Tweets from Brooklyn: NBA Team Exec Wins with Direct Customer Engagement

It’s fascinating to observe how executives communicate, particularly on social media.

Irina Pavlova. President - Onexim Sports and Entertainment Holding USA, Inc. Credit: Brooklyn Nets.

Irina Pavlova. President – Onexim Sports and Entertainment Holding USA, Inc. Credit: Brooklyn Nets.

A related dynamic is how senior leaders of professional sports teams are increasingly communicating directly to fans.

Last week, the top executive overseeing the operations of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets selected Twitter to directly engage the team’s fan base, which I’ll discuss.

I’ll also share 7 Tips to help leaders navigate in this new age of omni-platform communications.

But first, some background.


In early July, after just his first season as an NBA head coach, Jason Kidd left the Nets in a controversial, messy fashion. Despite his reported power-play motivations, the Nets, specifically General Manager Billy King, took the high road in public comments.

There was much speculation about how Kidd should be/would be treated in the run-up to his return to Brooklyn as head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks on November 19th, as well as continuing media coverage from both team’s perspectives.

The speculation was fueled by the first public comments on the matter from the team’s principal owner, Mikhail Prokhorov.

Answering a reporter’s question before the Nets’ home opener on November 3rd, Prokhorov invoked a version of the famous American phrase “Don’t let the swinging door hit you in the *** on the way out.”  It was communicated with his typical wit, and a bit of humor, in a calm, non-emotional manner.

For non-NBA fans, note that Jason Kidd’s number is retired and hangs in the rafters of Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. Rightly so. Kidd was a terrific player for the New Jersey Nets, leading their transformation in the early 2000s that culminated in two consecutive appearances in the NBA finals.

Nevertheless, sports fans are typically dismissive of players and coaches who “don’t want to be here,” and it’s fair to say that Kidd wanted to be elsewhere. Prokhorov’s comments reflected that sentiment.


Irina Pavlova is President, ONEXIM Sports and Entertainment Holding USA, Inc., the business entity that oversees and operates the Brooklyn Nets on behalf of its principal owner.

Understanding the backdrop and context, take particular note of Pavlova’s personal account tweet a few hours prior to the game:

https://twitter.com/ipavlova/status/534810507535200256

Well done!  This is a superb example of leadership in action and effective, “taking the high road” communication.  Importantly, Pavlova was able to change the conversation to where it should be – about the Brooklyn Nets and looking forward, not about the former coach.  Her tweet was noted and reported by the media, including ESPN NY.com, thus propelling her message to a wider fan audience. Continue reading

Pro Teams Score with Direct-to-SportsFan Marketing

Increasingly, professional sports teams are taking their important communication messages directly to fans.

Powered by the ubiquity of the Internet and fan tethering to social media platforms, direct-to-sportsfan (D2SF) marketing offers pro teams an unprecedented, and unfiltered, communication vehicle to their fans and season ticket-holders.

Brooklyn Nets Head Coach Lionel Hollins. Photo: Brooklyn Nets website.

Brooklyn Nets Head Coach Lionel Hollins. Photo: Brooklyn Nets website.

What is direct-to-sportsfan marketing?

D2SF is a hybrid marketing strategy designed to enhance the relationship, connection and relevance between teams and their fans, especially season ticket-holders, via the creation and direct sharing of special access, customized content.  It’s a combination package of marketing communications, content marketing, public relations, customer engagement and social media marketing.

Tactics include:

  • In-house Broadcasting.  Teams create their own reporting and broadcast content, typically with their own, paid journalists.
  • Coach-To-Fan Communication.  This takes the form of letters, short videos and recorded telephone messages.
  • Owner-To-Fan Communication.  Public letters, season ticket-holder messages and tweets are commonly used.

Communications expert Ivy Cohen, president and CEO of Ivy Cohen Corporate Communications, provides some perspective to help understand this developing marketing philosophy:

“The fan-team relationship is a symbiotic one.  Teams need fans to establish the value of their brands and keep the franchise flourishing.  Fans want to connect with their favorite teams for the psychic rewards of competition, winning, belonging, and a variety of benefits that come with entertainment, love of sport and following a season.”

Cohen adds:

“When player contracts were long-term, fans felt strong ties to individual players, the team brands were represented by a steady player roster and fans had strong team brand loyalty and player attachments.  Since that system eroded, fans need more and meaningful ways to feel an ongoing connection to a team.  Fans want to feel connected to their team and are seeking a persona to contribute that.  Owners and coaches can be strong representatives for their teams.”

Overall, as a targeted sports fan recipient myself, I like to see what the coaches or owners have to say unfiltered.  It’s a nice supplement to all the sports journalism.  And, as a marketing observer, it’s interesting to note what and how teams decide to communicate.


Let’s look at two examples from the past few weeks.

Jason Kidd Letter to Bucks Fans. Posted 7/7/2014 to Milwaukee Bucks website.

Jason Kidd Letter to Bucks Fans. Posted 7/7/2014 to Milwaukee Bucks website.

Jason Kidd is the new coach of the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks, having controversially orchestrated his departure from the Brooklyn Nets sideline. You can read his letter of introduction to Wisconsin fans:

Continue reading