Community is defined as a feeling of fellowship with others as a result of shared attitudes, interests, and goals. At the Long Island Nets, community is at the core of everything we do, on and off the court.
When the Long Island Nets were established, we knew we wanted to be impactful yet remain authentic to who we are as a brand and organization. After five seasons of actively nurturing our relationship with the local community, I want to encourage other local businesses to do the same while providing a framework to start.
Our first question was not how the Long Island community could benefit our business, but how we could best serve them. The strongest relationships are not transactional, they’re created with thoughtful purpose. As Long Island’s only professional basketball team, we have a unique opportunity to understand and fulfill specific local needs. As such, our focus is on education, health and wellness.
Finding your lane is essential to any organic synergy. Whether your business is rooted in another industry, the strategy still applies. As a team focused on player development for the Brooklyn Nets, we knew we wanted to mimic that focus by helping with development of youth on Long Island. We created the Long Island Nets Basketball Academy, a series of complimentary basketball clinics on Long Island for boys and girls, ages 6-14. At each clinic, participants are taught sports safety education and basketball fundamentals by local volunteer clinicians. We found success as we replicated a program and elevated it for community consumption. When our partner, Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) saw our impact, they were eager to support our efforts and brought in their own personnel to lead participants in warmups and drills at our clinics. Since beginning this program, we are proud to have hosted more than 2,000 participants in 90 clinics.
Education has a big emphasis within our organization because we consider ourselves students. In addition to hosting our annual Education Day game – where we invite thousands of students and local educators to our arena for an afternoon of fun and basketball – we have worked hard to ensure the future generation of leaders are equipped with the proper resources to be successful. Our annual back-to-school supply drive is a great example of community partnership. With the help of our partners at Jovia Financial Credit Union and Target, we placed donation boxes at local Jovia branches where members dropped off essential supplies for an elementary school in Uniondale and a middle school in Wyandanch. Together, we were able to donate 60 boxes of supplies to prepare teachers and students for the school year.
When I think about community, I also think about our internal team and how our external efforts have had a direct impact on our culture. Our employees have a front-row seat to our social responsibility platforms and their involvement produces a sense of pride and belonging that is evident in the work we do. Some of the long-standing relationships we have built in our local neighborhood have been facilitated and maintained by employees. As a team, we understand that we have a unique opportunity to use our platform to improve the lives of our neighbors and our common goal has propelled us forward.
One of the best results from engaging with the local community is the long-term connectivity with consumers. It also creates an intrinsic value for team members and the company as whole. With the help of our community, we have seen an increase in attendance in our basketball clinics over the past six years as well as a growth in ticket sales.
The Long Island Nets have approached their community partnerships with authenticity and with this framework, my hope is that more local businesses on Long Island begin to see the value in investing resources into the community they are supported by.
Alton Byrd is the vice president of business operations for the Long Island Nets.
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