with an excerpted Q&A, is reprinted with permission from
The plan to build a
sports and entertainment arena in Brooklyn was brought to public attention in
2004 by Bruce Ratner, real estate developer and then-majority owner of the
NBA's Nets. Since then, Forest City Ratner Enterprises has been at the
forefront of a 22-acre Atlantic Yards project that is scheduled to include
Barclays Center, housing, shops and recreational areas.
The $3.5 billion plan
has had it shares of highs and lows.
In 2007, Barclays
agreed to a $400 million, 20-year naming rights deal, which was later
renegotiated to $200 million with other incentives added in.
In 2009, in the
midst of faltering economic and real estate challenges, Russian multibillionaire
businessman Mikhail Prokhorov acquired majority interest in the team and nearly
50% interest in the arena from Ratner.
This week, after
more than 100 lawsuits and changes in financial, design and environmental
strategies, the arena arrives with a bevy of founding partners and sponsors
whose presence will be felt throughout the venue.
officially opens Sept. 28 with a series of concerts from Jay-Z (who is a
minority investor in the Brooklyn Nets franchise). Basketball comes Oct. 15
when the Nets host the Washington Wizards in an exhibition game, followed by
the first official NBA season home opener with the Nets hosting the New York
Knicks on Nov. 1.
events include Barbra Streisand, the Who, the Rolling Stones, Green Day, Lady
Gaga, college basketball and hockey, tennis, boxing, gymnastics and an
exhibition game with the NHL's New York Islanders.
Among the branded
sections and activations are the TicketMaster concourse, the MetroPCS upper
pavilion and fan photo booth, a Honda auto display and interactive destination,
an area of virtual sports games including hoops and jump rope from Brooklyn
Hospital Center and the Cushman & Wakefield Theater; and retail stores
including the Nets Shop by Adidas, Starbucks and Rocawear (which, like the
arena's 40/40 Club, is part of the domain overseen by Shawn "Jay-Z"
Founding partners in
addition to MetroPCS, TicketMaster, Cushman & Wakefield and Honda include
American Express, Calvin Klein, EmblemHealth, Foxwoods Resort Casino, Geico and
Stolichnaya. (An 11th founding partner will be named this week.)
include Anheuser-Busch, Coca-Cola, Haier America, HighPoint Solutions, New York
Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge, Red Bull, Sony, Tyco and Willis.
spoke with Brett Yormark, CEO of Nets Basketball and president and CEO of
Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment, courtside at Barclays Center about the long
and winding road to 620 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, New York, USA.
It has been eight years from vision to reality. How
important is this for your marketing partners?
Very important, especially working with them to elevate our brand and their
[respective] brands to the highest level. Our goal in the building is to tastefully
reinforce the presence of each of our partners. To get all of our messages and
their messages out, but to maintain a clean look. We have accomplished that.
And we haven't compromised revenues.
In addition to the founding partners and naming rights
partner Barclays, there are a number of other companies that will be
represented throughout the arena. Is there room for more?
There will be one more founding partner announced [before Barclays Center opens
Sept. 28], but then we will take a breather. Let me put it this way: We are
still aggressively marketing and selling. But we want to open the building with
our strong roster of partners, pause for a moment and then move ahead.
Are there companies coming to you that want to be part
of Barclays Center?
Yes. We have companies approaching us all the time that want to be involved.
With Barclays Center now opening, and not just a vision that is years or months
away, the interest has become even stronger. There is a lot of interest in
sponsorship, tickets, suites. For the partners and companies already aligned
with us, this is the moment they have been waiting for.
Each of the founding partners has their own distinct
look and message. What was the challenge in getting them all to work together?
It wasn't a challenge in the negative sense. The challenge was to raise all of
their goals, as well as the goals of the Nets and Barclays, to the highest
level. We are thrilled that we have such great brands as Calvin Klein,
Foxwoods, Geico and Honda - [the latter two of which] recently came on board.
They were all willing to work with us to see that our vision and their vision
not only came together, but made for a strong partnership. It was never a
matter of one partner trying to upstage another. It was always a situation
where they each knew how important being involved with this project would be to
their strategy and how effective it will be in getting their brand messages to
fans and consumers.
Courtside branding is very noticeable, with seat back
signage from Calvin Klein, Haier, Red Bull and Barclays, and the basketball
stanchions with branding from Spalding and Barclays. Are you concerned that
this will be a distraction?
Not at all. Our goal was always to have our partners represented in the most
efficient way possible, but not to the extent that it would take away from the
look and feel of the arena. What you see now is for our basketball setup. It
changes depending on the event. Obviously, you will see Barclays Center
branding that is permanent, and there is permanent Metro PCS branding on seats
in the upper bowl. But I don't believe that anyone can say that the presence of
our partners distracts from the look of the building. And, in fact, our goal
all along was to incorporate [branding, signage and marketing activation]
messages seamlessly into the building and to have it enhance and support our
Brooklyn itself is well represented in Barclays
Center, from concessions to locally based marketing partners. How integral was
We knew right from the start the importance of the Brooklyn brand. The best of
the best of Brooklyn will be here. From a marketer's point of view, the key to
Brooklyn is the diversification. We always felt that it was our goal, and in
turn the goal of our partners, to be able to target the various ethnic groups
that help to make the borough what it is.
With Honda now a founding partner, do you envision a
moment such as the 2011 NBA All-Star Game in which NBA partner Kia drove a car
onto the Staples Center court and Blake Griffin jumped over the hood to win the
slam dunk event?
Honda will have a strong presence in the building [including] an auto display
and interactive features for fans. Honda and other partners will be involved in
a lot of activation throughout the building and during games and events. But I
don't think we will have them drive a car on our brand new herringbone floor.
[Laughs.] Not on our herringbone parquet!