It’s lonely at the top -- unless you have a virtual clone scaling the heights with you and turning second-tier pro teams into marketing gold mines.
Ask those who know Brett Yormark, the hard-charging CEO of the National Basketball Association’s New Jersey Nets, about him and you’ll get comments like these: “Passionate.” “Insanely driven.” “An aggressive workaholic.” “Networks better than anyone out there.” “Absolutely tireless.”
Ask those who know Michael Yormark, the hard-charging president of the National Hockey League’s Florida Panthers, about him and you’ll get comments like these: “Passionate.” “Insanely driven.” “An aggressive workaholic.” “Networks better than anyone out there.” “Absolutely tireless.”
No, there’s not an echo in here. That’s just the kind of breathless and uncannily similar praise dished out for the uncannily similar Yormark brothers, who are making a major splash in the multimillion -dollar world of pro-sports marketing.
Brett happens to run a basketball team, while Michael heads a hockey team. But you get the feeling the twins could switch places overnight -- in fact, it’s hard to be certain they haven’t -- and the business-side operations of both franchises would click right along without a hitch.
Neither man is charged with drafting players or deciding who starts and who sits, but each’s innovative ideas about marketing, selling both the steak and the sizzle, have boosted their teams’ bottom lines and public presences despite some disappointing years on the court and on the ice.
Since Brett joined the Nets in January 2005, team sponsorships have jumped nearly 200 percent, and ticket revenue has climbed 15 percent. For the Panthers, the number of corporate marketing partners has more than doubled since Michael --who became president in August 2007 -- joined the company, including almost $10 million in new sponsorships that he brought in this year alone. During his tenure, suite sales have increased by more than $2.5 million a year. Currently, the team has approximately 10,000 season-ticket holders, the most since 1998, and Michael has sold more than $1 million in Personal Seat Licenses, which give season-ticket holders first option on choice seats at any event booked at the arena, whether it’s a Bruce Springsteen concert or a performance by the Jonas Brothers or Britney Spears. How do the Yormarks do it? As noted above, these supersellers come early, stay late, and plow deep. And they have an intuitive gift for analyzing assets -- from those as big as a professional sport to those as small as a single room in an arena -- and then finding new ways of monetizing or, a frequent Yormark-ism, “activating” them.
Some men look at things as they are and ask why. But the Yormarks look at an empty hallway or a urinal and ask, “Why not get a cruise company or a urologist to sponsor it?” And so, a hallway in the Nets’ arena was at one time branded by World Yacht, and the urinals (you thought I was kidding) in the Panthers’ restrooms are brought to us by a Florida urologist. (“Weak stream? We’re your team!” reads the slogan on the puck-shaped disinfectant disk.)