The New Jersey Nets are quickly developing their ties to the Russian business market.
New owner Mikhail Prokhorov says the NBA team has entered into a sponsorship agreement with Aeroflot, Russia's leading air carrier. The deal was announced less than three weeks after the Nets and vodka company Stolichnaya agreed to a five-year alliance with the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., where the team is scheduled to move in 2012.
The alliance between the Nets and Aeroflot is for the next two years, when the team will play its home game at the Prudential Center in Newark.
It's the first alliance for Aeroflot with a professional sports team in the United States. The Moscow-based airline will receive television-visible courtside signage during Nets home games that will be broadcast in Russia during the current season, and on-screen branding during select YES Network broadcasts of Nets away games.
Select games will air on NTV in Russia this season.
''We're proud to announce that one of Russia's blue chip companies and best brands is becoming a Nets corporate sponsor, and we're looking forward to a long and mutually beneficial relationship with Aeroflot,'' Prokhorov said.
Nets chief executive Brett Yormark hopes to extend the agreement with Aeroflot once the team moves to Brooklyn.
''They are an airline going through the same things we are, in terms of a lot of positive change, a new fleet and more direct flights from JFK to Russia,'' Yormark said. ''This is an opportunity to build their brand here but also to reinforce it in Russia.''
Yormark went to Russia last month and visited with representatives from more than 30 companies. He expects to announce more sponsorships deals in the near future.
''(Prokhorov) is the connector to the marketplace,'' Yormark said. ''The NBA opened an office in Russia in August and it's a market that we'll be working and looking to develop. But I think without Prokhorov, these deals don't exist.''