SBJ/July 18-22, 2011/Franchises

Nets press on with marketing plan

It’s a tall task for NBA teams rolling out offseason marketing programs without their biggest asset: the players. But that hasn’t stopped them from hitting the streets, as one team, the New Jersey Nets, unveils a new summer campaign to help meet the huge challenge of selling season tickets at Barclays Center during the NBA lockout.

The team’s new “We Are Here for You” offseason campaign includes at least 50 events aimed at season-ticket holders, with 70 percent of the marketing effort geared toward Brooklyn, where the team is scheduled to open its $800 million, 18,500-seat arena in September 2012. The team will play next season at the Prudential Center in Newark.

Like all NBA teams, however, the Nets are prohibited from using current players in any marketing efforts. Instead, the team will use head coach Avery Johnson and other coaches along with the team mascot and dance team as part of an array of scheduled events, which include tours of Barclays Center, cocktail parties and clinics.

To push interest in the team, which last year had the third-worst attendance in the 30-team NBA, the Nets this month began offering season-ticket buyers a 5 percent annualized rebate on their investment with the team. The policy states that fans will get a 5 percent annualized rebate on their season-ticket spending from July 1 through the end of October when the NBA season usually begins. The 5 percent rebate will be given to season-ticket holders after the start of the season, regardless of whether games are lost because of the lockout. The policy will continue through however many games may be lost to the work stoppage. Season-ticket buyers will be able to take the rebate in cash or in a credit toward future purchases with the team.

“The goal is to stay connected to our fans,” said Nets Chief Executive Officer Brett Yormark. “We have to manufacture as big a voice as we can. When you think about what we have to do in the next 15 months, we have to take it to a new level.”

The lockout comes as the Nets last month began selling 4,400 lower bowl premium season tickets priced between $4,356 and $61,000 a season in Brooklyn. Yormark refused to disclose how many of the tickets have been sold.

The Nets are not alone. Many NBA teams have adopted offseason promotional efforts as the lockout enters its third week, including the Washington Wizards, New Orleans Hornets, Minnesota Timberwolves, Indiana Pacers and Sacramento Kings, all of which struggled at the gate last season.

The recently rebranded Wizards are planning a series of fan-based events as the team tries to sell against the lockout. The Wizards have held conference calls with season-ticket holders and owner Ted Leonsis, will hold “family days” at the Verizon Center and offer tours of the arena for new season-ticket buyers, and are considering offering discounts to Washington Nationals games to Wizards season-ticket holders.

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