipated grand opening. By the way, that rapper just so happens to be part owner of the team.
Of course, I’m talking about Brooklyn-based rapper (and Blue Ivy’s dad) Jay-Z, who was part of a 2004 group that purchased a share of the then New Jersey Nets. According to the Times article, Jay-Z has since been instrumental in nearly every facet of the now Brooklyn Nets.
Courtesy of Dime Magazine
Jay-Z’s influence in the Nets’ move to Brooklyn, the sparkling new Barclays Center (just a few miles from where the rapper grew up), and a sleek new logo and color scheme, cannot be overstated.
Tell ’em, Jay
Jay-Z’s affiliation with the Nets has the ability to be a complete success. The entrepreneur’s rags-to-riches story identifies Nets fans (again, targeted demographic) with the team. His success in hip-hop increases the prospects of select players wanting to join the team as well.
Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, who purchased 80 percent of the team in 2009, has basically allowed Jay-Z to forge ahead with his savvy brand awareness and become, in essence, the face of the franchise (despite owning just 0.06 percent of the team!).
Courtesy of Nets.com
Heck with face of the franchise, Jay-Z could even be considered the franchise. How many other professional franchise owners design their team’s logo? (Shouldn’t that be left for some mysterious graphic designer no one has ever heard of?)
For those from Brooklyn, there’s an immediate sense of pride in that logo. In an article on the team web site, Nets CEO Brett Yormark said the logo is “‘the new badge for Brooklyn,’ and Jay- Z believes the design’s boldness demonstrates confidence in the new direction.” It’s a mix between the Nets’ recent shield logo and the original ‘B’ of the Brooklyn Dodgers—as well as New York City subway signs. Not only does the new design appeal to new fans (while possibly alienating old ones in New Jersey—despite ranking dead last in attendance last year), it evokes a renewed sense of loyalty from previous generations.
This isn’t the first time a franchise has relocated or regionalized, but the Nets have certainly capitalized on Jay-Z’s business prowess thus far. Prokhorov took on zero risk by disengaging from a floundering fan base in New Jersey in exchange for a hungrier following in Brooklyn.
It comes at an opportune time, too. Archrival (and top competitor) New York Knicks failed to reach the playoffs from 2004-10, and despite a slight resurgence (making the playoffs the past two seasons) there are some that think the Nets can exploit the Knicks’ shortcomings over the past decade—especially after they parted ways with worldwide sensation Jeremy Lin this summer.
Can rebranding yield positive results?
Coincidently, the last time the Nets rebranded was back in 1997. Shortly thereafter the team made their only two championship series appearances in franchise history.
Season tickets recently went on sale to the general public and new merchandise is flying off the shelf. According to ESPN:
- By July, 70 percent of the suites at Barclays Center had been sold.
- The Nets had already garnered more than two times the sponsorship revenue than they brought in all last season.
- The day the Nets unveiled their new logo, merchandise sales doubled the total website sales from all last season.
- The Brooklyn Nets were trending nationwide on Twitter on April 30 and the simple, though clever hashtag #hellobrooklyn “was seen by 25 million” Twitter users that day as well.
What’s more, after ranking dead last in attendance more than once during the past five years, NBA Commissioner David Sterns says he anticipates the Nets to soar into the league’s top five in revenue during their first season in Brooklyn.
In a day where the superstars are fleeing to prime locations like L.A. and South Beach, Brooklyn recently received a commitment from star point guard Deron Williams and landed six-time all-star Joe Johnson in a trade. The product on and off the floor (a brand new floor, mind you) is glistening, at least for the time being.
It’ll be fascinating to see if the hype surrounding the Nets’ move to Brooklyn grows. But after all, it’s all about winning championships, right?