In this episode, we speak with Michelangelo Parisi of the New York Red Bulls to talk about virtual reality, fan engagement and the game day experience at Red Bull Arena. We also discuss the compelling difference in what the game day experience is like in Europe compared to here in the United States.
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 email@example.com, and please subscribe to our YouTube page and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and SoundCloud with account name MVP Interactive.
James Giglio: (00:49)
Welcome everyone. This is the MVP podcast, our in fact inaugural podcast here where we are speaking with senior manager with the field marketing team of the New York Red Bulls, Michelangelo Parisi. Did I say that properly? You did. So today we’re gonna talk a little bit about fan engagement technology. The New York Red Bulls for those who are unaware are a MLS soccer team, founded in 1994, originally named the New York and New Jersey Metro Stars. A little fun fact. And then a few years later, were acquired by the Red Bulls and rebranded in 2006 as the New York Red Bulls fascinating new stadium was built in 2010, which is a beautiful facility that we were fortunate enough to not only participate in some fan engagement activities, but also experience a game day, which is unlike no other at, in MLS games, which was a pretty fascinating experience.
As we’ll talk about, we produce some pretty cool virtual reality content that Michelangelo Parisi here today is seeing for the first time in a headset, which he’s very excited to kind of bring out through the off field marketing events. The Red Bulls do a great job with fan engagement as well. As I mentioned, I think they were leaders in the fan engagement award with Major League Soccer, so we were able to produce a pretty fun 360 selfie video production for fans that was a highlight of the fan appreciation game. Is that correct?
Michelangelo Parisi (02:31):
Yep. Supporters, Our Supporters Day.
James Giglio (02:32):
Thanks so much for coming along. we’re really excited to have you. As I mentioned Michael Angel is the senior manager in the field marketing division for the Red Bulls. And so love to hear a little bit more about your background and, what you do with the Red Bulls and we’ll go from there.
Michelangelo Parisi (02:50):
Thank you for having me. It’s been awesome to work with you and your team and everything that MVP Interactive has been, leading the charge in the sports tech world. We’re definitely gonna benefit from it, and we look forward to working with you guys even more. My background has always been in sports business, specifically in media and marketing. I graduated from NYU with concentration, and media marketing and got a bachelor’s in sports management. I started my career with the U T A, the United States Tennis Association, where I was in media, in corporate communications, then worked my way over to Madison Square Garden, where I was in public relations for sports properties, and then moved on to a sports apparel and accessories company and was a sports marketing manager there leading all of our grassroots efforts. Our partnerships with retailers and other sponsorships and partnerships that we had that we had to bring awareness to our products.
Now, fortunate enough to be with the New York Red Bulls, a team that I followed. As you mentioned earlier, they were the metro stars in my backyard growing up. So I’m very fortunate to be able to work for a team that’s right in my backyard. And a team I followed for so long, and do what I love and create awareness for our organization. Right now for the Red Bulls, I oversee all of our grassroots marketing strategy events, our Match Day fan zone, which you mentioned that we call the Boulevard along with some programming inside of our beer garden on Match Day. I genuinely appreciate marketing itself, and the storytelling behind it. The experiential programs and integrated partnerships that come through a lot of different properties and elements of marketing strategies and then creating just a favorable public image, really to the particular property, or in this case, the Red Bulls and really bringing that to life for sports fans, consumers, and others out there in our greater New York area.
James Giglio (05:01):
So let’s talk about that a little bit. So the Red Bulls, the brand as a whole is really known for its experiential sort of marketing campaigns and, it’s a very forward-thinking brand, obviously with activity, sports, and being an energy drink. They’re forced to really push the limits with marketing engagement. So tell us a little bit about your experience, maybe working with Red Bulls as an organization and how they value marketing versus other companies that you may have worked with. Can you talk about that a little bit more?
Michelangelo Parisi (05:30):
Yeah, absolutely. We’re fortunate that we put a lot of our effort into marketing the team, and building awareness of our club compared to a lot of other professional franchises that may not either have the budget or put that in the forefront because they may not need it or they just might not have the budget or utilize their resources elsewhere. I think for us, being one of 11 professional franchises in New York is very difficult. And it’s something we need to be doing, so we put a lot of effort into marketing, and becoming relevant and staying top of mind. The Knicks, the Rangers, the other professional clubs in New York are known, right?
