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Podcast: The Art of Fan Engagement with Seattle Sounders FC’s Joe Legaz

Listen to this month’s podcast featuring Joe Legaz, Game Presentation & Live Experience Director

Podcast: The Art of Fan Engagement with Joe Legaz, Seattle Sounders

This episode of the MVP Interactive podcast, hosted by James Giglio, CEO of MVP Interactive, features a comprehensive interview with Joe Legaz, the Director of Game Presentation and Live Experience at Seattle Sounders FC. Joe discusses his extensive career spanning over 15 years in the sports industry, starting from his teenage years with the Seattle Mariners and leading to significant roles with major sports brands, including the LA Clippers, Adidas, the San Francisco Giants, and the 49ers.

Legaz shares his insights on fan engagement, experiential marketing, and the integration of technology in sports. He emphasizes the importance of creating memorable experiences for fans and discusses the challenges and opportunities of marketing across different sports. The episode also explores Joe’s strategic moves throughout his career to diversify his skills, his approach to brand partnerships, and the impactful role of communities around sports teams. Additionally, Joe offers his perspective on adapting to industry changes, leveraging technology to enhance fan experiences, and the evolving landscape of sports marketing.

Highlights include:

02:29 Breaking into the Sports Industry: Challenges and Opportunities
05:49 Joe’s Career Highlights and Achievements
07:18 Transitioning to Different Roles and Industries
08:25 Returning to Sports: Joining Seattle Sounders FC
09:05 Reflections on Early Career and Internship Opportunities
23:05 The Role of Strategic Brand Partnerships in Marketing
26:07 Creating Memorable Experiences for Sports Fans
29:42 The Power of Connection and Information Exchange
30:00 The Nuances of Different Sports Properties
33:02 The Impact of Sports Culture on Business Operations
36:54 The Evolution of Game Day Presentation and Marketing
44:02 The Role of Community in Sports Teams
49:09 The Future of Sports Marketing and Entertainment

About Joe Legaz

Join Joe Legaz, Fan Innovator for the Seattle Sounders on this month’s Podcast Series.

A creative swiss-army knife, Joe started his career in television production with The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and ABC’s, The Bachelor, before pivoting into a career in sports.

Since then, he’s served as part of the San Francisco Giants marketing engine producing two World Series. oversaw the adidas brand presence at the Boston Marathon, developed the vision for the 49ers game day experience at Levi’s Stadium, helped-define the LA Clippers brand in the role of Director of Marketing and worked with fortune 500 companies and start-ups alike as CMO of a boutique advertising agency in Los Angeles.

In total, he’s worked in full and part time capacities for a total of nine professional sports teams during a 20 year career including working in every one of the major 5 sports leagues. He’s currently enjoying leading the Seattle Sounders live experience team in his hometown of Seattle.

Podcast Transcript

 Hi everyone. This is James Giglio, CEO of MVP interactive and welcome to the MVP podcast. Our podcast will bring insight to a range of topics involving technology, consumer engagement, experiential marketing, and general business related subjects. This show will host not only our great roster of clients from the professional sports world, along with fortune 500 brands and agencies, but other entrepreneurs and startups.

We hope our podcast brings value and thank you for listening. For general inquiries or topic requests, please email mvppodcast@mvp-interactive.com. And please subscribe to our YouTube page and follow us on Twitter. Facebook, Instagram, and SoundCloud with the account name MVP Interactive. 

(···14.3s) Welcome back to the MVP Interactive podcast everyone. We have a very special guest today by the name of Joe Legaz.  

Joe is a director of game presentation and live experience at Seattle Sounders FC Joe is a creative marketing professional with over 15 years of experience leading teams and delivering results for high profile sports brands. His career highlights include leading a rebrand of the LA Clippers, defining the fan experience at Levi Stadium, overseeing the (···1.1s) Adidas brand (···0.5s) presence at the 2013 Boston Marathon, and producing two World Series and Championship parades with the San Francisco Giants.  

Joe, that’s quite a career. Thanks for joining us today. (···0.5s) Thank you. Glad to be here. Yeah, it’s been quite a journey. Yeah. Well, I, as a self-proclaimed (···0.6s) Swiss Army knife, you know, ranging over those 15 years in different roles and responsibilities, in and out of sports and entertainment, could you educate our viewers on, you know, that journey that led you to Seattle FC, (···0.7s) or sorry, Seattle, sorry. Yeah, absolutely.  So it started working, for the Seattle Mariners when I was 16 years old, doing really anything and everything, in the sports on, in essence, kind of understanding how the sausage was made, so to speak.  

And I did that throughout my high school and college years just for fun. And I think that really solidified (···1.0s) my desire to work in the sports industry, and feel like sports marketing was right for me. (···0.8s) But the challenge is it’s a very hard industry to break into. And so kind of how do I, how did I turn that into a full-time role?  

