SBJ/March 31-April 6, 2014/Franchises

Islanders hire Gameplan Creative for transition to Barclays

The relocation of the New York Islanders from Long Island to Brooklyn is taking its next step, with the franchise hiring Gameplan Creative to help connect the team to its future home, the Barclays Center.

Brett Yormark, CEO of the Barclays Center and the Brooklyn Nets, calls the team’s move from Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum to Brooklyn next year a “repositioning.” The franchise, which began play in 1972, won four Stanley Cup titles in the early 1980s but has not won a playoff series since 1993 and has consistently finished in the bottom five leaguewide in attendance during the past decade.

The Islanders plan to maintain their current name, logo and primary colors of orange, white and blue. There are, however, plans down the line for a third jersey for the team that could draw from the Nets’ signature black-and-white look.

The Barclays/Nets group has held a consultant’s role regarding the Islanders’ business operations over the

The Islanders’ move to Brooklyn includes plans for a new third jersey, though the team will keep its current one (right) for 2014-15.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES (2)

past year, after owner Charles Wang announced in fall 2012 that the club would relocate to Brooklyn. The existing Islanders staff has been leading the club’s business operations this season, with the Barclays/Nets group focused in the past few months on the relocation.

The 2014-15 NHL season will be the Islanders’ final one at the coliseum.

Yormark declined to reveal financial details of the agreement with Gameplan, a Chicago-based branding and marketing agency that is no stranger to the NHL. It handled marketing and game presentation work for the Chicago Blackhawks from 2008 to ’10, a period that marked the Blackhawks’ resurgence both competitively and financially.

“Gameplan knows hockey and they were a big part of the transformation of the Blackhawks,” Yormark said. “They understand the two different fan bases at play here [for the Islanders]. They are sensitive to the hard-core fan base on Long Island and the new fans in Brooklyn, and that is why we gave them the business.”

Therein lies the challenge for the Islanders: uniting two disparate fan bases. There are the team’s current die-hard supporters, who come primarily from Nassau and Suffolk counties on Long Island, and then there are the new fans in and around Brooklyn whom the Islanders will need to win over in large numbers to fill Barclays Center on a regular basis.

The Islanders have 8,000 season-ticket holders in the 16,000-seat coliseum. The Brooklyn arena, which was built specifically for basketball, is expected to have a capacity of about 15,000 for hockey, one of the lowest marks in the league.

Although the coliseum is only 25 miles from Barclays Center, that is a significant distance in traffic-heavy New York.
Barclays Center has one distinct advantage over the Islanders’ current home: Unlike the coliseum, the Brooklyn arena is accessible by train. Long Islanders who work in Manhattan can take the railroad or subway to Barclays Center for a game and be there in less than 30 minutes. However, that train ride back to Nassau or Suffolk after the game, especially on a weeknight, might not be as appealing for students and those who have to work in the morning — making it essential the Islanders win new fans in Brooklyn and the surrounding communities.

With the move to Brooklyn, the Islanders will create a third jersey that’s likely to feature the Nets’ black-and-white color scheme, though Yormark would not confirm any specifics. “The Islanders’ primary colors are staying intact, but there will be a third jersey that speaks to Brooklyn,” he said.

For the Islanders’ final season in Nassau County, the club’s third jersey will be the one it wore at Yankee Stadium in January for a game against the New York Rangers as part of the Coors Light NHL Stadium Series. Since the league has some restrictions on how often a team can change its jerseys, it is unclear when the new, Brooklyn-style jersey will debut.

Among the other groups that Gameplan lists as clients are MetLife Stadium, the New York Jets, the New York Giants, Major League Baseball, the New York Yankees and the Chicago Cubs. The agency is run by president and CEO Tom O’Grady, former creative director for the NBA.

“We will strategically consult with the Barclays Center/Nets management to provide creative services to ensure a smooth transition from the Nassau Coliseum to the Barclays Center,” O’Grady said.

Some of the creative services will include the development of advertising and marketing campaigns along with consulting on in-game presentation at the Barclays Center.

“It’s an opportunity to reinvent how a hockey game is presented in a cutting-edge venue,” O’Grady said.


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