The Brooklyn Nets are coming. You've probably heard that by now, and if you live in the Tri-State area you have definitely seen it.
It's 2:50pm on the Sunday before Labor Day in the US, downtown Brooklyn is a hive of activity; locals out for a stroll and shopping litter the streets, but it is construction workers still frantically trying to finish the Nets new home that is of most interest. There's just over 25 days until part owner Jay Z opens the new state-of-the-art arena with a series of shows, yet still there is scaffolding up surrounding the perimeter, cranes have been mobilised right in front of what will become the main entrance and work tools can be heard buzzing, even above the steady flow of traffic on Atlantic Avenue.
A Starbucks cafe is slightly visible to the left of the entrance (an arena is not complete without one, right?), but if you've been following the Nets situation – even from afar – you can bet the house that Jay, along with majority owner, Mikhail Prokhorov will be ready when the new NBA season tips off.
New York has always been the Knicks' town, – granted there hasn't been much competition over the years – the Nets stuck languishing across the Hudson at East Rutherford (coupled with the fact that their teams were never highly competitive, especially in recent seasons) often made them the laughing stock of Gotham.
This is a new day however and the avant garde ownership in place now has a win-at-all costs mentality, and the financial means to back it up. Prokhorov, the Russian billionaire who took over the Nets in May 2010, is determined to push the Brooklyn Nets 'brand' and make it as well known as any other team in the NBA, worldwide recognition and respect that teams the likes of the Lakers, Chicago, Boston, and even the Knicks, get.
Prokhorov and his team have made certain that New York is aware they mean business. An agressive marketing campaign began in 2010 when the Nets erected a billboard, featuring the owner and Jay Z, just blocks from the Knicks home at Madison Square Garden, boldly signalling their intentions from jump street. Fast forward to today and the black-and-white colors can be seen right across 'The City', and it's not just All-Star point guard Deron Williams' image either, the franchise happy to promote Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez and Gerald Wallace as well.
Roam the streets and it seems like there's more people donning Nets gear than Knicks these days. That has to be a direct result of Jay Z whose influence guides an entire generation. The rap icon once bragged about making the "Yankee hat more famous than a Yankee can" , in recent months however he has been spotted ever more frequently with a Nets cap proudly positioned on his dome, sparking sales for sure. Walk into any Modells Sporting Goods store and the abundance of Brooklyn gear is overwhelming, everything from infants/toddlers gear, to tees, sweaters and jackets for both men and women. The Nets are becoming unavoidable. Where 'The City' once bled orange-and-blue, the Nets colors are almost as prevalent in, and around, former Knick strongholds.
It's not just about saturating the market with your product though, trends come and go and fads are easily forgotten. To truly be successful a franchise needs to connect with it's fanbase, develop relationships people in and around the 'borough, check the Nets Twitter page and see how many fans they are following, now compare that to other NBA teams. All this matters as they try to make inroads into the New York basketball market.
All this will count for nought though if Brooklyn continue the mediocrity (at best) that saddled the last few years in New Jersey. Fielding a competitive team is of the utmost importance in helping sway, and keep, new fans. Hardcore Knicks fans may not convert (Spike definitely won't) but the 'regular' New York fan who may have grow tired of the James Dolan regime at The Garden will certainly be intrigued at the very least by Brooklyn. That's exactly what Prokhorov and Jay Z want, they'll pique your curiosity with their campaign then hope to keep you coming back by winning basketball games; better yet, a playoff series win against their cross-town rival.
We won't know for sure how this plays out for the Nets until they begin their regular season on November 1st, in the meantime though make no mistake about it, the Brooklyn Nets are coming.