Are The Brooklyn-Bound Nets Driving The NBA's Worldwide Marketing Strategy?

By Barry Janoff, Executive Editor

December 1, 2010: The NBA's marketing foray into China and Europe continues to build, with teams and players finding  ways to tap into a hoops-centric market that industry analysts indicate has topped 300 million fans.

The latest partnerships come from the Nets, a franchise struggling on the court but scoring in marketing and sponsorship deals both domestic and global. Adding to its array of international partnerships, team ownership has signed new sponsorship alliances with Peak, among China's leading sportswear and shoe companies, and Zippo lighters.

Financial terms of the deals were not disclosed. The partnerships are part of the strategy of Nets' majority owner Mikhail Prokhorov, a businessman and entrepreneur in his native Russia who is the first foreign-born owner of an NBA team, to turn the Nets into "the first global team in the NBA."

Peak, which in October 2008 became the Nets first partner based in China, has signed a deal that includes courtside, baseline, LED and center-scoreboard signage  during Nets home games at the Prudential Center, including regular season home games that will be broadcast in China this season.

In a separate deal, Zippo will receive "a variety of sponsorship entitlements" during the 2010-11 NBA season, including courtside signage during Nets home games, advertising local radio broadcasts of Nets games and advertising on the Nets' English and Russian official team Web sites.

Peak, which recently opened its first U.S. office in Los Angeles, includes among its NBA endorsers Jason Kidd, Shane Battier, Ron Artest, Darnell Jackson and Sasha Vujacic, according to the Peak Web site.

“Peak and Zippo are exciting international brands that align perfectly with our global objectives,” Brett Yormark, Nets CEO, said in a statement. “While we continue the globalization of the team, we also remain committed to serving as a marketing solution for international partners. As we form these alliances, it is clear that our message of providing value is resonating throughout the international business community.”

According to Jim Xu, CEO for Peak, “We are excited to continue in a partnership with the Nets and realize the powerful benefits of building our business through Nets Basketball in the U.S.’ No. 1 media market."

Zippo, which sells its product line in more than 160 countries, views the Nets alliance as a doorway to building global sales. “Aligning with the Nets gives us traction in two key markets in Russia and the United States,” David Warfel, Zippo’s global marketing director, said in a statement. “Our strategy of product diversification and foreign market penetration can be realized through this partnership. We can leverage our entitlements to promote our Outdoor Line in the U.S. and build awareness in Russia.”

"While we continue the globalization of the team, we also remain committed to serving as a marketing solution for international partners."

The Nets are fast-tracking their strategy to become a global brand, which should help boost their fan and marketing base when the franchise moves from New Jersey to its new Barclays Center arena in Brooklyn, NY, scheduled for 2012. U.K.-based Barclays, which paid $400 million for a 20-year naming rights deal, is on board with the Nets' global tactics. The team also extended its international reach in October via sponsorship alliances with Aeroflot, Russia’s leading air carrier, and with vodka brand Stolichnaya.

In addition to their pre-season games in China and a pre-season stop in Russia in October, the team will playing in the NBA’s first-ever regular season games in Europe in March when they face the Toronto Raptors in London in a pair of games at the O2, which in 2012 will host basketball games during the Summer Olympics.

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