So they might not need it. They have a brand, they have a household name. Some people that we come across may not have been to a Red Bulls match before. And we need to really tap into those other consumers and sports fans and really get them to see what we have. What our product is. What that experience would be like for them and their families. Or the young professionals and millennials to come out and enjoy a night out or an afternoon on the weekend. So we really do put a lot behind it. And for the second consecutive year, our club earned the highest ranking in the JD Power fan experience study in the new New York designated market area. So we scored basically the highest amongst any 67 teams across the 11 US markets.
Including the 11 New York teams. We were judged on seven categories, which ranged from ticket purchasing to security and ushers, seating area, game experience, food and beverage, and game arrival. So for us, that’s very important. Something that we hope to continue and hope to lead to charge on year after year. So really putting a lot of effort behind that this year. And a lot of our plans, which I’m sure we’re gonna discuss, include evolving how we continue to push the envelope and really bring that to life for our fans.
Michelangelo Parisi (07:36):
That’s great to hear because, one of our experiences that whether it be in the press or maybe soundbites from ownership groups and organizations, constantly talks about the fan experience, and the definition of what that means per organization really has ranged. And so obviously selfishly from a fan engagement standpoint and a technology company, we really see that technology opportunity with the engagement pieces, with its virtual reality, augmented reality, experiential marketing, all of that good stuff. From our perspective, we’ve been banging on that drum for about five years now, and it’s nice to work with organizations that value it much more than putting in just the jumbotron and calling that the game-day experience. And not to say that there’s anything wrong with that, but because, you do want to factor in every aspect of the game day experience, and a jumbotron does play an important factor in all of that. So I think working with you guys has been equally rewarding in the sense that it’s a forward-moving organization and, you’re just not a soundbite and you focus it from a campaign and a branding goal to win this award. Excuse me, what was the name of the JD Power?
James Giglio (09:01):
The JD Power fan Experience thing?
Michelangelo Parisi (09:03):
Fan Experience, Okay.
Michelangelo Parisi (09:04):
Like you said, technology is everywhere. And there’s so many ways to digest the game, watching the game. And there are sports teams around the country that are continuing to push the envelope through experiential marketing, through technology, through these types of engagement. Working with you guys has been awesome. Creating the virtual reality product itself, the morphing stations, 360 selfie camps, and things that are different that people may not have experience before. Maybe they have, but it’s something unique to their eye that they haven’t done, participated in, and they want to share on their channels. Amplify awareness through their channels for us, for the brand, and for the club.
That’s rewarding. That’s a win for us. Every time we evolve that, everyone have a static fan experience or something that’s very repetitive and unique, but, the happy fans come back happy. Fans tell their friends, and then, sponsors want in on the fun and are willing to pay, get involved, really amplifying, and create even better experience for themselves. That’s something we hope to continue to push the envelope in and really lead the charge on. And , the next step is really spreading awareness for that, for that in itself. Like, how do we not only spread awareness for the club. But now through this virtual reality product that we’ve been working on with you, we can take to market through all of our events, through all of our partnerships, through all of our programs that we’re running through our marketing plan and really bring that to life, show that to consumers, “Hey, this is what you’re missing. This is what’s going on.”
Have you seen this before? This is the whole match day experience. This is our pre-game. This is our fan zone. This is our beer garden, “come have a beer.” There’s live music. Like, we’re really putting on an event that’s more than the game. And that’s something that I think is important that we can try to continue to tell that story.
James Giglio (11:13):
I should know, and I do apologize at the beginning of the show, that we did not introduce Gavin Renick, who is our virtual reality director and lead. So on that note, I thought it was a good segue that we can hear from Gavin in knowing that he’s been a part of all of our previous VR productions, whether that’s in and out of sports. But Gavin, maybe talk to us a little bit about what your viewpoint and experience was like doing this production. Because you kept referencing during our filming that you felt more in tune or at least interested in this production, versus some of the things we’ve done in the past.
Gavin Renick (11:54):
Oh, definitely. What you talked about Michael, Angela, you talked about your sort of like, I guess connecting the dots as far as having like a full experience for fans. Your fans would come there. And it’s really not just about going to see a game. It’s about actually having an outing in a sense. You have these little bits of experiences that lead from one experience to the next. And ultimately you end up at this game. While we were filming the VR piece for you, I definitely got that. You can feel it in there. Personally, I was actually really getting into it, which for me, it’s like we’ve done quite a few of these. We’ve been to tons of different stadiums. We have a lot of great clients in sports. But for me in particular, I kind of almost felt a little bit more in tune to what was going on with the Red Bulls, mainly because of how that was set-up and the structure of that game day experience.
