It's been a rough couple of weeks for the Nets. They officially dumped Frank Gehry as the architect of their new arena, and saw the new, cheaper design met with scathing reviews that called it "generic" and "spiritless." The entire Atlantic Yards project, of which the arena is a centerpiece, has been a flashpoint for controversy, and the team's owner Bruce Ratner must now go back to the state in hopes of landing financing he needs to actually start building the project.
There was a glimmer of good news, though. On Thursday, the New York Times reported that the team signed a "lucrative" sponsorship deal with the Chinese television manufacturer Haier. The Times didn't quote any actual figures, but reported that Haier will operate a store at the Barclays Center when and if it is built.
While American sports leagues and teams have been falling all over themselves to make marketing deals with Chinese companies to gain exposure to the Chinese market, this move seems like it has more to do with Haier's attempt to establish themselves in the U.S. market than the other way around. That may be wrong, and this could be the Nets' attempt to show LeBron James that they have some currency in the Far East, but Haier has been actively wooing sports fans for some time.
They are already the official HDTV and an official marketing partner of the NBA, which may also help explain the deal's timing. David Stern has made it very clear that he wants the Nets to be in Brooklyn, and it doesn't take much to imagine that the existing relationship between league and company may have helped this deal come to fruition. It defelects from an overwhelmingly negative news cycle while providing a boost to the revenues of a team that's been losing money hand over fist.
Regardless of where the deal came from, it is unlikely to play a major role in deciding the arena's future. That's going to be the job of the Empire State Development Corporation, which lost both its CEO and chairman recently. There's a replacement lined up, but he needs legislative approval which may be a while in coming thanks to Albany's devolution into a clown college this week.