The New York Islanders are going to have a new home by 2015, and likely a new owner with it. Charles Wang is seeking to sell the team, and the NY Post reports that lawyer Andrew Barroway, who was once in line to buy the New Jersey Devils, is the leading candidate.
And why not? Barclays Center, the future Brooklyn home for the Islanders, has reportedly guaranteed at least $50 million in annual revenue for the regular season to ownership. That’s a nice carrot for anyone seeking to buy the team but who is wary about losing money, despite the relocation from Nassau County.
Of course, Brooklyn affords several revenue options that Nassau never could, and that includes rebranding. The team has hired Gameplan Creative, a Chicago based firm that helped turn the Chicago Blackhawks into a massive success locally during the last eight years. They connected young star players with young fans with disposable income, and made Blackhawks hockey cool.
You know, things that have to happen for the Islanders to succeed in Brooklyn.
How far will the rebranding go? Not as far as a name change, according to Sports Business Journal:
The Islanders plan to maintain their current name, logo and primary colors of orange, white and blue. There are, however, plans down the line for a third jersey for the team that could draw from the Nets’ signature black-and-white look.
Here’s the thing: Wouldn’t the Brooklyn Islanders sell better than the New York Islanders?
We know, we know … tradition, dynasty, four Cups, Mike Bossy, all of it. A move to another part of Long Island shouldn’t mean a move away from the franchise’s identity. And as SBJ noted, they’re going to need a chunk of those 8,000 season-ticket holders from Nassau to attend the 15,000-seat Barclays Center for this thing to work, and renaming the team could very well alienate them.
But … that’s a lot of revenue left on the table if they remain the “New York Islanders.”
According to The Brooklyn Game, the New Jersey Nets actually ranked 31st out of 30 NBA teams prior to their move to Brooklyn. (Yes, they actually ranked behind the Seattle Supersonics, who no longer exist.) They went all the way to fourth in the NBA in merch sales in their first year in Brooklyn.
The Islanders moving to Brooklyn is a new lease on franchise life for a team that seemed teetering on the brink of leaving the area altogether in the last decade. They’ll have a new owner. They’ll likely have different management under that owner. They’ll have a collection of players ready to win, and hopefully some new faces attracted to the Brooklyn vibe.
They’re still the Islanders. They’ll still have that connection to tradition, be it in the name or the colors. But why not revitalize the brand, broaden the fan base and sell a metric ton of new gear with a new geographic moniker?
Or does that risk alienating the Nassau fans?