Michelangelo Parisi (13:07):
That’s awesome. We hope the same for other fans and people who have never been to the arena or the games to feel that same way, that first connection, that initial impression. And now, like you’re saying, you got into it right away. Totally. Now, if you ever were in a conversation or you wanted to come back or you would invite a friend, that’s the experience you’re gonna look forward to.
Gavin Renick (13:27):
Exactly. James probably didn’t see this, but I was texting with a buddy of mine who’s a big soccer fan, and I’m like, “Dude, we have to come into a game. You would love it here. It’s great.”
Michelangelo Parisi (13:36):
So I’m curious for James. Because when you came, when we had our initial meeting, we walkthrough during business hours during the week, and there wasn’t any sort of kind of commotion.
That’s right. Fan zone set, our boulevard that we call our fan zone set up. Then when you came on Match day, you were like, “Oh, wow, this is complete. This is a different place.”
James Giglio (13:56):
Right? Yeah, absolutely.
Michelangelo Parisi (13:57):
To get your take on kind of what, what your thoughts or kind of initial impression were.
James Giglio (14:01):
Well yeah, it’s almost like that. I spoke to earlier about the fact that you experience these game day events, and it’s so nice to see an organization really put their money where their mouths are so to speak. And seeing the transformation of what a quote off day nine to five facility looks like to see the complete revamp during the Boulevard. And it’s a great runway, if you will, for these activations. Then, just both pre-game during game and postgame, whether it be fireworks or in game promotions, things of that nature. So you really have taken that holistic approach to all those touch points as you said. There’s a million ways to consume a game or even the experience. I think more and more that when facilities and organizations take the approach of, “Okay, what, you can’t take fans for granted anymore.
They’re very smart, they’re savvy, there’s tons of other consumption models out there.” We need to create this Disney like destination, if you will. Disney could be a strong word in terms of, let alone roller coasters and all of that good stuff. But the fact is, whether it’s a $20 ticket or a hundred dollars ticket, you need to provide that service to your fans and your consumers that they’re gonna feel like they have maximized their spend. And I think whether this is pre-event, during an event, and regardless of how well the team has performed, because that’s the big factor in terms of the asset on the field. It is obviously the most important one for any organization. But you have, from a marketing perspective, very little control on how they perform on field. So worrying about everything else outside of the performance, it was really rewarding to see and work with an organization that focuses on that, and truly does. Because like I’d mentioned, there’s a lot of talking heads out there and, they’ll say the right things, but you just don’t see it.
Michelangelo Parisi (16:04):
Yeah. I think we’re seeing a lot of other professional teams in our area and probably across the country. You guys have worked with them. And I think that’s kind of the next thing. A lot of these teams, even if they’re well known, if they are a household name, such as the Rangers Town, and that whole experiential kind of programming that…
James Giglio (16:25):
Great Clients, by the way, <laugh>,
Michelangelo Parisi (16:26):
I know you guys work with. But now, there’s a lot that everyone kind of putting around, building out that programming. Building out that experiential feel to really hone in on that experience. That relationship building really with their fans.
James Giglio (16:45):
So let’s talk about sponsorship and as we all know, that is a very key component in any professional organization. What was your experience been like knowing that the Red Bulls as a brand? Very forward thinking even again referencing this JD Powers fan experience award. Have you been able to leverage those successful activations or fan engagements to tie sponsorship and maybe talk a little bit about what that looks like for your organization?
Michelangelo Parisi (17:18):
Yeah, absolutely. So our marketing partnerships team has done an amazing job from building relationships with partners and sponsors to kind of get on board and help really get on board with what we’re doing, what our mission is and what we’re looking to accomplish. Sponsors truly do want that reach, that outlet, that engagement with fans, with consumers. So we have a ton of sponsor presence on through our fan experience, and it’s because of a lot of them that we are able to put this on that we’re able to kind of keep up and evolve and continue to push the trends and try different elements out, try different activations, and test what works. From live music to virtual reality headset to a 360 selfie cam to our DJ and Freestylers to some of our sponsored activations. Continuing to evolve that and really get them
Engage and leverage some of, it with our fans. But it’s all encompassed within a bigger deal, Yamar, for example, is president on the Boulevard, Through our fan zone, we have different partners that really help leverage what our, what our engagement opportunities are like. Through our One touch activation, which requires you, shooting into a net different locations at different, as many times as possible under 30 seconds, or an accuracy upper 90 challenge. So a lot of this stuff is really, focuses on soccer, the authenticity of soccer, but really allows the sponsors to kind of get involved and get in front of our fans. Yeah. So our marketing partnerships team does a great job kind of working closely with them is really developing what our new kind of activations?
