Battle for NY: How the Nets Took Over Brooklyn | We Play
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Battle for NY: How the Nets Took Over Brooklyn

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 22 seconds

Since the Dodgers played their last game at Ebbots Field in 1957, Brooklyn hasn’t had a professional sports team to call its own.

However, the 2012-13 NBA season tip-off ended this 55 year hiatus, as the Nets now call Brooklyn home.

The relocation process was a long one, but during the off-season the excitement surrounding the franchise hit fever pitch, as highlighted by fans use of the #HelloBrooklyn hashtag.

The below graph shows use of the #HelloBrooklyn hashtag since the start of February 2012.


The prominent peaks represent:

  • April : Brooklyn Nets logo and merchandise is released.
  • June/July: Deron Williams re-signs with the Nets and Joe Johnson is acquired
  • August – October
    • Barclays Centre opened
    • Brooklyn Nets Jerseys released
    • Season tip off

Brooklyn’s Finest

To influence fan behaviour you first have to understand your fans and their values. Since their move, the focus of the franchise has been less about the Nets and more about their new home, Brooklyn, and its people.

The above video highlights this approach. Rather than the video being about the team’s star players it focuses on Brooklyn’s history, tradition, icons and how the city and team will fit together.

Real Recognise Real

The Nets approach has also been very human and personal throughout. Rather than being in your face and pushing the ‘celebrity’ of their players, the Nets took a more modest approach to reach out to the people of Brooklyn.

The below billboard featuring Deron Williams reads; “I’m no. 8, Deron Williams. Three-time NBA All-Star and father of four.”

By taking this approach the Nets are making their players come across as real people that you and I can relate to, not superstars. By opening up with “I’m no. 8, Deron Williams” the Nets are also being humble and not assuming the locals will know each player.

“I’m not a Businessman, I’m a Business, Man”

The move to Brooklyn was make or break for the Nets franchise. And whilst everything started falling into place on the court, and all the Nets done to win over the Brooklyn community off the court, something was still missing; something no-one could fake.

To my knowledge, none of the Nets’ star players are Brooklyn born; they’re outsiders trying to edge their way into the community. What the franchise needed was a hometown-kid; someone who reps Brooklyn, someone the borough’s people can relate to and someone to cosign the Nets arrival.

Step up hip-hop mogul, and Nets part-owner, Jay-Z.

Instagram photo of Jay-Z at the Barclays Centre

No matter how big or small the percentage of the Nets Jay owns, his impact on the franchise cannot be ignored. His personal story begins in Brooklyn, and anyone who has listened to his music will be able to tell you about his passion for the area.

Today, we live in a very personal world and Jay-Z has become one of the human faces of the Nets brand. The key to the success of this relationship is that Jay cares about the Nets, but more so he cares about Brooklyn and the community trusts him.

Jay is an influencer, not just in his native Brooklyn, but worldwide. More often than not if he says something is “cool”, it becomes “cool” and everything the Nets have done in Brooklyn has received Jay’s seal of approval. He was involved in the franchise’s branding, kit design and opened up the Barclays Centre with a string of sold-out concerts, wearing a Brooklyn Nets ‘Carter no. 4’ jersey.

The Nets are aiming to become a core part of the Brooklyn community, but this is a two way deal; for the Nets to become a part of Brooklyn life, first Brooklyn needs to become the heart and soul of the Nets brand, and with Jay-Z’s involvement they have Brooklyn at their core.

#clashoftheboroughs

Wednesday 26th November (early hours of November 27th GMT), saw the Brooklyn Nets face the New York Knicks for the first time, in what the NBA branded the #clashoftheboroughs.

Both teams went into the game with decent records. The Nets were 8-4, whilst their cross town rivals had come flying out the blocks, starting with a 6-0 record before the Memphis Grizzlies handed the Knicks their first loss.

The Knicks, Brooklyn-born forward, Carmelo Anthony also started the season flying, topping the NBA scoring charts and sparking MVP chants amongst fans.

The #clashoftheboroughs took place at the Barclays Centre and the Nets eventually ran out 96-89 winners after overtime.

The below graph shows the number of mentions each player received throughout the game.

Tyson Chandler was the most talked about player, with his fast-break alley-oop and putback dunk creating a lot of discussion. The Knicks centre finished the game with 28 points, 7 points behind the game’s leading scorer Carmelo Anthony.

Chandler and Anthony received 8,725 and 6,647 mentions respectively. With the Nets marquee backcourt of Joe Johnson (6,834 mentions) and Deron Williams (8,393 mentions) being Brooklyn’s most talked about players.

The below table has a breakdown of the most talked about players from the starting lineups.

‘12 Bonnie and Clyde

Since the season tipped off the Barclays Centre has become a second home for Jay-Z and his wife, Beyonce.

The pair were again in attendance for the #clashoftheboroughs and mentions of the couple far outweighed mentions of any player on the court, again highlighting the value Jay-Z brings to the Nets brand.

Both the Nets and the NBA understand the influence Jay-Z and Beyonce have and used this to their advantage during the game with plenty of content created around the pair throughout the night.

Some of the top tweets from the game are listed below.

The Takeover

After the Nets victory, Jay-Z tweeted; “The city is under new management”, and whilst we’re yet to see which team will win the battle for New York, it’s clear the Nets have arrived.

 

The Nets relocation shows us that it’s important to understand your audience and their behaviour from the offset. The Nets have taken their fans on a journey, showing them they care about the community and being humble all the way.

For any sports franchise, success will ultimately be measured in wins and losses, and who knows the Nets may one day bring an NBA Championship to Brooklyn. But even if they don’t bring home a championship, they’re well on the way to winning the hearts of the city, and when you sit back and think about it; what’s more important?

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About Ash

Ash is a digital strategist, writer and Senior Account Manager at We Play. He's passionate about sports, music and the intersection of business, technology, culture and digital content. Find him on Twitter @ashread14. View all posts by Ash
 

1 Comment

  1. Great article, Ash. Some interesting observations! I particularly liked the breakdown of digital media strategies leading up to, and after, the Barclays Center was opened.

    Although I stumbled across this article over one year after it was published, it still holds some relevancy. It would be interesting to see the same statistics one season later.

    The Brooklyn Nets were projected to be legitimate 2013-14 championship contenders after acquiring some seasoned veterans during the offseason. However, the New York Knicks and the Nets have both got off to a slow start, and at this rate, neither team will make the playoffs.

    New York is one of the biggest markets for media and basketball, and moving forward, it will be interesting to see if either team can make a solid postseason run and establish League dominance and propel their team’s status further.

    My favourite part of the marketing campaign, though, was the personal elements added to the billboards. Effective.

    Will bookmark this website and check back for future updates. Cool to see how sports affects different elements other than wins and losses around the League.

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