Branding Basketball: The New Look Nets
I went to a Brooklyn Nets game the other day. Having lived in both New Jersey and New York, I’ve now been to both recent incarnations of the team and was struck by the differences.
The Urban Stadium
The Brooklyn Nets have a fancy new stadium called the Barclays Center. It sits in the heart of Brooklyn at a major subway hub. My wife had the opportunity to visit the Barclays Center while it was still under construction. The builders mentioned to her how it was a smaller stadium than they were used to building.
The stadium is surrounded by sidewalks not parking lots. While this means there is no “tailgating”, it also makes the center much more intimate to the community. You can literally look into the stadium from the street and see people in their seats through the glass entrance. In addition, the stadium doesn’t dominate the skyline, it’s sunken into the ground. Street level is actually at the top of the first section of seats. It’s not an imposing structure, it’s approachable, manageable.
Most stadiums have giant screens that blare out light pollution all night long, however the Barclays Center seems to have been designed with this consideration in mind. The main screen is shaped in a unique “doughnut” type structure which blocks much of the escaping ambient light. Like the MCI Center in D.C., this stadium part of a new breed of urbanized stadiums - integrated into community.
Compare this with the Izod center (Continental Airlines Center when I attended). Situated in the marsh known as the Meadowlands it’s a large elevated monolithic block structure surrounded by acres of parking lot. It rises from the swamp like a some sort of mausoleum to sport.
You come to the center via car or bus (or train now) to consume your sport and then your leave to go back to your home. There are no local restaurants, there are only miles of concrete highways and swamp.
The New Look Nets
One thing I found really interesting about the new Brooklyn Nets was that the team really wasn’t about the Nets at all. It was all about Brooklyn. I’ve never seen a team that is attempting to be so identified with its location.
Notice the (oft-criticized) Jay-Z designed logo- a B for Brooklyn rather than an N for Nets. When you’re in the stadium cheering for the team you don’t say “Let’s Go Nets” or even “N-E-T-S, Nets, Nets, Nets”. The chant for the team is a taunting hip-hop flavored chant of “Brook-l-yn, Brook-l-y-n.”
The video highlights during the breaks highlighted community activity. The team was shown serving Thanksgiving dinner at the local soup kitchen St. Joseph’s Bread and Life. Throughout the game, the usual sound clips (bugle calls, “Charge!”) were replaced by sound bites from rap songs featuring the word “Brooklyn” or New York artists.
In an age of corporate team moves - where the “Jazz” play in Utah instead of New Orleans and the NY Jets play in New Jersey it’s interesting to see a team focusing on making the community the focus instead of the team. If they’re successful, it will be a powerful identity -
Brooklyn is the Nets and the Nets are Brooklyn.
Let’s hope they don’t move to Tulsa…