March 3rd, 2005
Industry Insider: Nets score groundbreaking Jackson Hewitt sponsorship
By Matthew Futterman
Brett Yormark promised to breathe life into the Nets’ sagging sponsorship business,
and after seven weeks as the team’s chief executive, he is beginning to deliver.
The former NASCAR executive has yet to persuade the NBA to allow him to stitch
corporate patches on his team’s uniforms, but suddenly the Nets are "the
New Jersey Nets presented by Jackson Hewitt."
That makes the franchise the first big-league sports team in the metropolitan
area to sell what is known as a "presenting sponsorship." Such a deal
is the highest level of team sponsorship in the sports industry, because the
company name is so closely associated with the team name.
"I want to brand my coaches, my training staff, everything," Yormark
said, only half-joking, on Tuesday. "It’s been a great first 35 days. There
is a new culture, and we’re instilling a whole new attitude here."
Part of that attitude is Yormark’s philosophy to sell the Nets brand morning,
noon and night. During his first week on the job, he called Mike Lister, chief
executive at Jackson Hewitt, the Parsippany- based tax services firm, and asked
him to try something no other NBA team has right now—a sponsorship that puts
a corporate name right below the team name nearly everywhere, including the
Yormark had previously persuaded Lister to become the official tax services
company for NASCAR. The Nets deal includes signs in the arena and gets the Nets
radio and arena announcers to introduce the team "presented by Jackson
Hewitt" several times each game.
"It won’t be every time they announce the score, but I modeled this on
the Nextel deal with NASCAR," Yormark said. "Everywhere the Nets go,
Jackson Hewitt goes, too."
That may sound like crass commercialism to sports traditionalists, but David
Carter, who teaches sports business at the University of Southern California,
said most fans "long ago accepted a massive corporate presence in sports."
"Any potential revenue source is going to be tapped going forward,"
Lister, whose company is already running Nets ticket promotions, said Yormark’s
plan to "NASCAR-ize the Nets" impressed him.
"You’re going to see a lot from this organization in terms of bringing
the team to the fans," he said.
Yormark said he is considering getting a computer company to sponsor press
row, and a camera company to sponsor the area where kids take pictures of the
players as they warm up.
"I tell my people here that as long as it relevant and it’s authentic,
we are going to do it," he said.
WNBA in New Jersey?
Devils owner Jeff Vanderbeek acknowledged this week he has discussed bringing
a WNBA team to the arena he plans to build in Newark.
Vanderbeek cautioned the discussions were only preliminary, but a WNBA team
would play 20 home games during the summer, when his hockey team is idle—
assuming the NHL lockout gets settled eventually.
"The arena business is all about filling dates, and we are going to look
at all possibilities" Vanderbeek said.
For the WNBA, a New Jersey franchise would help establish a local rivalry for
the Liberty, who play at Madison Square Garden.
In several markets, including New York, owners of the local NBA franchise also
own the WNBA team and share an arena. But Bruce Ratner is planning to move his
Nets from the Continental Airlines Arena to an arena in Brooklyn, and it’s unclear
whether a second WNBA franchise could succeed in New York City.
"David Stern is a smart commissioner, and he’s interested in any new arena
that’s going up in this region," Vanderbeek said.
And finally ... New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority chairman Carl Gold
berg said state budget matters and NFL meetings have prevented the Giants and
state officials from meeting again to negotiate a deal for a new Giants Stadium.
The two sides are expected to sit down in the coming days.