July 1, 2010 was a date many basketball fans have had marked on their calendars for a couple of years now. The date marked the beginning of the National Basketball Association’s free agency period, one of the league’s most important summers ever. July 1 was the day that LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, and a few other high-profile NBA’ers became free agents. Several teams, including the Chicago Bulls, the New York Knicks, the Miami Heat, and the New Jersey Nets, have made pitches to the big three free agents.
Just before July 1, the Nets began to unveil a 225 foot x 95 foot painted sign on the side of a building at 34th Street & 8th Avenue in midtown Manhattan. The wall features prominent images of the Nets’ new owner, 6’8″ Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, and part owner & hip-hop legend, Jay-Z. Above their faces is the phrase, “The Blueprint for Greatness.” The Nets feel strongly about the direction their team is heading, and the wall is a tribute to the positive growth this organization continues to make.
The wall is part of an aggressive marketing campaign (along with several major digital and print advertisements), placed within walking distance of New York Penn Station, a major hub for the Nets moving forward. They will move to Newark for the next two seasons, at least, and then permanently to Brooklyn. Many, many Nets fans will pass through Penn Station in the years to come.
Penn Station also happens to be directly beneath Madison Square Garden, the home of the New York Knicks. Knicks’ owner, James Dolan, has complained to the NBA about the wall, stating that it is “intimidating” to his employees. According to Nets CEO Brett Yormark, “That billboard is the anchor to an aggressive marketing platform for key transit hubs from Manhattan to Newark. It’s a pretty aggressive campaign around free agency. It’s one of the biggest advertising spaces in the city. What better place to make a statement.” Yormark went on to say, “If [the Knicks are] upset, they’re upset, but I can’t suspect they really are. They don’t think about us.”
Extending the Story
Besides the obvious elements of the wall (Prokhorov, Jay-Z, Nets’ logo, “Blueprint” theme, website and phone messaging), there are some exciting social aspects that the Nets and VaynerMedia worked on to include. Both the Nets’ Facebook and Twitter presences were featured on the wall. So, anyone who takes the time to scan the massive advertisement over the coming weeks will see that messaging. Nets fans who were previously unaware of the team’s social media presence now will have the opportunity to further interact with the organization. Pretty, cool, right?
Note: Often times, when brands decide to display Facebook and Twitter on advertising (which isn’t often), they simply put “Like us on Facebook” or “Follow us on Twitter.” It is important to remember that you will not convert that way, you must put the specific URL (in this instance, facebook.com/netsbasketball or twitter.com/netsbasketball) to have any chance of conversion. There is a much lower chance someone will actively go out and find you on Facebook or Twitter without a URL.
The other element VaynerMedia suggested was something we feel is quite innovative, the line at the bottom of the wall, “Check in with Gowalla to receive a special item.” Tell me, when was the last time you were told by an advertisement or a billboard to check in with Gowalla? I would guess very few, if any of you, have had that experience (For those who don’t know, Gowalla is a location-based social platform that allows you to check in to physical locations with the chance of being rewarded with virtual, or even real-life items. Find out more here). VaynerMedia suggested the Nets put a Gowalla call-to-action on the wall in order to extend the story. Through checking in to the wall, the user can now follow the Nets on Gowalla (and find other opportunities/experiences) and automatically receives a custom virtual item. By allowing people to check in, the Blueprint’s story is now moving from the wall to the person’s phone, and the Nets now have engaged further with that person.
Said Laura Castronovo, the Nets’ Director of Research & Strategic Marketing, “Digital Marketing is now a part of everything we do; whether it be driving traffic to our websites (njnets.com & netsallnew.com) or building up our social media communities, having a digital presence is crucial. We also like to make our campaigns as interactive as possible. It made sense for us to include Gowalla on the Blueprint for Greatness 34th street wall so fans can engage in this campaign with us.”
This is not the first time the Nets have partnered with Gowalla, and it will not be the last. In April, the Nets and Gowalla teamed up to form a virtual scavenger hunt in the New York & New Jersey areas, where Gowalla users who checked in to targeted, sports-themed locations, actually had the chance to win real tickets. Gowalla has given and will continue to give the Nets the opportunity to leverage their assets and give fans new, exciting experiences.
The Nets Blueprint for Greatness is an incredible piece (it’s all paint!). If you live in the New York City area, especially if you’re a Nets fan, and haven’t had the chance to see it, take a stroll over to the corner of 34th and 8th and check it out. The wall in itself is incredible, and the fact that the Nets could extend the story with social media and Gowalla is another story in itself. The experience does not have to end with the advertisement! This might be the first time you’ve seen physical advertising inventory lent to these types of things, but it will not be the last. In fact, it’s just beginning.
What do you think of the Nets’ Blueprint for Greatness in general, as a marketing campaign by Nets Basketball? What do you think of the inclusion of Facebook, Twitter, and Gowalla into wall? Would love to hear your thoughts, and continue the conversation below!
I walked past this billboard when it was half-way done and didn't think much about it. I thought it was just another promo for Jay-Z…then three days later I began to see it fill in. When I saw the Nets logo in its completion, I thought…this is BOLD! I love what the team is doing, honestly. Their marketing this past season and into the off-season is pretty commendable if people have paid attention to it! Good move by the Nets! Kudos to VaynerMedia as well!
The Clippers could definitely take notes on how to battle for fans in a city sharing two teams.
Lived in LA for a little over two years and supported the Clips as much as I could! Don't think they'll be ever be able to compete with the Lakers as well as the Nets are going to compete with the Knicks. 😉
Deandra, thanks for your comment. Definitely a bold campaign by the Nets, and just glad to have been able to add our 2¢ to the ad! Do you think the Nets can challenge the Knicks for control of NYC?
Absolutely, they are definitely making some noise and getting some attention. If the Nets can grab a prominent player during free agency, they will have a great chance. With the Knicks picking up Amare and possibly another “big name,” it will be tough. Either way, this season will be an interesting one. As I said before, I can see the hard work from the Nets' marketing staff in positioning the team as a legitimate, respectable franchise, sharing….trying to own…the NY market.
Agree, thanks for your comments, Deandra! Much appreciated.
Ok, you got me curious. Why in the heck would you want to cheer for the Clippers? Poor ownership, crazy coaching (about to get a little crazy with Vinny rumoured down the reins), the lockers are purple and gold, and they're too cheap to build their own arena.
This marketing campaign is brilliant and I'm puzzled as to why other professional sports franchises, especially ones struggling to build up a following, won't do the same. On the court, the Nets are still going to be a lousy team for a few more years. But I applaud Prokhorov and Jay-Z for their innovative thinking in developing the Nets off-the-court presence, a boon that will be sure to attract prominent free agents to the team in the years to come. At this rate it won't be long before the Knicks become a team of mediocrity again (Amare can't win 50 games alone), and the Nets pick up the Knick's disgruntled fans and become New York's “team”.
Dmitry, appreciate your comment! Think the Nets' road back is going to take some time, but they're definitely on the right path. Their marketing department is innovative and forward-thinking, and I think you'll continue to see a lot of great stuff coming from them off the court!
The reason is simple: I HATE the Lakers and liked the underdog Clippers, especially when Baron came to town!