What are our new elements that they can provide or kind of put in front of these sponsors, right? Like that, are they gonna buy into this, do they come to us and say, “Hey, we have this idea, we would like to try it out.” We’re open to it as well. Like, really how can we build that relationship, those partnerships that we can kind of together, accomplish our goal, our mutual goal. And feel that fans are engaging and kind of have a positive experience.
James Giglio (19:44):
The one other thing that I had noticed is, and I think this is a big concern for most both sponsors clubs as well as fans and how they view sponsorship in terms of being two in your face too corporate, because you’re gonna have, loyalists or enthusiasts of the Red Bulls brand that just wants to remain loyal to the team. One thing that I found pretty striking was that you were able to seamlessly blend sponsorship, branding, and the activations, all under the Red Bull brand as well. And there was no mistake that sure Honda could have a presence there, but it wasn’t just about Honda. It was a nice tie-in. Yeah. Even the aesthetics and the build-out and all of that
Michelangelo Parisi (20:31):
Good stuff. That’s important. Sometimes when you go to these events or you go to these games and they have some sort of experiential village or fan zone it’s very colorful, right? You have all these different colorful brands and properties with their logos very prominent. And it’s not very cohesive, but this is our property, so this is our brand, and together we kind of have a template, that we follow that encompasses our sponsor’s logos and the placement of where they’re featured and how they interact. So we try to do our best to make it seem like cohesive feel to the eye, to the brand. But it’s really the brand first, and then our partners right next to us. On board with that and how they blend in within the kind of color and the theme of what we’re looking to accomplish.
James Giglio (21:24):
Right. So obviously talking a little bit more about technology, whether this is forward-facing fan engagement, are there any things that, or anything that the Red Bulls are doing now leveraging maybe mobile or any other technology that you can speak to?
Michelangelo Parisi (21:43):
I mean mobile is obviously something we all see is growing very fast. And we are definitely tapping into that. so I think we do have plans to launch a mobile app for the team which will help streamline a lot of the ticket processes, a lot of announcements, team news, and so forth. Really on a match day, finding out where different locations might be, and encompassing that kind of experience, again, overall through that app as well, might help the fan adjust to schematics of what they aren’t aware of for the team and it’s an ability for people to get real-time updates on the game, but then also news and media. So yeah, that’s something that our team is working closely on. And I think it’s hopefully gonna be launched 2018.
James Giglio (22:40):
Okay. So up until this point, you haven’t been leveraging any type of mobile engagement or app?
Michelangelo Parisi (22:47):
Through, I mean, our social media outlets, but other than that, we don’t have. We didn’t have an app. But we are working towards that.
Got it. I mean, it’s something that is important for us to continue to evolve with the Times and really get streamlined too. Now, USA Soccer came to Red Bull Arena for their World Cup qualifier game against Costa Rica, and the entire match was mobile ticketing. So now we’re seeing a lot of other professional teams also with a similar approach where you might not require a hard ticket anymore, but through their app or through mobile ticketing email. Whatever the case is it might be. The easiest way to streamline who’s coming into the match, right? So now who’s coming in, who’s entering through mobile ticketing, and then obviously when you come scan in, you get a little printout of your receipt and it’ll show you where you’re seated.
But that initial entry point of mobile ticketing, I think will be more common in all sports, all sports teams, franchises, and events because now properties and brands and teams will actually be able to track who’s coming into their stadium. They’ll be able to capture that data. And that’s gonna be huge. Everyone wants to know who’s coming through their arena, whether it’s for the first time, it’s for the 17 games throughout the season, or whatever the case is. But that’s gonna be huge. I think that’s gonna be a component that a lot of teams start to leverage.
James Giglio (24:25):
Especially you had referenced the competitiveness of just your geographic location. You’re not only in the outskirts of the world’s largest and most exciting city that you have, multiple sports properties, and not to mention that, I guess there are two new MLS area teams, is that correct?
Michelangelo Parisi (24:47):
To the FC and the New York Red Bulls. Two MLS clubs in New York.
James Giglio (24:51):
Yep. And so
Michelangelo Parisi (24:54):
I mean, that rivalry has grown, It’s helped us as a club. It’s helped them as their inaugural season, three years ago now. So that rivalry has really helped both clubs really kind of come to life in New York and really show the presence of soccer in the sport in New York. So it’s been good. It’s been exciting too. And every time that comes around, the MLS, the league puts a lot of effort into bringing that to life, whether it’s through broadcast or throughout the city. So no, it’s been fun. It’s an exciting time.
