A winning team is the most coherent brand builder for the Knicks
Jaime C. Harris | 2/13/2020, 2:47 p.m.
The Knicks do not need a marketing makeover. Slick slogans, catchy advertising, and cultural currency isn’t going to change fans’ or the media’s perception of the Knicks. Winning is the most effective method of building their brand. Which is why the organization’s hiring of Steve Stoute from the moment it was announced near the end of last month was puzzling and seems to have minimal potential efficacy in achieving what should be their primary objective of dramatically improving in the NBA standings.
The 49-year-old Stoute, the founder and CEO of the marketing agency Translation, is a proven advertising heavyweight, arguably as good as anyone at what he does. He has been instrumental in developing the careers of many highly successful music artists as a former executive at several major labels. However, his marketing mastery cannot transform the Knicks into a playoff, or optimally championship, contender.
Prior to hosting the Washington Wizards last night (Wednesday, Feb. 12) at Madison Square Garden, the Knicks’ last game before the All-Star Game break, they were 17-37, unenviable holders of the fifth lowest record in the league. They had won four of their previous five games under interim head coach Mike Miller, who has demonstrated an impressive acumen and temperament worthy of being given a fair chance to earn a multi-year contract.
But in an interview on the ESPN show “First Take” on Tuesday, Stoute inadvisedly intimated that Miller’s days roaming the sidelines for the Knicks are close to being over. “There had to be a change in [firing team president Steve Mills]. That change will bring a new coach and new coaches that are going to help develop these younger players,” Stoute said.
He continued, “And they got some young players—you see R.J. Barrett, Mitch Robinson. They got something to work with. And getting a coach in there and ultimately getting a coach and a coaching staff that’s going to help develop a team. That’s what I expect to happen so that we can actually get to what you expect from a New York team.
“Having a coach like that who has the magnitude and gravitas so that the media would love to talk to him and believe him, I think that’s super important.”
Note that Stoute referred to the Knicks as “we.”
However, the Knicks’ shot callers quickly distanced themselves from his assertions, releasing a statement that in part read Stoute “does not speak on behalf of the New York Knicks personnel and basketball operations.”
Ironically, it was Mills who said in a statement upon Stoute’s hiring by the Knicks as a brand consultant, “I am thrilled to have his knowledge and expertise as we continue to grow the Knicks franchise in new and innovative ways. I look forward to working closer with both him and his team.”
Mills, who was relieved of his duties on Feb. 4, said he has known Stoute for many years and gave him a glowing public endorsement. So it was both telling and ironic that Stoute agreed Mills needed to be removed as Knicks team president.
The bad public relations generated by Stoute are an inauspicious beginning to his role with the organization. Nevertheless, most followers of the team will ultimately pay little attention to his endeavors shaping the Knicks’ image and continue to focus on what matters most: wins and losses.