November 15, 2012

The Brooklyn Nets: Can a Strong Brand Create a Successful Company?

As a long-time Nets fan (beginning with the ABA with Dr. J, and continuing through to NJ and the Jason Kidd era and into Brooklyn), I’m thrilled the Nets have an improved team and I even bought season tickets for the first time in my life (for any sports team). I also like their new brand.

Everything about the Nets and the basketball experience at the Barclays Center looks and sounds like Brooklyn—the quaint close-knit New York feel of the arena, the stark black and white team logo and uniforms, the food sold at the concessions stands, and even the commute to the games (cars are out, subways are in).

The team’s front office has done a terrific job of building the new Nets brand—it’s hip, down-to-earth and exciting all at once: very Brooklyn, indeed.

All of this said, I didn’t buy season tickets because I was sold by the team’s great branding efforts.  Rather, I am a basketball purist – I love the game at every level, but especially in the NBA, and eagerly anticipate upcoming match-ups, especially against the Knicks, Heat, Thunder and Lakers, and I can’t wait to see Kobe, LeBron and Kevin Durant up-close.

So, the question for the Nets is, “Will its great new brand overshadow the team itself?  And if the team isn’t a contender this year, will the exciting brand cover up some of the team’s deficiencies?”

Applying these concepts to the realm of public relations, I ask the following, “What role does branding play in creating a successful product, service or company (in this case, the Nets) and can good PR (or branding) cover-up a company’s inherent weaknesses?”

This is particularly relevant for me as the CEO of Dukas Public Relations because I am so often asked by clients and prospects, “How do I measure ROI on a campaign, and how do I know if the program is effective?”

In the end, PR and branding do help to create demand and interest for a product or service, but clients – and Nets fans – will expect nothing short of excellence once they commit to you.  Whether you are an institutional investor that just read about one of our hedge fund clients in P&I or the Wall Street Journal, or you’re just simply a hoops fan, you will demand superior returns and a winning team.

 So to the Nets and all of our clients, I’d offer this advice: “Keep focusing on ways to engage your customers and clients, and pay a lot of attention to enhancing your brand, but don’t ever do that at the expense of the ultimate product or service you offer.

As a Nets fan, I hope to have it both ways – a great brand and a great team; and for my clients, I feel the same. Keep up the brand-building efforts, but don’t forget what ultimately pays for your PR bills.

Richard Dukas