I got a little bit lucky as I think, you know, hard work, begets luck, right. And I think I had a combination of those two.  So I had that six years under my belt with the Mariners, (···0.6s) and I was really actually trying to utilize the Mariners to maybe get a job with one of their sponsors and try to kick off my, start my career. And there was a marketing manager job that I saw posted, and I thought, this job is probably over my head. I’m just outta college, but I’m gonna apply for it because I served in a support capacity for the person who was in that role for years.  

And so I knew that stuff. And so I applied for the role, (···0.9s) unbeknownst to myself, I really had the right (···0.8s) things on my resume at the time. I had this, this background in sports. I had, I did a production internship with The Daily Show with John Stewart in New York. So I had this kind of production experience. And then I had like a, a membership marketing internship with,  the music museum here in Seattle.  

And so I had this kind of like (···0.6s) sports experience, marketing experience, production experience that made me like the perfect fit. And so (···0.7s) in my first interview, I remember them telling me like, look, I thought it was going really well. And then they’re like, actually, you’re really not qualified to be in this role, but we were gonna have a marketing coordinator role that’s opening up, and you’d be great for that, and we’re not gonna, post for that. We were gonna actually hire somebody from these set of interviews to be in that role. (···1.2s) And so I was fortunate enough to get that role as the marketing coordinator,  and it was a seasonal role as sports roles often are.  

So, I was with the club for six months, or nine, nine months I guess. And then at the end of the year I was let go and, offered to come back in, at the start of the next year or find something else. And it just so happened that in the off season, I (···0.9s) remember I sent these, like, I created this presentation and I sent it off to basically every, person in a director capacity, like my, current role now, explaining to them my passion and how I wanted to work and as my experience.  

And amazingly I got a couple responses from that, but it, it just so happened that there happened to be an opening of the San Francisco Giants. And so I got a role as the, entertainment coordinator at the San Francisco Giants, which led after eight years, I ended up as the marketing manager, for the club, (···1.0s) and had really an incredibly blessed run there, two World Series Barry Bonds, home run Chase an All Star game, world Baseball Classic.  

I mean, at the end it was like, I don’t know what there is left to do here. You know, it felt kind of like everything that I could have accomplished, I accomplished. (···1.2s) And so then I started to look for other opportunities that led me to Adidas to be, the manager of event, event marketing for running in soccer categories. (···1.1s) And, and then that, you know, the, I had the chance to open Levi’s stadium, for the 49ers. So that kind of, the Bay Area came calling back and I really couldn’t pass up that opportunity. And then a couple years into that, you know, the opportunity fell into my lap to, be the director of marketing for the LA Clippers. (···0.7s) And so I took that role. I then is where we met originally. Right? Exactly. Yeah. And I was in that role for about three and a half years. And I wanted to kind of, I didn’t want to be known as, I never wanted to be known as like the baseball guy, which is why I kind of started to look at other sports, but I also didn’t want to be known as the sports guy.  

Sure. So I took an opportunity with a, an ad agency in Los Angeles, and I was the chief marketing officer for them. And they did a ton of sports work with Adidas, and Under Armour, but they also worked with, other non-sports brands, like MGM Grand, Palm Cell phone. So it crossed some different industries. And I thought that that would give me, a really good breadth of experience across, different industries. And then Covid hit, and I had some unfortunate news about some family members, and that led me back to Seattle, where I kind of spent most of Covid being a, caretaker for some loved ones. And then the opportunity, (···0.5s) I was really low looking for new opportunities to get back into sports. Had a couple offers outside of the area and was really hesitant to take anything because I really wanted to be around for my family during that time. And then the Sounders posted their job, and I was, I kind of said no to all the other job offers and crossed my fingers and was fortunate that the, Sounders hired me in this role, so I was able to kind of stay here locally.  

Yeah. That’s fantastic. What a, story and journey and I, you know, there’s a lot here, but at, 16 years old, applying for a position with a professional baseball club. I mean, were you looking to be (···1.0s) a bat boy or were you looking to like really intern, or how did,  you know, have the foresight to, kind of do that? Yeah, well, I was fortunate enough it was in the family a little bit.  

I have an aunt who was the head of ticket sales for the Mariners growing up. Okay. And so I knew of a program that existed where there was about 60 kids, between the ages of 16 and 23 that, served in a bunch of different capacities at the stadium, very low level functions are handing out items at the gate. One of the more interesting roles was, cleaning up, helping to monitor and clean up, human accidents in the children’s play area. (···1.4s) Not the most glamorous stuff, but stuff that, the company needs.  

And really, it was the best tool that I would give anyone to break into the industry because Right. It, gave me a chance to, (···0.9s) you know, liaise with the director of guest experience, and then they got to know that like, Hey, here’s this really hardworking young kid who really wants a foot in the door in the, industry. Yeah, I got my name known internally within the organization that way. Yeah. That’s great. And I’m curious to know, because I actually have a colleague Natasha, who, you know, who, did a very similar thing at the age of 14 interning with the LA Kings.  

