If you can’t beat them, sell them.
That’s the motto for the New Jersey Nets, who have taken the “market your opponent” theory to new heights this year.
Buy a 10-game package of Nets tickets and you will get five reversible jerseys with a Nets player on one side and the star of another team on the other. Those five stars are the NBA’s brightest — Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dywane Wade, Dwight Howard and Kevin Garnett. Even the tickets to Nets games this year will have pictures of the star of opposing teams on them.
Why? Because the Nets have no stars, in a league where the marketing is completely star-driven. In the last few years they have traded Vince Carter, Jason Kidd and Richard Jefferson away (in theory to get under the salary cap to attract LeBron next summer, but that is not going to happen with this talent around him). The biggest name they have left is Devin Harris, who basketball insiders love but whose name gets a quizzical look from the average fan. The highest paid player on the Nets this year is Bobby Simmons, which even has big basketball fans saying, “who?”
The Nets may have a hard time finding five players to put on their side of the jerseys.
Marketing the best opposing players coming to town is nothing new in the NBA. Ever since Michael Jordan meant a guaranteed sellout in any arena, teams such as the Clippers have marketed who is coming to town.
And the five teams that the Nets picked to market with those jerseys are the four of the five top road attractions in the league last season (Lakers, Cavaliers, Celtics and Heat). Orlando was seventh on that list last year, but after the Finals appearance they likely will move up.
On one level it’s easy to mock the Nets management. But the bottom line is they need to get people in the seats and filling the concession lines, and the chance to see Keyon Dooling and Eduardo Najera play in person is just not going to do it. So they are going with what works.
And with the reversible jerseys, Nets fans can root for a winner for the first time in years.