Judging from the number of Nets hats one sees in the streets of Kings County, it sure seems that the Brooklyn Nets have captured the imagination of Brooklyn.
But there’s some statistical evidence that the Nets are not yet fully a Brooklyn team.
First, just 16.7 percent of those who watched the Nets on YES Network are from Brooklyn, according to information provided The Brooklyn Game by Scarborough Research. By contrast, 30.7 percent were from New Jersey, and 46 percent came from New York City as a whole. (Chart below)
Second, The Brooklyn Game's own web traffic follows a roughly similar pattern. Our recent user survey indicated that 26 percent or our readers come from Brooklyn vs. 40 percent from New Jersey. Our site traffic is in the same zone, and, according to Tweetsmap.com, 30.8 percent of @TheBKGame followers come from New York City. In the state breakdown, 35 percent come from New York State compared to 14.7 in New Jersey.
The Nets declined to provide numbers on the geographic distribution of ticket buyers.
But the available statistics all indicate that the majority of active Brooklyn Nets fans are not from Brooklyn.
In a way, it's not surprising. If you were an ultra-serious basketball fan living in Brooklyn for the last few decades, you rooted for the Knicks, you didn’t sit out the season in the hope that some day Brooklyn would have a team. So the Nets started off with a problem: the Brooklynites who cared most about basketball already had other loyalties. Then, unfortunately for the Nets, the Knicks chose this year to get good again, making it less likely that grumpy, Dolan-hating Knicks fans would jump ship to the new team. Meanwhile, it's to be expected that many New Jerseyans who had stuck with the Nets during the lean years would stay with the new-improved version.
Perhaps we should just rejoice that the Brooklyn/Jersey Nets are a "national team" – what with the cool logo
and the Jay-Z ownership.
On the other hand, despite the self-evident awesomeness of Nets fans, there are at least two signs that the situation is less than ideal. The Emory Sports Marketing Analytics study ranked the Nets dead last in fan involvement. It may not feel that way to those chanting Brooooook-lyn in the middle of Barclays -- or to the many who creatively "Rep Your Nets" each week -- but the folks at Emory argue that the most objective way to compare across cities is to look at the dollars spent relative what would be projected based on the population and other factors.
And while there's no precise way of knowing how fan intensity might affect a team, it is worth noting that the Nets had one of the worst home court advantage differentials in the league. As Devin wrote earlier, "Per 100 possessions, Brooklyn is only 1.7 points better at home than on the road, a margin that's only better than one team -- the 20-62 Orlando Magic, the team with the league's worst overall record."
Even if the diffuseness of the Nets fan base doesn't relate to either "brand equity" or the home court performance, it can't be a good thing in the long run that Brooklyn -- a city of 2.5 million people -- isn't supplying the bulk the Brooklyn Nets' fans.
Are there things the Nets could do to better penetrate the borough?
Personally, I think it would help if even a Net or two lived in Brooklyn, as several of the Brooklyn Dodgers did.
And it would be nice if the Forest City Ratner folks keep their promises about the development. Otherwise, some portion of Brooklyn will feel like rooting for the Nets is an endorsement of dishonest business practices.
[Note to Brooklyn readers: What else should the Nets do?]
This is just the first year in Brooklyn. Perhaps its not shocking that the Nets don't have Dodgers-like penetration. But the team should at least realize that the whole borough is not going hard for the Nets just yet.