And so, I’m curious, may I, it’s not something that I have previously explored, but I’m, curious if, a lot of sports clubs have this sort of high school aged internship program that, you know, could be really beneficial. Are, are you aware of, Program? There’s usually a, split, there’s two things. There is, most (···0.7s) teams do have some sort of program (···0.6s) that they, you know, whether they’re elevator operators or ushers, or kind of support staff.  

There’s definitely like a match day assistant game day assistant, role. I mean, the, the Sounders have it. The LA Clippers had it.The Mariners obviously had it, and it’s just usually they, can break it up differently, but it’s a collection (···0.5s) of young, (···0.7s) usually young staff that they can rely on to do all sorts of random tasks Yeah. Throughout the organization. And then there’s separately, they also have internship programs, which are typically reserved more for, college or graduate program students.  

(···0.7s) Well, either way it’s, really smart. I mean, it’s something that we say all (···1.2s) the time, and venues are living and breathing organisms in many ways. Right. And so there’s a lot to be done. And you know, it’s not just the (···0.7s) maybe 80 games or 10 games if you’re the NFL, it’s just not the, game, you know, the time that it’s on. I mean, there’s a lot of things to be done operationally within a stadium.  

So (···1.3s) smart for a, (···0.5s) professional organization to, kind of give that opportunity. ’cause as a kid, I would’ve killed to, you know, work with the Phillies or the who or any of the, professionals. Totally (···0.8s) Professional. Yeah. And, it’s such a fun college or high school, job, summer job, you know? Yeah. It’s perfect. Yeah. I do sometimes (···1.1s)  fantasy, quite honestly, you know, about retirement and what I would do, and, you know, being old man collecting tickets. Well, I mean, that’s gonna be, you know, e-tickets are the, way of the future.  

Yeah. But I could, see myself maybe selling peanuts in my, my golden years there. Exactly. (···1.5s) Yeah. So we, as mentioned, we initially met with the Clippers, and, you had a marketing role there. And, now with the Sounders, you’re really focused in on, you know, game day presentation and events. And, you know, although they are tangential to each other, I’d imagine the roles are, different. And so maybe walk us through, even on the agency side, right? Because you know, you working in sports, you see, (···0.6s) you (···1.0s) know, the world in a particular lens and you operate in a particular lens.  

And then maybe talk to us about some similarities or dissimilarities with, you know, those roles and then what it was like to be on the brand side or the, agency side that was different from the, team side. (···1.9s) Yeah. So I guess first you want a, little bit of difference between my current role and some of the roles that I held at the Clippers and other roles like that. Yeah. Or, just ranging in your career. You know, you don’t have to do it in any particular order, I was just sort of piecing together. Okay, sure. (···0.7s) Yeah.  

So, um, each role has definitely been a little different. I mean, there’s, I guess the first split is like the marketing role, which (···0.7s) right now I’m in the game presentation, function, live experience function. And that’s certainly, we’re in the marketing department, so there’s absolutely crossover. Because we’re part of that cross-functional marketing team. We’re, you know, our job is to figure out how we get the marketing message out through the live experience. Mm-Hmm. Um, I would say that, you know, when I, at the Clippers, my role in marketing was far more to kind of be that, (···0.8s) that first messenger of like, this is our brand, this is who we’re, who we are, what we are.  

And then get that and then like, work with all the different disciplines. Like how are we gonna get that message out? How are we expressing who, we are and what our brand is (···0.5s) from digital and social,  you know, through to the live experience, through to all these different channels. Now I’m kind of more just a channel owner, where marketing is handing that down, and then I’m recommending how we move forward with that path.  And you know, I mean, we have such a great team, you know, at the Sounders that I don’t, feel obligated, (···0.7s) nor is there any pressure for me to kind of insert myself in that capacity. I get to just be the entertainment person, which is great. And then I, over my career, I mean, (···1.9s) the Niners, I was very much in the same role as I am now. I, that those were kind of like very apples to apples role,  The Giants and the, were a little bit more of a hybrid of everything.  

I was kind of more a generalist. I did a lot of the marketing stuff, plus also owned the live experience channels. So it’s kind of different everywhere. And then the Clippers, I also owned, you know, helping with ticket sales. I also had to own promotional items, and getting those out to the gate. So all of those roles have just been a little bit different. And it’s, (···0.6s) a little bit of my philosophy is I always want to grow. I never want to just kind of do the same role. So I always look for, (···1.4s) jump into a role and go, what is the, one thing or two things that I can add, to this experience.  