James Giglio (25:26):
So that’s great. I mean, I love to hear that a new challenge brings an opportunity, right? Sure. And so you have that competitive sort of posturing at first with any business where you see the new kid on the block looking to nip it your heels, so to speak. And when you can embrace it as an opportunity to really set yourself apart and really position yourself as the leader or the expert or what have you, it’s a great opportunity. So with that talk to us a little bit about maybe some of your off-game marketing efforts, and what you guys do there. And you had mentioned your street team with the ballers there, and I understand that you guys have a mobile tour as well, or at least pop-up.
Michelangelo Parisi (26:09):
So Yeah, so we do a lot in the market. Like we partner with and sponsor a few different events to our own and operated events. From our five tournaments throughout New York and New Jersey that we host to youth soccer festivals throughout New York and New Jersey to partnering with the major adult leagues, the major adult soccer leagues in New York and New Jersey as well. And really building those relationships through those consumers. And who’s participating in the actual sport to soccer facilities that are hosting pick-up soccer nights or leagues, and so forth. And really getting awareness through those channels as well to a lot of third-party events. So we have a great relationship with the Steve Nash Foundation and he hosts an annual soccer showdown in New York City every year.
So that’s just one example of something that we get behind and we really support, and we activate through. So that’s a good opportunity, and there’s a ton of that New York City parks we work closely with. A lot of there is a five 5K marathon or event to a kid’s gathering or holiday festival. We really try to be present, and really identify kind of what our goals are, and then target where we’re gonna partner and where we’re gonna be present. Because there’s no shortage of opportunity where we can’t be. So there’s a lot, like I mentioned there’s from the kids aspect to the adult aspect.
And everything in between. So, right now, our goal is to win the 18 to 34 demographic. And what is that consist of? Like, how are we gonna do that? So really narrowing down kind of our plans, and going deeper into that. We have a whole pub partner program, so building relationships through different pubs. And creating, those away from arena experiences for away matches. So when we have an away match, we really hope our fans are still gathering. We still have that experience that we’re catering to, and that we’re bringing to life through our pubs. And during the off-season, we’re hosting Red Bull runs. It’s a sponsored pickup that everyone can come out to and, and play pickup. We elevate that experience through the facilities and through partnerships with our DJ, and our freestyle crew. Our freestyle crew is one of the most valuable parts that we have, from a marketing perspective, because they allow us to expand, expand our footprint into the market.
So, from charity events to seminars to like I said, our own inner events to just sending them out into the market, setting up just the populated areas in New York. Creating a show performance and really getting the normal New York City person or people who work in New York or people who live in New York really gather and kind of stop and watch. And kind of be like a show stopper and kind of see what they’re doing and what they’re bringing to life. And through them, we’re allowed to, we’re able to tell a message. So if it’s our theme nights or special theme nights that we have going on at the arena, if it’s a rivalry week game, if it’s some sort of message, a sales initiative, something that we can help promote through them. They allow us to expand our footprint.
They allow us to communicate those messages through their performance, through their outreach, and their nimble. So it allows us to stay nimble and really get in front of different audiences. Depending on our plan and our approach to what our goal is, if it’s an autism awareness night, we’ll work with autism awareness five Ks and conferences and seminars and so forth. Get them out there, perform. Get people’s minds off the conference, get their minds off something different. But, show that we have a message, we’re working with you to help lift that message, through our game and, and how can we work together to kind of build that up.
Total Swim Toast, which is a Spanish heritage theme night targeting different Latin and Spanish heritage type outlets. And how do we get our freestyle crew in front of them? So we partner with the Ecuadorian Festival, and the Portuguese Festival in New York, New Jersey. There’s a variety of different properties and events that allow us to expand our footprint beyond just our arena. And that’s important for us to stay relevant twelve months out the year, and really show that the New York Rebels are relevant. They’re a club in New York. This is our territory. And, we want to provide that experience, that engagement constantly.
James Giglio (31:17):
Yeah. That fantastic. And a whole lot of information that I was not previously aware of in terms of your community outreach, which is awesome. And it just goes to show again that you’re taking this well beyond the game day experience and building that brand affinity and really tying it into whether it’s the community, soccer enthusiast, and things of that nature. I think this could be a good segue into maybe your recent trip overseas, and we can talk a little bit about how clubs and organizations here in the United States focus and what they need to do for this fan engagement versus maybe the game day consumption of other European leagues. And so I guess a couple of weeks ago we were talking, we were going through some of your edits and on the VR side of things, and you had mentioned that you had taken a both personal and professional trip over to Italy to catch a match and would love to hear more about that and maybe some of your findings, again, both personally and professionally in terms of how different the game day experience is in Europe versus it being here.
