For most, Brooklyn is just one of the five boroughs that make up the City of New York. For Brett Yormark, CEO of the Brooklyn Nets, Brooklyn is more than that — it is a brand.
Mr. Yormark was kind enough to spend some time with the MSBA class at the Nets’ MetroTech offices this past Friday, the day after the NBA Draft was held at Barclays Center as well as the day after a blockbuster trade sent Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to his team (although the deal cannot be official until later this month).
A native New Jerseyan, Yormark began his career in 1988 with the New Jersey Nets, where he was given a pad, pen, phone and told, “Go make some money.”
After stops with the Detroit Pistons and a second stint with the Nets, Yormark moved on to NASCAR, a sport unfamiliar to him but one in which he achieved great success. In 2003, as NASCAR’s Vice President of Corporate Marketing, he was “presented with a moment” and negotiated a $750 million deal with Nextel in what was, at that time, the largest sponsorship deal in the history of American sports. After six years at NASCAR, Yormark returned to the Nets once again to become CEO of the team and lead the move from New Jersey to Brooklyn. This decision was not one he made lightly, as Yormark reached out to trusted mentors and friends such as then-University of Memphis head basketball coach John Calipari. Calipari told him that if you cannot reinvent your current job, then it is time to move on. Yormark shared the same advice with us, and added, “Be sure you’re put in a position where you can bring about change.”
When the Nets moved across the state line, Yormark realized the great opportunity to tell a compelling story through the powerful brand that is Brooklyn. As he pointed out to us, the Nets are not a performance brand but rather a lifestyle brand. “We want to give people as many reasons to like us as possible,” Yormark explained. From the timeless black and white color scheme, proudly wearing BROOKLYN both at home and away, an unprecedented partnership with Disney that is redefining the guest experience, and simply having a good team with likeable players, the Nets have elevated themselves to a premium brand in sports and entertainment. When asked to summarize his feelings on the team’s first year in Brooklyn, Yormark likes to say, “I’m happy but not satisfied.”
It’s that discontent and fear of failure that keeps him going and drives him to be up in the early hours of the morning every day so he can turn on the lights and get to work to make Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment the premier property in the industry. In his closing thoughts to MSBA, Yormark urged the class, “If you do what you love with great conviction, you’ll be successful.”