So, for example, I think a, great example is the Clippers going from the Niners to the Clippers. You know, I had done a lot of those things at the Giants and at the Niners and at Adidas, but I’d never overseen promotions before. So now I’m overseeing a hundred  promotional items a year across a couple different teams, you know, including other like membership gifts and things like that. That’s a tremendous additional skillset that I can add to my, experience level.  

 Yeah. And so that’s always kind of how I’ve approached it. And what was the second part of that question? If there was any difference or similarities with working on the brand or agency side, you know, how much that changed what you were used to being on the, team side versus agency side? (···1.3s) Yeah, I mean, I think it allows you to, view things in a little different way and it allow and, approach things in a different way. I think when you’re on the team side, you’re so, you’re in it, you know, you’re too,  deep in it, right.  

To be able to kind of like, pull back and see things from more of a macro perspective. And that’s really helpful on the, (···0.7s)  (···0.8s) agency side to be able to like, (···1.1s) just have a whole different perspective on the whole thing. Sometimes, you don’t know as much, because (···0.5s) sometimes, you know, from the agency you could come with an idea where if our agency came with that idea, I’d say, you clearly don’t understand our fan base here.  

Right. That’s not gonna work. But that’s okay. ’cause they’re not necessarily experts in that right. And they just have to get educated. But I think that extra, that different layer of perspective is really what’s often needed. (···1.0s) Because a lot of times, you know, within sports, there is, even if it’s not intentional, there’s like the dogma, well, this is how we have to do things (···0.7s) and this is how we have to do things. ’cause this is how things have always been done. And it just is, this is what everyone expects. And sometimes the agency, you get come in and go, why are you doing it this way?  

Because if you did it this way, your problem is solved. And then you go, well, I guess we never thought about it. We never thought we could do that. Right. So, but yeah, you’re right. Why can’t we do that? Yeah. and so you just, you know, it gives you a little bit more freedom to be, more creative. Yeah. No, and, and on being on this side of the table, right. You know, someone that, you know, we kind of blend in that world of one technology company and then an agency in terms of the, domain expertise throughout the career. Creative, (···4.2s) it’s, (···0.8s) interesting because you’re (···0.8s) comment about being in the weeds on the, team side is, you know, we’re, usually engagements, right?  

And so to us, it’s the most important thing in the world, and that is our sole scope that we are going to execute on said thing. And then when we sort of interface with the team, it’s like, (···1.5s) Hey, this is just one part of a thousand things. And, you know, the bandwidth isn’t always as focused or as intentional as it is on the vendor or on the agency side, but it, to your point, it does open up, you know, opportunities to kind of think differently.  

We’re, you know, away from the (···5.5s) operational (···0.7s) in the weeds sort of campaign side of things, and then being able to leverage our scope into ideas kind of there. (···1.2s) So, absolutely. (···0.9s) In regards to, so you, covered a lot of roles, right?  

So I’m just gonna take a look at my notes here. So you, range from business development ideation and content promotions, partnership, video production, (···1.5s) you know, and, maybe operations, right? Like, I, feel like there’s a lot of things that nuts and bolts that you have to worry about. Do you, how would you rank your, do you have a favorite or at least favorite? (···1.0s) Yeah. I think that I’ve kind of got a couple of favorites. I mean, I think that on the marketing side, the, one of the things I love the most is like working on strategic brand partnerships.  

And that’s, not, you know, sponsorship, right? That’s not the paid sponsorship. That’s like working with, WWE when I was at the Clippers to throw WWE night where we said, you know, WWE was coming to Staples Center, (···0.7s) and they’re like, we need to move a bunch of tickets for our event. And it’s like, okay, well how do we help you do that? (···0.7s) And how do we gain something on, you know, on our end? What can, we win from this?   I did a partnership with the Imagine Dragons, when I was at the 49ers. And like, that’s one of my favorites. ’cause it started out of just like an exploratory call. And we found out all this information about both sides that like led us to this really cool partnership idea. And it’s just fun to, I think, work and part of my, part of why I work at a team. Yeah. I love working as a team and achieving goals together. You know, digging in, digging our heels in and going, oh boy, we’re up against it. How are we gonna get outta this? And then working together to like, make something magical happen.And I, also love being able to be super resourceful. And I think that brand partnerships do that is instead of spending a ton of money trying to solve a problem and just throwing money at it, you find the right partner. You dig in together and you find a way to solve your problem. It’s like, Hey, we could sell out our WWE night, which is a normal Tuesday night that no one would’ve cared about. And we could have spent, you know, it’s just tons of money throwing money at it from a marketing perspective or Sure. Done other things. And instead we, for basically for free, we were able to get it sold out because we partnered with WWE, you know, and they were able to, we were able to help drive enough impressions for them to (···0.5s) help push their, you know, push their event in market and drive buzz and sales.  

