The NBA's New Jersey Nets are always looking for ways to entertain fans of all ages at games.
So when company executives witnessed a senior dance team at a 2006 Miami Heat game, they decided to experiment with a senior dance team of their own.
"We try to reinvent ourselves all the time, and this was just another thing to point out that Nets Basketball is so much more, and it's different than what people were accustomed to seeing here," says Brett Yormark, Nets CEO. "It was something that hadn't been done before in our marketplace."
The Nets weren't having the best season at the time, so the NETSational Seniors were a way to keep interest in the team and Nets brand outside of basketball. "Even though other teams have had senior dance teams, I think we wanted to leverage it more than anyone else," says Barry Baum, Nets Basketball VP of business and entertainment PR. The goal was to get national TV coverage and create buzz about not only the seniors, but also about coming to a Nets game.
Baum concentrated on generating coverage around the auditions, the leadup to the team's debut, and its debut. He invited media to the auditions, where The Sopranos' Vince Curatola was a celebrity judge - and a WABC-TV reporter tried out. Buzz from the auditions helped secure a spot on Good Morning America before the first performance. Media also were invited to watch the team's debut. "A lot of it was just relentless pitching and telling the story," Baum says. "Even after they debuted, the momentum continued."
The team landed a feature on the front page of USA Today's Life section, as well as coverage in US News & World Report, local newspapers, and on various morning shows. "We've also had a lot of inquiry from different sponsors that want to associate themselves with the NETSational Seniors," says Yormark.
Baum expects a larger turnout of both media and prospective dancers at this year's tryouts.
New Jersey Nets
PR team: New Jersey Nets (East Rutherford, NJ)
Campaign: NETSational Seniors
Duration: November 2006-ongoing