Michelangelo Parisi (32:30):
It’s truly night and day and it was an awesome trip. I love Italy not just because I have family Sally, but because it’s a beautiful country and just the food is amazing. But, the trip was a very good trip despite inter Milan losing their first loss, of the season. When I was there for the first time is kind of disappointing, nonetheless, it was very cool to observe kind of the culture and, and the holistic, event day, the match day of what that looks like, how that works. And it’s very unique. I mean, the culture, there’s a big culture difference from the European soccer kind of consumption versus the American one.
And a lot has to do with how they’re raised and what the club, the organization means to them personally. The European leagues and teams have been around for a hundred years, so it’s part of their DNA, essentially. It’s something that represents not only like who they are, but the region they might be from. So inter Milan fan, there’s two teams in Milan, ac Milan, and Inter Milan. And half the city’s gonna be one of those. Majority of the city’s gonna support one of those two teams. That’s the same for Barcelona, Ri Madrid,Vial, andthe other Spanish teams that are in Madrid, Barcelona, and in Spain.
But I mean, it’s part of who they are. it’s part of who the team represents the region, the city, in some aspects the country. When you go to Champions league, you wait for Champions League and you’re in the finals, you’re not only representing the club but almost the country of that club. So it’s a big deal. And no, there’s a big difference. Even just from the way it’s consumed and talked about to the match presentation to the way it’s consumed, they’re raised with it, They speak about it 24/7. So when they’re on the subway, when they’re with their family, their friends, they’re at the coffee shops, they’re getting their cut.
It’s almost like a lot of people talk about fantasy football. Essentially that’s their football, that’s their bread and butter. That’s what they do and that’s how they consume it. The American soccer culture, despite having the highest participation rate in probably the world. That might be a bold statement, but I’m pretty sure USA has about 24 million youth soccer participants. And that might be because we’re a larger country. But that’s very mind-blowing. That we have that many, And then, what happens to that? Where’s that disconnect, Right? Like how do those 24 million youth soccer participants take that pride in the sport as they grow up? But overseas you’re seeing it cuz it’s part of their culture, it’s their DNA herein. In America, I feel like football is that for us almost. Maybe the old American game was baseball. And then, more recently it’s been the football, and there’s also hockey. Like, there’s a lot to consume, there’s a lot to do and see. And it’s interesting to see that over there. Soccer is their focal point.
James Giglio (36:10):
It’s almost this, like you can break it down into just very simple buckets, right? In the European passion, it’s almost like nationalism versus consumerism here in the United States. We are a culture of consumerism and so our daily life is looking to acquire purchase experience where it sounds like much of the consumption. Over there is more pride, nationalism. Where are you from? Geographic location and the allegiance to that.
Michelangelo Parisi (36:40):
A hundred percent. It’s funny because, here, almost every, I don’t wanna speak boldly again, but every arena or sports franchise has a jumbotron. Is that safe to say in Europe, they only recently have gotten screens or jumbotrons up in their stadiums and they’re not even jumbotrons. They’re smaller-scale screens, and they don’t show the game on those screens. Pre-match. They’ll show the field, they’ll show warmups, they’ll show fans. Celebrating and cheering. When that match starts, there’s no stream on those big screens. The eyes and focal point are on the pitch, on the game. So there are no replays.
There might be for a goal or something special, but there are no replays for the close opportunity for commercial ad during the match for a partner. Like, there are no seat upgrades, there’s none of that. It’s very focused on the game. You come, you’re not here in America, you go to football, you go to soccer game, you go to hockey game and so forth. You go, you grab a beer, you grab a bite to eat, you’re eating in your seats, you’re hanging out in one of the lounges or the clubs. These fancy, luxurious sections that every arena now has and is trying to create over there. Your eyes are on the pitch, no matter if you’re in the suite or a sky box or whatever the case is, your eyes are on the pitch and you’re there for that game.