And so I love, doing brand partnerships. Though I would say that probably my (···0.5s) favorite thing (···1.2s) really is all about, the experience, you know? And, (···1.0s) I guess it’s probably because it’s what I value most. And for me, you know, I was very blessed to go to a lot of baseball games growing up.  

As I mentioned, my aunt was the head of ticket sales, so I was totally spoiled in that. As a 12-year-old, I’d be like, I (···0.7s) had five o’clock. I’d say, dad, I wanna go to the game today. And we’d call it my aunt, and I’d have two tickets waiting for me at the box office. It also probably helped that I worked that there was the Mariners and there was not a huge demand for tickets until, and Griffey showed up on the scene. But, I went to a lot of games and I just, some of the greatest memories of my life were with my family at those games.  

And so having the opportunity to kind of be the person that is sitting in that seat and now like, delivering those memories for other people, yeah, you know, that’s really why. And so, you know, you can get bogged down and a lot of the day-to-Day minutia of the job or the things that are frustrating. But I think if I’m always able to kind of look through that (···0.8s) and get to the, like, there’s somebody at this game who’s gonna, I’m gonna create a memory for this person and they’re never gonna forget today. And so it’s less about the sports component, and it’s more just about creating memories for people.  

You know, I do that through sports. But whether kind of I do that through any field, it’s really just all about the fact that I’m creating those memories. Yeah. I think absolutely. At the end of the day, that’s one of the most important things that we have. I, you don’t, on your deathbed you don’t think about how much money you made or, that car you drove. You, think about like, what are the most impactful, fun moments of my life? And,  so I try to give people those things. Yeah, Absolutely. And, you know, being ahead of any sort of large consultancy and data reporting, you know, I think there’s, multiple reports and research showing that, generationally, millennials, gen Z (···0.6s) are really valuing experiences over things, right.  

And sports is really unique because you get both, right? You have to purchase a thing in terms of the ticket, but that’s not where it ends. Right. You know, the, experience of entering the gates and taking in all of the fanfare that happens in a venue,  really adds and amplifies to, you know, that memory and that particular purchase.  

Right. And so similarly, that’s exactly, you know, that’s really been our thesis as a company in terms of creating these fan experiences through technology. Because, you know, immersive technology provides a, frictionless communication to a brand too, because the fan is, you know, looking at, (···0.6s) you know, they’re not looking at maybe a financial services brand that’s attached to the sponsorship, but they get to participate in this really cool, fun, interactive experience that’s tied to their favorite team.  

And oh, by the way, I (···0.6s) just had a brand affinity without knowing it. Right? And, and so the powerful connection is there and the exchange of information is there, pretty seamlessly. So we, completely concur and, (···1.4s) share that, sentiment in terms of creating these experiences, you know, you covered three different professional sports. How would you say, you know, in, marketing and, events and promotions, would you say that there’s a, string of similarity across each of the sports properties?  

Or are they all challenged with different (···0.9s) nuances and, different things in terms of either game day experiences or, marketing? It’s both. I think they both, they’re, definitely, there’s definitely strings that, every team, you know, that things are very similar across all the teams on a lot of different components. But then there’s things that are also really different.  

 I think soccer probably, (···1.4s) you know, you think about, baseball (···0.7s) especially, like, I’ll, just pull out the game presentation side of things. You know, baseball is that kind of like, things move a little slower. You, it’s not all in your face. Like there’s a moment for in your face, right? Like right before the team takes the field. It’s like you can be in your face, but then for the rest of the time, it’s kind of a (···0.5s) funny dance cam or a blooper video. It’s like (···0.7s) you’re, the, fan is sitting back relaxed in a calm vibe, right?  

Football, it’s like, no, we need a hype video. We need, like in your face energy, it needs to be nonstop. So like, some of the stuff that you run in baseball, it’s like running the kiss cam in base in, NFL, like that feels like jarringly slow. Whereas some of the things you might run in the football would seem jarringly fast and aggressive, right? And so they all have their different kind of (···0.7s) nuances. Soccer, I think is probably the biggest outlier of all of them. Especially for teams like the Sounders that really want to connect with the authentic, soccer experience from Europe.  

Right? I think there are some teams, there are some clubs out there that are, really just totally embracing North American sports and doing things that feel like they’re done in basketball. I think our sound, our fan base here in Seattle (···1.1s) really values an authentic soccer experience that of, you know, the European community. And so we tend to try to balance kind of (···0.6s) providing, that more authentic European soccer experience with understanding the needs of like, while there’s also, there’s reasons and, points where we need to, lean into some of the North American, sports (···0.8s) components.  

So sure. They’re, different. But one of my favorite, analogies was sports. And I had my old boss at Adidas told me this, and it was one of the, probably the, the wisest thing I’ve heard about working in sports. And so I, in my role, I worked with people from the soccer department, and then people from the running department, and they specifically functioned, they, operated very, differently.  

And so I, think part of what she was underscoring for me, was that, and she said, you know, what we noticed is that people tend to act like the sport they work in. (···0.8s) And it had never dawned on me before, but it was so true. ’cause the soccer guys, they moved as a unit. The soccer business unit did not make a decision unless everyone was on board and comfortable with it.  

 And then the running guys were like, this is the decision. Go. And it’s like, well, have you talked to so and so? It’s like, doesn’t matter. We’re going forward. Oh, that’s really interesting. And you talk to them that have a totally different idea of how we were going. They were individual team play, they’re individual players. Yeah.  And so you see that very much. And I’ve, just always been keen to that. So like in soccer, it is still very true. Like, (···0.7s) we move as a group. No one, internally wants to make decisions without consulting others. Right. And making sure that like, hey, we all we’re on alignment here.  

 And then, you know, (···0.5s) basketball at times it feels kind of like everyone’s the star, everyone’s the decision maker.  Their, you know, kind of what they need is the most important need of the club.  Baseball tends to be pretty relaxed. Like, we’ll get it tomorrow, you know, we’ll, it’s okay. We, we lost today. No worries. Life is, is long. You know, and then football the exact opposite. Everything is very, intense. Everything’s a showdown, everything’s a battle. You know, in the office for like, who’s gonna, win the idea?  

 And so, and with that, they all have their pros and cons, but it’s really a,  personality game. Like where do you feel like that’s A really interesting perspective? Yeah. I love that.  And I, and  (···0.9s) obviously being (···1.0s) in a way, I mean, we were (···0.6s) in and around teams, but obviously we’re, not, you know, in the trenches, so to speak. But that is a very interesting perspective, and it does make a lot of sense now if I’m just logging our, past clients, and I can, feel that, because, you know, we had years ago an NFL client where it was like week three, and they were in absolute disarray because, you know, they were worried about, you know, losing their third game, which statistically meant that, you know, playoff chances dramatically dropped.  

And, you know, and then it’s like, oh, okay, we feel that energy, but you know, we’re still creating an awesome experience for you. Let’s kind of separate that. But you’re, that was an, perfect point of you are become, you become who you work for, I guess, or like the sport you work for. So that makes a lot of sense. Yeah. The sport, dictates. Yeah. (···0.6s)  That’s really interesting. So over the last 15 years, I’d imagine you’ve seen, such a change in landscape in terms of game, day presentation, and, you know, even marketing efforts.  

Maybe can you walk us through some of, (···0.7s) you know, some of the older, sort of maybe now, what would be considered antiquated practices to,  more forward thinking ones over the last 15 years? (···2.4s) Yeah, I mean, certainly the, (···0.8s) evolution of tech has played a huge role in this. And, (···0.6s) and so has kind of user, (···1.0s) user content or the ability to kind of (···0.6s) get involved, or as opposed to be a spectator.  

I think that’s probably the, one of the biggest things I’ve noticed. And I always think about Mark Cuban’s line. You know, I know Mark Cuban kind of, I (···0.5s) think for a period was like very anti, like foam absolutely. Stadium. And it was like, I felt like teams were kind of taking this, like you’re either on his side or you’re like leaning into technology. I mean, one good example, when I was at the Giants, you know, we had all star balloting (···0.5s) and all star balloting.  

Everyone did it by paper ballots, and they had contests where if you could get the most fans to vote, for your player, then they’re gonna be starting the All Star game. And we were the first, one of the first stadiums, if not the first, with full wifi. And we pivoted strategies, and we were like, let’s just go all digital, get everyone, get your phones out, everyone vote on your phones. (···0.6s) And I think we drove four of our players to start. We had guys that were on the injured Reserve, hadn’t played a game all year, were like getting second in the balloting.  

People Were so angry, but it’s like we just used technology Yeah. To change the change how things operate. And it was clear that what we were doing was better. Um, big Shout out to our, our mutual friend Bill Schlau. There you go. Bill was a huge part of that. Yep. Bill was, the mastermind there. So, exactly. And, I think a lot of those, so it’s a lot of the, technologies have allowed us to, help gamify it a little bit more for our fans so that they’re not just, watching, you know, another example, they’re not just watching on the video board as we have like the cap dance or the, the car race now.  

It’s like, hey, it’s a free throw contest and you actually can play on your phone and you can be shooting the free throws on your phone, and if you’re the person who gets the most free throws, you actually win a prize or it’s a digital, t-shirt toss. Right? So like a lot of those analog things have become, digital.  

 Instead of a here’s a photo opportunity with a player and they’re, standing there with a cut cardboard cutout. Now it’s, well, now we can use augmented reality and you can stand there and the player’s right next to you. In fact, you can even interact with them. Like, we can make it look like on screen that we’re tossing the ball to you and, and you’re catching it. And then he’s coming in and going, nice catch. (···0.7s) And then you get a video to take away to take home. Or like some of the VR stuff that I’m, you know, we’re trying to dabble in it now, look, a little bit into it, but like, take a 360 degree camera, sure.  

And have that person, have someone stand next to the, the players as they process out. And then give you the opportunity to put a, headset on and actually be in that moment and feel what it’s like. Or like have the coach give you a, you know, at the end of the, game when the coach gives the game ball and like you film that, you put that on social and you show, the coach giving, our goalkeeper or game ball for a great save. Well, now what if we put you in that position, you can be that person and we film the content and he gives you the ball, and you get to feel that moment, be in the locker room sitting next to star players who are clapping for you. It becomes a lot more immersive. (···0.6s) Yeah. For sure. I tell this story at museum, but you know, we started in, in 2012 and we really haven’t changed our tune in terms of who we are and what we were looking to do. But in 2012 when we were talking about AR and VR and immersive, technologies, teams looked at us like that. We had three heads, and they’re like, we’re just trying to get wifi in here. Like, this sounds awesome, but you know, we’re, not ready.  

And so, I was intimately familiar with AT&T and what you guys were or, the Giants were able to do at that park. And, you know, I had met Bill (···1.3s) probably right around 2012, 2013, and he was very proud of sort of leading that. And, you know, quite frankly, I think there’s probably a little added pressure geographically, you know, being in San Francisco. Yeah. You know, that you really have to move the needle. And, so not to take anything away from that, but, yeah.  

So that’s, (···0.7s) fantastic. And the Mark Cuban example was, perfect too because he’s, great example to, kind of show the evolution too, because our early meetings there, and even in the press, it was like no butts in seats all eyes on the court. Like, that’s exactly what, you know, we need to happen. And that, as you know, obviously with his ownership transition moving away, but now these venues are mixed use lifestyle and retail centers, right. Where it’s not just what’s happening on the court.  

So, we’re pretty close to time here, but I wanted to talk a little bit more about the communities that you work within. I think you have, a unique benefit of (···1.4s) catching lightning in a bottle with both the Giants during the heyday as well as, you know, the Seattle Sounders being a preeminent MLS American team. Right. You know, the city has really embraced that organization and, you know, your battle with, the Portland team and all of that. Talk to us about how (···1.6s) you felt maybe even fortunate about being a, a part of such a, tight community within their relationship with their teams.  

(···1.2s) Yeah, no, I’ve been very fortunate, on some of the different clubs that I’ve, been at, I would say (···0.6s) not, Insultingly. So, but (···1.3s) except with the exception of the Clippers, I think that was probably the club that was the, unique outlier. But like the Niners and the Giants both, you know, incredibly historic franchises, both, you know, in two, market cities that have had tremendous, you (···0.6s) know, the fan bases.  

They’re, the kind of the, a team, if you will, great histories to rely on. Same with the Sounders, you know, not, a two market team, but, fantastic history. All three of those communities are so rich, it, is a blessing to do marketing and entertainment for those teams because there’s so much to draw from. And so it’s, it has been, you know, I think in every case it’s a, learning curve for sure, because I mean, the Sounders in some ways is a lot easier for me.  

I grew up here, I grew up going to Sounders games in the eighties. That was part of my childhood. So I have this kind of deep DNA imprint of the organization. I wasn’t around for the MLS era really as much, though I would watch the occasional game, you know, whenever there were deep in a playoff run, when I was living in California. But, so I think there was, broadly, I have an, I have enough knowledge of the Sounders, but like, to get intimate enough into the community, you see all the really, like unique ins and outs, 

That you don’t see. And I think that (···0.7s) that’s really interesting is like the, (···0.6s) and it’s one thing that is different definitely from like example, a team like the Clippers who don’t have that history, don’t have the history of winning, and don’t have really much of a proud history to talk about. You don’t also come kind of with that (···0.5s) comes kind of the, the lack of these traditions and these moments that you can pull from.  

There’s so much, like, (···0.6s) there’s so many things. If you talk to a Sounders fan, they might tell you all these things that are really important to them (···0.6s) because of history, because of the way that the Sounders have evolved in a way that, like, you, don’t, that doesn’t exist maybe with the Clippers as much. ’cause the Clippers story hasn’t been written yet, you know, it’s been written. But no one really wants to embrace that story. So we’re like, we’re waiting for the new story to come. There’s not, those moments of magic haven’t really occurred. And some of those traditions haven’t been built, they haven’t been invested in.  

 And so there’s definitely things that, you know, in all clubs that I’ve been at (···1.0s) where, and again, less so at the Clippers, but, things where you’re like, wait, this, is a thing. People, like, I can’t, oh, I can’t take that away. Like, I go, I don’t know what this is, what this, what’s this about? This isn’t entertaining, this is not working. And then it’s like, don’t touch it, and you’re like, live wire. Okay, Yeah. I get it. Like, somehow it’s gotten embedded in the fabric of the organization in the fandom, and that’s fine. That becomes a respected tradition that we’ve gotta keep. Even if you don’t understand it, even if you think you can improve it, you leave it. And I think that, (···0.5s) whereas at the Clippers it was much more like, how do we start those things? How do we build those things? Right? But again, different, histories. And so (···0.6s) when you have (···1.0s) clubs like that with those deep histories, it just gives you so much more to work with, from a marketing and entertainment perspective to, create, you don’t feel like you’re trying to create something outta thin air quite as much. Right, Well that’s great. And you know, the, back to the Clippers, it seems like it, the change is happening, right.  

And, and coincidentally, bomber coming from Seattle coming down and, yeah. You know, taking over, (···1.1s) the, (···1.0s) team and (···1.2s) starting the new arena, I think there’s, and, again, the Lakers are such and so embedded into the Los, you know, where obviously on its way back, but generationally, the Lakers are, have been the mainstay successful, franchise, well, the Kings as well, but LA sports culture is much different throughout the, you know, than (···0.9s) throughout the country.  

I would True. I would argue, but. Yeah, And well, Joe, we like to, this was, yeah, (···1.0s) I was just gonna say, every club writes its story at a different timeline. Right, and so it’s just (···0.5s) the Clippers story will come, those, traditions will come. It’s just a matter of, and, and now obviously they’re on the right foot. I mean, for years I think they had been unable to, but now I think they, they’re on the right track to, write that story.  

So Yeah. Not everyone could be the Vegas Golden Knights. Right, Exactly. Not everyone gets this story written in like two years. (···0.7s) Exactly. Well, Joe, this was fantastic. We really appreciate your time (···2.1s) and we like to end our podcast, giving access to our listeners to a degree. So, whatever you’re comfortable with sharing in terms of how anyone can get in touch with you, whether that’s social media, LinkedIn, whatever, you know, please, this is your time for, yeah. And the best is just LinkedIn. It’s just my name at LinkedIn.  

 I’m not much of a, (···0.8s) not much of a poster on Instagram or Facebook or any of that stuff, so, you can find me on LinkedIn. I’m happy to engage. All right. Well, awesome. Well thank you everyone for tuning into the MVP Interactive podcast, and until next time, we will talk soon. (···1.9s) Alright, good. Joe, that was, 40 minutes on the dot. Good. Great. That was awesome. Yeah, so what we’ll do is, we’ll kind of edit this, get the songs in, and then Natascha will give you a, heads up and then we can start promoting it.  

We’ll, do like an, image for you for socials or LinkedIn. And then, yeah, so cool. This was good. Well, I appreciate (···1.1s) it and, good luck this season. (···1.1s) And Billy had told me about some of the challenges that you may be facing in terms of your budgets, and so that’s, that’s unfortunate, but yeah, we’re picking up some really nice momentum on on our network. Yeah, And hoping it’s a one year deviation. I mean, I think that’s the, (···0.7s) that’s definitely a question I’ve been asking over and over again.  

Is this, like, are, is this a new normal or are like, is this a deviation? And I think (···0.8s) you never know, but they’re, definitely saying, no, this is a deviation. And I mean, it makes sense. We have, we’re we started a new brand, you know, we’ve, so everything’s gotta get changed out for that brand. We are opening a huge facility, where Emerald Downs is, the old Emerald Downs, which is the old Boeing headquarters. It’s like a massive, we have actually, we’re building five, (···0.6s)  different practice fields.  

(···0.6s) We also have room in addition to that, to build a stadium if we want. Like, it’s a huge facility. Wow.  and we’re like the anchor tenant. We’ve taken on all the responsibility. We’re trying to find other tenants to come in there as part of like an urban, herbal, urban renewal project. Yeah. We’re, (···1.0s) as it is in the news, we’re trying to buy the female soccer team in the market. So like the club is just making such big, financial moves right now and they’re successful. They’re Year over year. Yeah. And I, and so I think they’re going, oh God, we got a lot of bills to pay.  

How do we, you know, and all this year we gotta pay it all this year. And so I think they’re, I think it’s a one year clamp down, and

then hopefully we get back to normal next year, so, Okay. Well, you know where to find us and Yeah, Any, anything that you need, even if you guys are taking on internal projects, whether it’s filming 360 or use this as a resource, and we we’re happy to help and show value that way. And then as I mentioned, I think we’re, picking up some really nice steam with this, network model.  

And so if we can get a brand onto your, gaming wall there and reboot that, would be awesome. And pay you, I mean, that would be, yeah. Would be welcome. Right. Awesome. Yeah, totally. Yeah. All right, Joe, well it was a pleasure meeting. This was awesome. And yeah, we’ll be in touch soon. Okay, Great. Thanks so much. Great. See you. Bye. Bye. (···36.3s)  

Joe Legaz


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