Saturday September 30, 2023

How Black Panther And Iron Man Found A Home With The Brooklyn Nets

  • Multiple sports teams have used partnerships with Marvel Entertainment around bobbleheads to drive attendance.
  • Games featuring bobbleheads like Black Panther and Iron Man have drawn sell-out crowds and marked significant increases over the Nets' average home attendance.
Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports
Front Office Sports Today

Donovan McNabb and the State of Football

From Taylor Swift to the Prime Effect, there's a lot going on in the world of football.
Listen Now
September 29, 2023 | Podcast
Copy Link
Link Copied
Link Copied

Mark Fine has seen the power of bobbleheads in professional sports first hand.

In July 2017, as executive director of marketing for the New York Mets, the team worked with Marvel Entertainment to design a Thor bobblehead based around pitcher Noah Syndergaard. It was the first time that Marvel worked with a professional athlete to customize him as one of the characters in the Marvel Universe.

The unprecedented nature of the Syndergaard-Thor collaboration brought fans to Citi Field in record numbers. 

The game on July 22, 2017, when the promotional bobblehead was released, was scheduled for 7:10 p.m. 

By 5:40, all 15,000 Thor bobbleheads were handed out. With an hour before first pitch, the Marvel-Mets night brought more than 25,000 people into Citi Field – and was named the No. 1 promotion in MLB in 2017 per

“What you see now is that teams have to go deeper than just a random player bobblehead,” Fine said. “There has to be some theme to it. What we’ve seen work is that having a pop culture tie-in and taking a strong brand like Marvel and the brands within Marvel Entertainment, that’s very attractive to the consumer.”

Joining the Brooklyn Nets as vice president of team marketing in February 2019, Fine has quickly set out to bring Marvel to the Barclays Center. 

READ MORE: How Seven-Foot Tall Bobbleheads Are Grabbing Bears Fans Attention

The Nets pegged Spencer Dinwiddie to appear as Marvel’s Iron Man bobblehead on January 18 versus the Milwaukee Bucks.

“He kind of goes through this road of self-discovery that leads to him being a more benevolent figure,” Dinwiddie said to “I think in a lot of ways, obviously my journey hasn’t been smooth, and I’ve had to rely on my mind a lot to get to where I’m at. I am Iron Man.”

Much like previous Marvel-Nets nights, the Iron Man-inspired Dinwiddie bobblehead drove significant attention to Barclays Center. Although the Nets lost 117-97 to the Bucks, they finished with a sell-out crowd of 17,732 – a 7% rise from their average home attendance of 16,571. 

Other Marvel-themed giveaway nights have been big drivers of attendance whenever featured by a team across sports.

During the 2018 and 2019 MLB seasons, Marvel-themed gate giveaways saw an average increase in attendance of 30.4% and 26%, respectively. When, the New York Yankees hosted Marvel Superhero Night on Friday, July 12, 2019, it was their highest-reported attendance of the season to that point. 

It was not only a sell-out occasion, but more than 20,000 fans were at Yankee Stadium one hour before first pitch when there is typically between 10,000 and 20,000 in the stadium when the first pitch is thrown, according to Marvel.

The New York Islanders held their second Marvel Super Hero Day on Saturday, February 9, 2019, when they took on the Colorado Avalanche at Barclays Center. 

The first 5,000 fans in attendance received not only a Captain America bobblehead, but commemorative Islanders-themed Captain America bobbleheads were available exclusively with the purchase of a special ticket package. Other Marvel characters, including Iron Man, Black Panther, and Spider-Man, were also on the arena concourse to take photos with fans.

Attendance for that game was 14,216 – a 30% bump from the team’s 10,927 average attendance at the time in 2018.

Last February, the Nets partnered with Marvel to launch a Black Panther bobblehead. The Nets were the only team in the NBA last season to give away a Black Panther bobblehead, and that rarity helped bring fans to the arena.

READ MORE: How Thor And Spider-Man Helped Turn Around Mets’ Attendance

At the time of the game on February 21, the Nets had the lowest average attendance in the NBA. By tipoff, Brooklyn pulled in a sell-out crowd of 17,732 at Barclays Center, a 22.4% increase over its average home attendance average of 14,941 in the 2018-2019 season. 

It was such a success that the Nets renewed their deal with Marvel to bring three bobblehead nights in the 2019-2020 campaign.