And you’re consuming that the action firsthand. They have a few guys walking around selling beer, crackers, and so forth. But it’s not like it is here. And halftime is your time to get up, use the restroom, grab a drink bite, whatever the case is. And what’s something else that’s really unique is that they smoke inside the stadiums too. So they’re able to sit down. They’re focused on the game and they might just light up a cigarette, and just watch the game. That’s what they’re doing. Amazing. It’s really interesting to see. It’s a tradition. It’s part of who they are and how their family and how they’re brought up, and who they’re attending with. ,
James Giglio (39:05):
It’ll be interesting from an ownership standpoint how, if we were able to get two soccer club owners, one from the United States, one from Europe, and how they value. That opportunity where it’s like, we just need to exist and we’re going to be popular. We just concentrate on the product on the field. Where here ownership has to worry about their stadium. They have to worry about social media. They have to worry about technology in all of that game day experience that we’re talking about. It would be interesting to see how it would be individually valued or challenged. If you will.
Michelangelo Parisi (39:46):
No, it’s something that is interesting even from a partner standpoint too, right? I mean, these clubs, like we’ve been talking about experience, fan engagement, experiential kind of marketing plan and strategies. Only recently has that really evolved into the European culture. And it’s not even really being adapted or consumed to yet, because a lot of these clubs, if you can talk about inter Milan, ac Milan, Aventus, Barcelona, some of the top tier teams that are. Everybody knows about their powerful brands. So, when a sponsor is on board with them, it’s not like they’re getting access to a fan zone pr a seat upgrade, or a lucky row giveaway, or all these different types of elements that American culture and football, soccer, NHL, and so forth have.
But they’re partnering with the brand, with the club at that level. And their deliverable, their asset is the team. So as soon as their name is affiliated with the club, it’s a powerful image is a status standpoint where they’re now being known that they’re affiliated with that club. They might utilize an athlete or two for a commercial advertisement. They have the rights to use the team Jersey and logos, and so forth with their marketing strategy plans. But there’s really not much of an experiential fan standpoint for sponsors to really engage with the European culture. And only recently is that really starting to develop that I was finding out on the big match.
Like the finals, the rivalries, and even that isn’t being impactful because it’s not part of the DNA, it’s not part of the culture. So they’re not programmed to come early. They’re not programmed to check out what else is happening at the stadium. As I said, their focal point is the match the pitch. Their eyes are on the pitch. So they’re arriving when they’re used to arriving. And, it’ll take some time for that to start developing for that. But because there’s a lot to consume in the American culture, I think that’s why it’s so important that each team, each sport is starting to really hone on creating this match or this game as an event day. Really bringing that to life holistically. Because it’s something that we want, we fans want to do.
They don’t wanna just buy a ticket to watch the game, but they want to experience a day. Like, what else is going on that they can post pictures about that they can see and do, and kind of just experience that something fun and cool right there. It’s not necessarily part of the culture. And, it might start to, it might take some time for really the sponsors and fans to really start to adapt to that and what that means. But, they’re not gonna get in the way of the team of the Sport.
James Giglio (42:47):
That’s interesting though. Given that Red Bull as an organization, as a European organization, do you see any opportunity that you could have this sort of reverse trend where you have the American football or soccer club driven by a European brand, kind of bring the opportunity to Europe to say, “”Hey, Germany, this is how we’re doing it here.” Have you seen any level of that?
Michelangelo Parisi (43:15):
Yeah. Some of our our affiliate clubs like Red Bull Lipsig and Red Bull Salberg. They have minor fan experience in game day kind of engagement opportunities that they have. One of the clubs has a mascot. So there are some things that they have started to do and that they do kind of execute on, but we get calls from other MLS clubs and other teams, and from what we’re doing and how we really put on that experience. Even the freestyle crew that I spoke about, what that program looks like and how we launch that, how that is structured, and what goes into that. A lot of teams and I, think that’s something that we’ll start to see too. Like, having an influencer, having a host,
having an ambassador to the brand is something that a lot of teams and clubs and properties will probably start to have. Like influencer marketing with brands and products exploded two years ago now and has been a big thing. And now I think, we’ll start to see that in sports, right? E-Sports and eGames is is big now. So some clubs and some teams are starting to sign eSports athletes, gamers, and all this having a host. So Toronto FC has a host, which is funny because in European, culture, most of the teams, the big, the larger scale teams, they act, they’re pa announcer, their host is on the field during warmups, during prematch, and making announcements right there.
So right on the field. He is not behind. He’s not upstairs in a booth and kind of just directing announcements outside. But anyway, that culture, that face, that recognizable face, that person, that fans can go to or kind of just know it’s their ambassador for the club. And we get calls all the time about how we can evolve or how we’ve evolved, and how we can help other properties and brands do the same thing.
James Giglio (45:24):
That’s great to hear because you’re always interested to know on the inside if despite how competitive the matches are or the game. How collaborative the organizations really are with each other, whether it’s marketing or other engagement points. So knowing that you have led this fan experience charge for so many years, it sounds like the league has taken notice and some other clubs have taken notice and say, “Hey, what’s your best practice? What about this? And can you talk a little bit more about that and what that’s like?”
