SBJ/20100816/This Week's News

Nets see value in trading home games for London calling

The New Jersey Nets will sacrifice two home games this season as the team tries to develop international appeal by playing in the NBA’s first regular-season games in London.

Terms of the deal between the NBA and the Nets call for New Jersey to forgo two games at the Prudential Center in exchange for playing at the O2 Arena in London against the Toronto Raptors on March 4-5. The league holds all marketing rights to the London games and is planning to build ancillary events around the games to drive both fan and sponsorship interest.

“We are looking to do different things, from broadcast to other fan-interactive events,” said Sophie Goldschmidt, senior vice president of NBA Europe. “We are in discussions with current partners and new prospects. It is a great opportunity, and we will be capitalizing on it.”

The league will give the Nets an undisclosed financial guarantee roughly equivalent to what the team would typically generate for two home games.

Losing two home dates to play in London is a deal the Nets believe is worth taking as they try to expand their brand under new owner Mikhail Prokhorov, the Russian billionaire who took control of the team in June. The Nets are also set to play preseason games this year in China.

“We are encouraging the league to look at us a little differently now that we have new ownership in Prokhorov and his interest in globalizing the franchise,” said Brett Yormark, president and chief executive officer of Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, which owns the Nets.

Nets season-ticket holders will be compensated for the loss of the home games with the choice of tickets to other Nets home games, a refund, or additional tickets to a “meet and greet” event with Nets players.

No decision has been made on any changes to team sponsorship deals for the loss of the two home games.

While the league will work to sell its own marketing platform around the London games, both the Nets and Raptors will try to leverage the games into new business for themselves. The Nets, for example, are planning to offer trips as incentive for new sponsors and for premium season-ticket holders who renew early for the 2011-12 season.

“We will use these [London] games to create a sense of urgency to get people to commit,” Yormark said.

“We look at the games in London primarily as a league event but there will be tactful things we can do,” said Tom Anselmi, chief operating officer of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, which owns the Raptors. “We are looking at taking sponsors, rights holders and important clients and using the games as an example of our business.”

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