The Yormarks have been opening people’s eyes to new moneymaking possibilities for years. In 1998, after his first stint in corporate marketing with the Nets, Brett jumped to the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, where he immediately began shaking up the organization. If you’ve wondered why people who don’t give a busted lug nut for car racing have heard so much about NASCAR over the past decade, the answer is Brett Yormark. He took the sport beyond its down-home Southern roots and introduced it to Madison Avenue, the Fortune 500, and mainstream America. The upscaling of NASCAR began with Brett’s opening of an office on New York City’s Park Avenue.
“I knew we couldn’t sell this sport from Daytona Beach, Florida,” Brett says. “We were competing with the NFL, the NBA, and Major League Baseball, so we had to be where they were.” Brett’s campaign to “educate” blue-chip companies on the merits of advertising with NASCAR quickly bore fruit: He soon signed up Home Depot, UPS, and other heavy hitters as major sponsors.
But the real moment of glory came when Brett persuaded Nextel to replace beleaguered tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, which for more than 30 years had sponsored the Winston Cup, NASCAR’s elite racing series. The $750 million naming-rights deal, the richest in sports history, rebranded NASCAR, gave it new respectability, and made Brett Yormark a name to envy in the world of sports marketing. With that trophy on his résumé, Brett came back to the Nets as CEO in 2005.
Ever since his return, he has been doing double duty for the team’s principal owner, real estate mogul Bruce Ratner. Brett sells the Nets by day and then does his “night job,” which consists of working on the team’s planned move to Brooklyn, New York. The relocation plans had to overcome a number of legal hurdles even before the faltering economy began to take its toll; while the move was originally slated for the 2007– 2008 season, it has now been rescheduled for the 2011–2012 season.
When it does happen -- and Brett Yormark swears it will -- the Nets will be at the center of one of the greatest stories of the century, the return of professional sports to Brooklyn more than 50 years after baseball’s Dodgers broke the city’s heart by escaping to Los Angeles. The planned arena, which will cost a reported $800 million, is being designed by Minneapolis-based architecture firm Ellerbe Becket.
During construction on the new arena, Brett has been busy pursuing a deep-pocketed sponsor who would pony up for the naming rights, using the same kind of thinking he used to retool NASCAR with Nextel. “I called on the obvious guys in our market,” he says, “but I also asked myself who needed a game changer. Was there an international company looking to build its brand in New York, the heart of world commerce?”