Michelangelo Parisi (45:55):
I mean, it’s on the field, everyone. It’s a heated rivalry between each club. But the MLS operates as a single-entity structure. So they essentially have rights and ownership over all the MLS teams. So together, there’s a revenue share there, that is in play with different sponsorships, broadcasting, and so forth. But, everyone , works together to kind of understand what each market is doing, what works, what didn’t, how to evolve the experience, and some of the programs. Some of the teams have similar programs, there are a lot of pub programs that I’ve spoke about earlier, that each club or most clubs have.
But each one is different. So each structure is a little different. And each structure might work for a different market. So, when I’m speaking to a few marketing reps from New England Revolution in Houston, Dynamo, and Chicago Fire, their price points are different, their experiences are different. Toronto FC also, but they’re all different. They’re structured differently, they’re activated differently. But we share ideas, we share how, what worked for them, and why. And, is this something that we could take to New York and, and try it out? Will it work there? Sure. Definitely. There’s resources available to each club, helping one another, but on the field is a whole different.
James Giglio (47:33):
On the field absolutely is as it should be.
Michelangelo Parisi (47:36):
Everyone wants to raise that cup at the end of the year. Everyone’s faced with the same obstacle, which is attendance. How do you drive attendance? How do you drive ratings on television and broadcast, and not just soccer in MLS, but it’s every sport now, in every league. So that has to be mindful of that. It’s something that, we work that’s a very cool, unique opportunity that we were able to work closely with other teams and so forth.
James Giglio (48:11):
That’s great to hear. And so in wrapping up here, are there any initiatives in 2018 that you can speak about or some goals for the organization, both on the marketing side or maybe something that the general public isn’t aware of at this point, or whatever you’re comfortable with disclosing or what you’re able to
Michelangelo Parisi (48:32):
Like, I mentioned a lot of it today throughout our time, but, winning the 18 to 34, evolving our fan experience, which we’ve been talking about, this whole time, and really spreading awareness, and leading the charge for that. We want our goal to rank the highest and JD Power fan and experience study again. Get a millennial type, young, professional audience into the stadium and really experience what that’s like. Adapt, make that culture of soccer that we would like to kind of bring to life. It’s a lot of just evolution and I think this year is gonna be very big for us. We’re launching a New Jersey coming very soon.
James Giglio (49:26):
That’s exciting. New kid is on its way, Gavin. That means more jerseys for
Michelangelo Parisi (49:32):
Yep. A Jersey launch will be coming soon. More jerseys that fit me <laugh>. 2018 is gonna be fun. I’m excited. this year we were able to streamline a lot, build a lot of relationships and partnerships in the market that we hope to have again this year. And we’ll be able to really kind of bring home that message of what we have to offer, what our product is through the virtual reality headset, and the program that we put together. It’s we’re it’s been a privileged working with you guys.
James Giglio (50:05):
Oh, likewise. Thanks so much.
Michelangelo Parisi (50:06):
Yeah, we’re excited. 2018.
James Giglio (50:08):
We’re excited. And so today is actually the final edit and completion of the virtual reality experience. So maybe we can talk about briefly where fans are gonna be able to experience that.
Michelangelo Parisi (50:19):
Well, we’re gonna take that with us basically through many of our different field marketing efforts, whether it’s our sponsored pickup nights that I mentioned earlier that we host our five E five tournaments, our youth soccer festivals our third-party events and wherever we’re activating if there’s a game or an event that we are partnering with. To activate within their fan experience in their fan zones or throughout New York City, we’re gonna have that tool. It’s gonna be a tool for us to show, while fans are engaging and participating in our activation. But hey, take a look at this. Have you ever been to one? It’s one thing to participate in the activation and kind of consume that type of experience. But how do we bring that our product, which is our game day, our match day right to life? And this is gonna be a tool that’s really important for us to show, right? Cuz some people may be interacting with us, but have never been to a game and this would be the time. So yeah. We hope to show as many fans as possible.
James Giglio1 (51:19):
<laugh>. Well that’s very exciting and equally, it was a pleasure to work with you and Michael Angel. You’ve been a great guest on our inaugural podcast. You’re welcome back anytime and hopefully appreciate it at the start of the new season. We can be speaking about the new technology that we’re developing for you.
Michelangelo Parisi (51:36):
So yeah, that would be exciting. Thank you, guys.
James Giglio (51:38):