Former Nascar Marketer Charged With Remaking Team Image

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NEW YORK ( -- Brett Yormark, president-CEO of the Nets Sports and Entertainment group, has hired WPP Group's Brand Buzz to help remake the New Jersey Nets from a second-tier professional basketball team as it prepares to move into a new arena in the media capital of the world.
As they move to Brooklyn, the Nets are planning to polish and shift their marketing image as well.

Mr. Yormark, an ex-Nascar marketing executive who returned to his career roots with the New Jersey Nets six months ago, is undertaking a substantial marketing challenge: build a new public persona about the team and turn it into a profitable enterprise at the same time the Nets, now based in East Rutherford, N.J., shifts its headquarters, business and fan base to Brooklyn. The team is slated to move to the New York borough for the 2008-09 season.

Hustling tickets 17 years ago
The New Jersey native is no stranger to transformation. Mr. Yormark, who 17 years ago “hustled tickets for the Nets to break into the business,” said there are parallels between what he did with Nascar and what he has begun to do for the Nets. At Nascar, he repositioned it from a regional obsession in the South to a nationwide passion by not only bringing in deep-pocketed sponsors but also by expanding the fan base through building new speedways in California, Kansas, Nevada and Texas. He was also helped clinch the racing association's $750 million sponsorship deal with Nextel Communications.

For the Nets, he said, the solution lies in re-imaging. His launchpad is through insight into the fans, their interests and emotional connections to the team. “Some of our fans are hard core; others are casual. Why do these hard-core fans feel connected? Why are the supporting Nets basketball?”

Expanding entertainment opportunities
Once that’s understood, he said he plans to offer a more bang for the fans’ bucks by adding more entertainment opportunities and expanding current ones, such as a strategic relationship with the Apollo theater. “We’re competing with everything the tri-state area has to offer,” said Rick Eiserman, CEO Brand Buzz.

“We’ve found that more women control a family’s entertainment budget, so we need to get them to see our value,” Mr. Eiserman said. Already Brand Buzz’ 15-person team is delving into reams of data to understand the team and its fans. At a kickoff meeting in New Jersey for Brand Buzz and the Nets last week, the agency team met the players and learned about every aspect of a basketball team's operations, from player recruitment to how group tickets are sold.

“They opened their books to every aspect of the business,” Mr. Eiserman said. The agency will now begin crafting a marketing and outreach program to help create the team’s story and promote its strongest assets. Even though the research results don’t yet exist, Mr. Yormark, a hard-driving go-getter, is already working on a hunch: The Nets, he said, are about character.

“My gut tells me, instinctively, people like that positive character statement. We have great character -- Jason Kidd, Vince Carter, Richard Jefferson. It feels right.” He added: “The whole character issue is something we’ll have to explore -- in a hip and cool way with our current fans as well as with our new fans.”

Campaign's first phase
The first phase of the Nets advertising campaign will break in late August or early September, the prime ticket-selling season.

Ad spending in 2004 was about $500,000, but media expenditures for the coming year are expected to be in the range of several million dollars. Mr. Yormark is not fazed about the move from New Jersey to Brooklyn. In some ways, he claims, the transformation’s already begun.

“We call ourselves the Nets. We’re from New Jersey, but we’re a metropolitan-area team," he said. "That’s how we communicate our brand. If we do our jobs right, that brand will become portable to Brooklyn.”

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