“Marvel Super Hero games provide a way for fans to interact with Marvel in a unique way at sports venues nationwide,” said Michael Pasciullo, head of marketing and communications for Marvel Entertainment. “There’s no better example of our brand’s bonafide power in this space than this extensive collaboration with the Nets, a team in the nation’s biggest market and home to some of the greatest names in NBA history, past and present.”

After the Nets’ Black Panther night last season, they followed that with a Spider-Man bobblehead game on November 22, 2019. Compared to their previous bobblehead giveaway, the Nets saw 15,619 in attendance for that game – a 5.4% drop from their average home attendance of 16,513.

Following the Dinwiddie-Iron Man giveaway, Brooklyn will host one more Marvel bobblehead night on March 6 when NBA legend Julius “Dr. J” Erving appears as Black Panther. Along with the bobblehead, the Nets will also be giving away meet-and-greet opportunities with Erving as well as a food and beverage package, said Fine.

For Fine, creating a bobblehead featuring a well-known brand like Marvel and a legend like Erving is a winning recipe for driving ticket sales. 

“It’s an opportunity to celebrate one of the greatest basketball players of all time – who was a Net – along with Black Panther, which is one of the most popular Marvel superheroes that exist,” Fine said. “It’s combining those two to form one identity, and we like where we are with that.”

Copy Link
Link Copied
Link Copied

What to Read

Toy Story

‘Toy Story’ Success Could Lead to More Disney-Branded NFL Kid-Casts

A successful ‘Toy Story’ game could open the door for other franchises.

Lillard And Giannis Pairing Could Be Big For The NBA, Too

Bucks to be featured on national TV 19 times this season
The average resale price for Liberty-Mystics at Barclays Center is $100, a 28% jump over all WNBA regular season games.

Liberty-Mystics Is Best-Selling Playoff Series of WNBA’s First Round

The average resale price for Mystics-Liberty at Barclays Center is $100.

Yankees Strike Record Jersey Patch Deal With Relative Unknown

A relatively unknown commercial insurance company landed a spot on arguably the most iconic uniform in sports
podcast thumbnail mobile
Front Office Sports Today

Donovan McNabb and the State of Football


Featured Today

Ryder Cup’s Future Hanging In The Balance Amid Saudi Disruption

An unexpected change could be coming to the Ryder Cup.
September 29, 2023

Colorado Has Become the Hollywood of College Football. This Weekend Proves It.

Folsom Field will welcome dozens of Hollywood stars on Saturday.
Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce on field after the game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium.
September 29, 2023

Taylor Swift Shaking Up Travis Kelce, Chiefs Prop Betting Market

Sportsbooks are capitalizing with Taylor Swift-themed prop bets.
Taylor Swift reacts while sitting next to Donna Kelce watching the Kansas City Chiefs vs Chicago Bears game during the first half at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium.
September 28, 2023

Taylor Swift Is Affecting The NFL, Chiefs Ticket Markets

Swift will visit her second NFL stadium in as many weeks.


Powered By

Careers in Sports

Looking for a new job? Check out these featured listings and search for openings all over the world.
Chicago Cubs
New York
Tri Star Sports and Entertainment Group, Inc.
USA - Multiple Locations
FC Barcelona vs. Real Madrid in Texas.

FC Barcelona, Real Madrid Set AT&T Stadium Soccer Attendance Record

Sixth Street organized the match as part its U.S. Soccer Champions Tour.
A young fan holds a sign for Julio Rodriguez during the 2023 MLB Home Run Derby.
July 12, 2023

MLB Median Ticket Buyer Down to 43 Years Old

Games are shorter and higher scoring thanks to new rules.
November 14, 2022

Vegas Resorts Going All Out for Formula 1 Grand Prix

MGM Resorts will build a grandstand for the Las Vegas Grand Prix.

How QuintEvents is Changing the Game of Premium Fan Experiences

Over the last decade, we’ve seen a noticeable shift in the psyche…
October 7, 2022

MLB Attendance Pops Up, But Falls Below 2019 Levels

MLB attendance rose from 2021, but still lagged behind 2019 levels.
September 16, 2022

Baron Davis, Michele Roberts Help Launch Fan Controlled Hoops

The league will begin its inaugural season on Feb. 7, 2023 in Atlanta.

Webinar: How to Improve the Fan Experience at the Stadium and Online

Learn how pro sports teams are improving the fan experience.
July 20, 2022

MLB Attendance Figures Continue to Trend Downward

MLB attendance is on a long-term downward trend, including a 5% drop from 2019. The league has averaged 26,409 tickets sold per game in 2022.