The New Jersey Nets were close to breaking a record in March, but not the kind you'd want. With seven wins and 62 losses on March 22, the NBA team was dangerously close to having the fewest victories ever in a season. (The record for futility, 9-73, belongs to the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers.) With that in mind, fan Chris Lisi went to the game – a matchup with the Miami Heat –and put a paper bag over his head to show his disgust. But Nets CEO Brett Yormark was not amused.
Yormark had choice words for Lisi at the game, drawing more negative attention. After defending himself, Yormark then invited Lisi and his brother, who also attended the contest, to have lunch with him to talk about the team.
The brown-bag lunch, with food provided by McDonald's, was broadcast live online March 30. “Hosted” by Nets radio announcers Chris Carrino and Tim Capstraw, the broadcast included analysis from the radio team about the club, with Yormark and Lisi talking out the situation.
CEOs and owners of sports teams aren't exactly known for habitual bread-breaking with cranky fans. Yormark merits cheers for his plan to invite Lisi to air his grievances– and sports fans have a lot – with him in a public forum.
Some might say the sponsorship of the lunch turned this heart-to-heart fan moment into a silly publicity stunt, but it worked. Yormark told the AP that the online broadcast had to be shut down because too many people were trying to log on. Yormark said the lunch gave Nets management a chance to reinforce its messages about the team and encourage fans to express their opinions, minus paper bags.
While sports is one of the few industries where there is always a winner and a loser, this CEO helped net a win for both management and the fans. Coupled with victories in four of the next seven games, the Nets avoided ignominy and built up a degree of good will on and off the court.
PR Play Rating:
3. On the right track