Knicks appoints Translation agency to carry out brand makeover

Mike Miller of the New York Knicks talks to his players during a time out in the fourth quarter against the Los Angeles Lakers at Madison (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

The New York Knicks has appointed marketing agency Translation to create a new brand image for the team and help it reconnect with its fanbase after coming bottom of the table for the 2018-19 season and after a series of on- and off-court controversies. 

Translation, the agency of US businessman Steve Stoute, previously worked with the Knicks’ crosstown rivals the Brooklyn Nets, helping the team to make the most of its new surroundings after relocating from New Jersey in 2012. There, he focused on the popular image of Brooklyn and helped the Nets capitalise on the hipster appeal of the borough.

Stoute will look to play up the Knicks’ famous heritage and its world-famous Madison Square Garden home as he looks to strengthen the club’s brand both locally and globally, using data and analytics to develop marketing campaigns and activations.

“We have a ways to go,” Stoute said in an interview. “People can say what they want, but the world knows when you get it right — when the New York team is winning — basketball is better. When the New York Knicks are right, the NBA is a better place. That is the opportunity.”

Despite having not won an NBA championship since 1973 or even made the playoffs since 2013, the Knicks remains the league’s most valuable team, according to Forbes, which valued it at $4bn in 2019. That lack of success hasn’t led to a dwindling of attendances, with the Knicks still drawing an average of 18,800 to Madison Square Garden for home games, the 11th-highest in the 30-team NBA. Stoute said that getting the branding right for the Knicks would help them get back on the right track on the court, too. 

“Winning cures a lot of problems,” he said. “Great marketing and exciting entertainment cure all problems. The brand has to be strong regardless of the final score. When people are hopeful that things are going to be better, and it brings excitement, all of a sudden that becomes the brand.”

Stoute also added that it would be important to separate the Knicks brand, and that of Madison Square Garden, from the team’s owner James Dolan, who has engaged in public disputes with high-profile Knicks fans, journalists and former players in recent years. 

“His brand, and the New York Knicks brand, and MSG, stand on their own,” he said. “That’s the way it has to be.”

As well as the Nets, Translation can also count the likes of the NFL, AT&T, Anheuser-Busch and State Farm among its past clients.