New York Knicks ‘Declare’ New Marketing Push

As the curtain goes up on what is almost certain to be another underwhelming season, the New York Knicks are looking to keep the fan base fired up with a major marketing push.
A multiplatform effort to reconnect long-suffering Knicks supporters with the franchise, the “Declare” campaign is a call to action, a rallying cry. From subway platforms and across the local airwaves, in the dailies and on various social-media platforms, the team is asking the city to step it up, to “come correct.”
Declare Your Colors. Declare Your Allegiance. Declare Your Fanhood.
At the same time it tries to reenergize the base, the campaign levies a similar challenge at the Knicks themselves. Linchpin center/forward David Lee’s one-sheet shows him driving to the hole, an image augmented by the tag “Declare Your Talent.” Another poster captures Nate Robinson fresh off a dunk, fists up at chest level, pumped. The tag: “Declare your Pride.”
Along with the out of home placement, the Knicks are pushing through on local cable, blanketing their own air (MSG, MSG Plus), while making buys on ESPN, TBS, TNT and BET. Linking the team with the city, a 60-second spot begins with a panoramic view of the Manhattan skyline, before cutting to crowd shots, playground ball and an overhead shot of Madison Square Garden.
Actor Ed Burns handles the voiceover. “This is a city of expectations, eight million critics telling you to step up or shut up,” Burns says, as the action shifts to the court. “And in this city there is one game, one house, one team, one truth. If you’re in this city, you’re all in. The question is: Are you in?”
A 30-second version of the spot is also in rotation. After a month-long cycle, a new commercial will debut on or around Dec. 1.
“There’s a duality at work. On the one hand, this is our way to get fans to reengage, to say, ‘this is my team, this is my city,’” said Howard Jacobs, senior vp of marketing, MSG Sports. “But it’s also something we’ve heard from [head coach] Mike D’Antoni, who said that this is the year for the guys to declare their motivation, to declare their game. It’s become a mantra.”
On an intuitive level, the “Declare” campaign also begs New Yorkers for a little forbearance. Hang in there, it seems to say. Help is on the way.
The cavalry may not arrive until July 1, 2010, the day Cleveland megastar LeBron James becomes a free agent. Whether the Knicks will be able to land King James remains to be seen, but the team has done everything it can to clear salary cap space in order to make a serious bid for his services.
That many fans are marking time until next summer isn’t lost on Jacobs. “There’s no question a lot of fans are looking forward to the 2010-11 season, and that accounts for some of the motivation behind the campaign,” Jacobs said. “As we work to reaffirm the tie between the Knicks and the city, we’re also making a promise that the hard work, hustle, spirit and pride that defines Knicks basketball is coming back to the Garden. And it starts now.”

Although the campaign has just activated, Jacobs said there are signs that the fans are getting fired up for the 2009-10 Knicks. To date, the team has sold 2,500 new season-ticket packages, up 67 percent from this time last year. Moreover, some 30 new sponsors have signed on as Knicks backers, including Time Warner Cable and Burger King. These media buys cover on-air (MSG), online ( and in-arena.
Jacobs declined putting a dollar figure on the campaign, saying only that the Knicks’ spend represented a “significant increase over last year.”
Despite having suffered through a decade of futility––the Knicks haven’t won a postseason series since spring 2000, when it swept the Toronto Raptors 3-0 in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs––the team remains the top earner among all 30 NBA franchises, taking in an estimated $208 million in revenue last season.
Jacobs said the club will continue to bolster the Declare initiative as the season progresses, in a bid to keep the message fresh and relevant. “We’re going to be judicious in how we distribute our marketing dollars, but we activated with a pretty heavy spend. We’re going to increase the pressure in the coming months.”
One new wrinkle will allow fans to make their own declarations, by way of Facebook, Twitter and The team will solicit user-generated video submissions, allowing the voluble fan base to share their vision with eight million other New Yorkers.
In the meantime, the Knicks seemed to pick up where they left off last season, when the team posted a 32-50 record. In its Wednesday night season opener in Miami, New York was out-gunned by the Heat, 115-93.

Publish date: October 29, 2009 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT