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PODCAST – Jennifer Hinkle of the Tennessee Titans

MVP Interactive CEO James Giglio hosted Senior Director, Marketing & Digital Strategist at Tennessee Titans, Jennifer Hinkle, on this week’s MVP Podcast. Jennifer begins her 18th NFL season, including her first with the Tennessee Titans, after spending the previous 12 years in similar roles with the Washington Football Team. Responsible for the digital, social, mobile media, and marketing strategy for the Titans, with a primary focus on fan engagement and revenue growth. Additionally, she is responsible for the development of integrated content and data-driven, omnichannel marketing campaigns, brand and email marketing, digital analytics, and emerging technologies.

James and Jennifer will discuss our recent project where we launched the first-ever augmented reality mural in the NFL.

Podcast Transcript

James Giglio (00:09):

All right, and welcome back to the MVP podcast. We have a very special guest today. The only I will say, only repeat guest that we’ve had on the MVP podcast. Jennifer Hinkle with the Tennessee Titans. Hello, Jennifer. Thanks for joining us today.

Jennifer Hinkle (00:26):

How are you?

James Giglio (00:26):

We are fantastic. So those that are not aware of Jennifer, she’s the Senior Director of Marketing and Digital Strategy for the Tennessee Titans. She also spans a 16-year NFL career, which you’re headed toward the Hall of Fame. That’s quite <laugh>, that’s quite some time. So, we like to kind of open up the show with a little bit of background of our guest. And so I know that you have kind of spanned a few organizations in those 16 years. And you know, we would love to hear a little bit about your background and then how you ended up in Tennessee.

Jennifer Hinkle (01:03):

Sure. Actually, it has been quite the journey and I’m, I’m on year 18 now, so I’m gonna go ahead and count my formative years with Washington as I came in as a PR intern, but I’m getting credit for that year, so I’m gonna count it. <Laugh> great. Yeah, I started in Washington in, in public relations and then ended up joining the Ravens up the road in Baltimore where I was overseeing the team intranet at the time, not to date myself, but I think one of my major projects there was, building the Ravens first MySpace page. Wow. And so a lot of this was very pre-social media days, and ultimately ended up heading back to Washington to run their website and all of their e-commerce business. My job definitely evolved as digital has evolved and social became a much bigger piece of it.

Jennifer Hinkle (02:02):

So really focused on a lot of the fan engagement and other pieces of, the business and, and how digital it played into all of that. So, and, and that’s obviously where we met. We were working with a really innovative guy at the time that wanted to do a lot of new interesting things in the tech space. And we engaged a number of different startup companies while I was there. I’ve always loved working with startups like yourself. And implemented and built a lot of really fun, cool things there. And, then ultimately fast forward came down to the Titans for the third team here and got here last year to oversee all their marketing digital strategy and hopefully do some, some new fun cool things in Tennessee as well.

James Giglio (03:00):

Yeah. Well, that’s awesome. Well, we are mutually thrilled to have the to have met in with your former organization. And just a little bit of background for our listeners. Jennifer was spearheading a lot of the fan engagement technology at FedEx Field and working with a corporate sponsor through Anheuser Bush. They were one of the first teams, or the first team to deploy a digital social lounge at FedEx Field, where we were able to integrate a host of interactive technology that spanned a course of four seasons and really evolved. And it was a thrill, to work with you and even kind of running into each other at happenstance, you know, at trade shows and in the sports marketing circuit, if you will. You were always on the forward, forward-thinking end of things with the fan engagement and, and how you would lean on innovative technology companies and startups.

James Giglio (04:00):

And I think for us, we have a lot to thank you for because when we launched, mid-2012, 2013, we were kind of ahead of the market in terms of what fan experience generally met for, meant for properties, Right? No one was really thinking about virtual reality or gesture-based simulated sporting activities and things of that and augmented real reality. And heck, I mean, this was pre-Snapchat with face filters and, so we were doing all of that. And so it was you know, a long arduous climb up, but meeting folks like you that are willing to take the chance and believe in how to value and service your fan base through technology you know, it will forever be in your debt <laugh>.

James Giglio (04:49):

So, thank you for believing in us and, in many ways, quite honestly, it really helped launchpad our startup career and provide a lot of validity to what were we doing, who we were doing it for, and the sponsorship attached to it. So it’s been a nice tenure working with you and we always root for you on the sidelines, and so it’s been nice to follow your journey and continue to work together. Which leads us to this very podcast today because we, once again, have been able to develop an NFL first by creating the very first augmented reality mural based in Tennessee. And so, for those of you that are kind of, under a rock right now, with all of the great publicity in the press that the mural and attention that it’s been getting the Titans were able to commission an artist locally in Tennessee and take over, what is it, 138-foot long-vacant building and, and create a campaign in a beautiful mural that comes to life through an augmented reality web-based application.

James Giglio (06:02):

And so, we encourage you to check it out if you are in downtown Tennessee. And so, also check it out online with some of the press and we can show some video examples. I recall, meeting in August when you guys were thinking about what this mural is and, working on through some of the art designs, but maybe you could kind of walk us through, the genesis of the project itself, what you were looking to accomplish and essentially have it evolve into a unbeknownst technical interactive, right? That came in late. So, if you could give us some color on that, that would be great.

Jennifer Hinkle (06:43):

Yeah, it was a project that we talked about, for a really long time. Murals in Nashville are a big thing. There’s a lot of beautiful ones around town. There’s a tremendous amount of talent and different artists here well beyond music. So it was something that we had our eye on. We were looking for the right space to build it in and the right artists to really collaborate with. And I think something we learned along the way is sometimes giving a little bit too much creative direction to these painters just was making them go down kind of the wrong path. So, we were really fortunate to be able to work with Mobe, he’s a muralist here in Nashville, and was born and raised. So he really understands the city, and the vibe, and the community and how the Titans really fit into the whole fabric of it.

Jennifer Hinkle (07:47):

So once our creative director was able to kind of sit with him and let him do his thing, this thing quickly evolved into this absolutely beautiful painting, it is right downtown in Nashville. So very easy to walk by across from the convention center’s highly trafficked area as well. So easy to spot, from the road. And, you know, the theme of the mural, what we really wanted to focus on was not just making this about the Titans, but really again, like how, how you fit into the fabric of this community because the community of Nashville and the state of Tennessee is so important to our team. We get so much support from them. And I think coupled with the type of year that we’ve been through starting early on with the tornado and then moving right into Covid the social injustice pieces, there’s just been a lot going on.

Jennifer Hinkle (08:53):

That what we wanted, wanted to kind of capture through the art and really show how this community the unity that it represents and also kind of the hope. I think there’s something really different about Nashville. There are some really resilient people here, and that’s kind of where the Tennessee tough theme played into is so many people are coming here and working really hard to make a break, whether it’s the music industry or, tech industry or medical, we’ve got all kinds of different fields down here. And there’s just something a little bit special about Nashville. I’ve lived all over the place. I was a Navy brat growing up, and there’s something very different about this town and how the community really comes together to rally around each other and what everyone’s working towards.

Jennifer Hinkle (09:49):

So, that was kind of the background that we gave the artist. And he, and the thematic all kind of came together through the artwork and then kind of tying the Titans brand and player into it was how we wanted to brand it as our Titans mural. So it’s one of the components in the wall. We’ve got a number of different quotes from significant figures around the state of Tennessee. We’ve got every county in Tennessee scripted into the wall. I know our muralist loved doing that part. And really it was important to us to just make sure everyone felt like they were represented as part of this.

James Giglio (10:41):

Yeah. So I was I probably should have been a little bit more prepared, but you did call out the artist and his name is Mobe, so please follow him on Instagram @mobeoner, Mobe Oner on Instagram. And so you could see some of his previous work and you guys made the right choice because he was phenomenal. I was lucky enough to actually see him during his process, physically painting the wall by hand, which I was just blown away. And it’s funny because people’s perspectives are so different. I was telling him on-site about what we were going to do to the mural to make it come to life, digitally, and he was blown away with what we were talking about. But watching him, I was blown away with one hand stroke. He got it first cut, there were zero mistakes or errors.

And the mural itself is really a showpiece, right? And, I think to your point, with Nashville, similar to Philadelphia. Philadelphia is known to have many murals and there are tours around it. And, so it was great to see another city like Nashville, which by the way, is such an emerging city, and I’ve only been a handful of times, but I feel like each time I go, there’s a new building, there’s a new crane, there’s new, there’s something new going on. I hear there’s a lot of migration from Los Angeles to Nashville. And so I, I’ve adopted it as a second city and just being able to spend some time there this summer. And so, it’s thrilling to see the fact that the team given all of what 2020 has been for everyone, but regionalizing it to the city.

And then, taking it a step further. Because I think a lot, again, the mural itself on the size and scale of the building is the showpiece. And so we wanted to personally thank you for having, again, being future-minded, and thinking about what other things can we do from not only a marketing perspective, but to kind of hold to your title. Having a digital strategy to something that’s fairly analog. And so, anecdotally, I think it’s a funny story in that, I think when we met early in August when we met at the vacant parking lot, right? And you were kind of walking us through this vision.

Jennifer Hinkle (13:08):

That sounds Really creepy. <laugh>

James Giglio (13:09):

Yeah. That’s a, well, it was in the daytime so we had that going for us, so it wasn’t like, at midnight. And so meeting with your team and kind of thinking about what we could do from a marketing perspective, a technology perspective with this canvas, right? And so it was really fun and fascinating to really creatively develop this concept on the spot on a sidewalk, right? And then kind of taking that conversation, carrying it over through another meeting, over dinner where you had your creative director a part of it and really doing business at the dinner table in the sense of finalizing this idea. And so once we were able to get the technical possibilities in front of you guys I have to give you and your team a lot of credit for really taking the risk. Again, because this has been an NFL first. And augmented reality murals are not a ubiquitous kind of technology right now, and especially a web-based experience where you don’t need to download a third party app or very little resistance in terms of the call to action. And so credit to Gil, your CMO, correct? Is that his title? Yeah. Yes. Okay. And then Surf. Do you wanna give the surf a shout-out?

Jennifer Hinkle (14:32):

Surf? Our new creative director whom we were able to woo away from Miami.

James Giglio (14:39):

Okay. Yeah. Nice. And then the other thing that we really thought about holistically given the state of the country and the pandemic personally, we had very strong opinions early on in terms of working with brands and just being general consumers outside of our professional life. It felt early on during this pandemic that a lot of brands and a lot of properties really stayed quiet during the initial shocking of what was happening, right? And then as you know, the daily, it felt like daily changes with the status of the virus and the economy, you started to see drips and drabs of messaging, but by and large, there really hadn’t been much experience out there in a traditional sense, regardless of live events, but just from brand messaging.

James Giglio (15:34):

And so as the season, I guess as the season became more, it was closer to become the opening day, we followed the rhythms of the NFL and they kind of had their marching order to really rely on the calendar. It seemed to keep the season in progress, to have it start on time. There were some late adjustments to what crowds were going to be allowed to do, what they were not allowed to do, what stadiums were able to do, and what properties were able to do. So I thought outside of the coolness of having this mural come to life digitally, I think from a business perspective and a marketing perspective, it was great to see that you guys were checking all of the boxes with what your community outreach was, what your brand outreach was, and developing an activation quote with or without fans in the stadium. And so, I think holistically, I think it’s the best of class right now. Obviously, I’m biased, but I haven’t seen many other activations that really hit all of those boxes. And so you know, kudos to you guys for being forward-thinking there. And it was a great project to work on and I feel like I want to talk about the experience, but then also we shouldn’t because we want people to do it right? <laugh>

Jennifer Hinkle (17:00):

Right. And I mean, although can’t really spoil it until you see it for yourself.

Jennifer Hinkle (17:08):

It’s definitely worth trying. But, and just being forward-thinking, I appreciate the compliment, and I know this was in the works for a long time and important for our brand, but also really a credit to the team for being really flexible because this thing has definitely evolved as everything has taken shape culturally. So like I said, I think it’s been a fun project to work on, but it’s, it’s been actually really interesting to see everyone, how nimble they’ve been and just how connected they have been to the project to understand the right message and the right time of doing this. But definitely excited to have it out there.

James Giglio (17:52):

Yeah, absolutely. And so, regardless of the technology and you can verify this on all social media platforms, but as a resident of Nashville, how would you say the mural and the community response has been thus far three weeks into the season?

Jennifer Hickle (18:11):

It’s been unbelievable. We’ve received a ton of, earned media people picking it up. I was just watching something on social the other day, and it was somebody, was taking a shot from rooftop restaurants or, or something around town, and you could actually see the mural and the background of the shot. And I’m probably the only one that would really notice that. But I, it was fun to just see how impactful that wall is. It’s been visited by a ton of people. I’ve been by several times myself. And there’s always just, a new crowd of people taking photos from close up, down at the parking lot. Sure. and then back by the sidewalk. So overall, I think people are really impressed by it. I’m impressed at how quickly the artist was able to really get it up there. I,

Jennifer Hinkle (19:07):

I mean, we did this nothing

Jennifer Hinkle (19:08):

To make you feel bad about your art <laugh> my ability to do art is just, it, yeah. I was thinking, I’m like, Wow, I have no talent. This guy is just up there.

James Giglio (19:18):

It starts with an idea. You don’t necessarily have to be the one to completely perform the duty, but executing the idea is as important.

Jennifer Hinkle (19:28):

Yeah. And it’s been awesome to see people so excited about it. And I think a lot of people are still discovering the AR piece of it that they can unlock that because it is, it’s become definitely worth making a trip over to see, to walk by.

James Giglio (19:46):

Yeah, absolutely. And so let’s talk a little bit about the user experience for fans or tourists, or just general people walking, or residents passing the mural. So I wanted to mention, I don’t know if you had referenced this, but the mural is physically located at 426 South Sixth Avenue. Is that, did I get the south or north right? <Laugh>

Jennifer Hinkle (20:06):

The South is correct, yes.

James Giglio (20:07):

All right. Wonderful.

Jennifer Hinkle (20:09):

It’s right there on the corner of Korean Vets Boulevard and, and Sixth Street.

James Giglio (20:15):

And, and directly across from the convention center, too. So once events and conferences come back hopefully sooner than later, the visibility is just going to be tenfold. And so to participate in the AR element. It’s a really fun, easy step into interaction, right? And so there are two ways that you can experience augmented reality. One is we’re very excited about the newly implemented sidewalk decals that users can simply scan a QR code to engage their camera in their phone to simply just hold up the camera at the mural and have it sort of come to life once the camera registers the marker on the augmented reality wall on the, on the mural itself. The second way you can enter is by typing in titans mural.com to enter the application right there from a URL.

James Giglio (21:15):

And so, again, what’s really fascinating here is there’s no barrier to entry or use with a download of an application. And it really opens up, and this is another talking point that we should probably address in that, this is for the community. It’s not just for football fans. And so there was a decision made that, you know, while we were developing this, did we want this to live exclusively inside the Titans app? But your team, again, thought about the bigger picture and said, You know what? Let’s have this for visitors, and tourists, because of the mural con, you know community. And you know, how much of a attraction these are. So anyone that sees the messaging or is able to scan the QR code can, can participate. So again, it was another great idea from your team to kind of think about those quote non-football fans. But the season you’re having so far being 3-0 you know, I think you’re gonna gain a lot more <laugh>, a lot more fans. Let’s hope it continues, right?

Jennifer Hinkle (22:16):

I hope so.

James Giglio (22:16):

Yeah, <laugh>. So shifting away from that experience and, given that like many people, you’re a fairly new resident to Tennessee. Is there anything you want to talk about your experience with the organization and what their community outreach is like, and given that you’ve had a quote, 18 years of NFL team experience, what’s been your Titans experience if you will that really connects with you?

Jennifer Hinkle (22:50):

It’s been incredible. It starts at the top with our owner, Amy Adams Strunk. She’s very involved and very supportive of what we’re doing here. It’s incredibly important to our organization to the philanthropic side of things and gives back to the community because like I said, we are a big part of it. And our community impact team has really been leading the charge this off-season and getting us out there and getting us involved in a number of different initiatives and supporting kind of some of the standard and traditional charities and, and groups. But also I think a lot of what’s emerged this year is the support of local small businesses, blacko businesses. We’ve really been focused in on some new initiatives in those spaces especially given these times.

Jennifer Hinkle (23:53):

But, I’d say really for all the teams that I’ve worked at I, I think most NFL teams actually just do a really great job in their community efforts. And this one is no different. It’s been really exciting to see some of the things that we’ve been able to pull off. And something, that I’ve really appreciated is seeing people like our head coach, Mike Vrabel, and our general manager, John Robinson, actually getting out there and getting involved. A lot of our players give time back on their days off to, do stuff in the community this year is obviously very challenging. So some of the things they’re doing are, are take it tight into school, They do it virtually now, but a lot of time they aren’t able to do some of the programs that they’ve been involved in. So it’s been really nice to see some of like I said, it’s just strong leadership at the top that trickles down through the organization. So seeing everyone really get involved has been really impressive.

James Giglio (25:05):

Well, that’s great. And what an opportunity with a city like Nashville where it’s growing and then also, you have quite the market share opportunity too with being, I believe two professional, well, traditional professional teams. I know that there are some minor league teams and some other organizations there, but you know, being able to really grow with the community as the city itself grows too. So that’s really fascinating. And let’s not forget, I think we do forget that the Titans are a fairly new franchise, in comparison to others, right? With relocating. And that’s particularly unique as well.

Jennifer Hinkle (25:50):

Absolutely. And they came in strong and they headed to a Super Bowl almost upon arrival here. So it’s amazing. We did a lot of focus groups last year and heard from people that have actually been in Nashville since the Titans came to town, and just what it meant to them. And like you said, Nashville’s always been considered this, and still is, a small market. It’s just amazing that it’s really experiencing this renaissance and growing and like you wouldn’t believe, I know that you’ve, you came down six months ago, and since then, there’s an entirely new set of hotels, buildings, all kinds of stuff going on, and people are flocking here because it’s become quite the destination. So it’s exciting to see this city really, really take off. Yeah,

James Giglio (26:47):

Absolutely. Well, Jen, this has been awesome. We really appreciate your time. We’re kind of nearing the end here of our allotted time. Given that we’re in season, we know you’re very busy, especially in this environment where things change constantly. We just want to reiterate the mural itself is at 426 South Sixth Avenue. You can definitely engage with the mural by visiting titansmural.com or scanning the QR code that will eventually be presented near the mural. Look for additions throughout the season, by the way, too, which is another fascinating feature of the technology that lets us hope as this season continues. You guys continue your playoff run and <laugh>, we’ll see what that looks like. But being able to add elements throughout the season is very cool in certain messaging that could really speak to the community.

James Giglio (27:46):

 Being an option is, is fascinating as well. And not to mention, when fans come back to stadiums when that, whenever that may be, being able to duplicate that mural in some other large format print, or maybe even game day brochures or tying it in with the maybe mural map of, of the community, you’re still able to participate with the augmented reality piece. So very excited for the future of this program. We thank you again for believing in us and, again, being forward-thinking on the technology side. I think you guys are doing a tremendous job. And so for our listeners what’s the best way to contact you, Jennifer, if there are any other questions or collaboration opportunities any social posts that you want or social media tags that you wanna call out or we’re gonna keep it professional and just use your corporate email here, <laugh>.

Jennifer Hinkle (28:44):

My corporate email is jhinkle@titans.nfl.com. You can follow us on @titans across all of our major social channels and engage with us there as well.

James Giglio (28:58):

Wonderful. Thank you everyone, and tune in for the next MVP podcast. Thank you so much, Jennifer.

Jennifer Hinkle (29:04):

Tighten up.

interactive virtual reality mural


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