This week we had the honor to interview Josh Margulies, Director of Integrated Brand Marketing for the Jacksonville Jaguars a top NFL team.
?Show Notes: Throughout our conversation, we touched on his role at the Jags, the great job his team is doing in terms of fans engagement. Josh also gave us his advice for teams looking to offset loss in ticket sales due to COVID-19, and we talked about his team goals for the upcoming NFL season.
?Best Quotes: Here’s some of the key discussion points and best quotes from our conversation with Josh:
- On how he started his career in pro sports: “Interestingly, I actually started my career off of the first 10 years in the Bay Area in technology. So I worked in gaming, I worked in technology companies like Logitech, and then I even built my own company for a little while. But ultimately what I always wanted to be was in sports. And so my first job in sports was running marketing for the Arizona Coyotes in the NHL. And then this opportunity came up with the Jacksonville Jaguars and as a diehard, lifelong football fan, I was that rare person whose dream was not to play sports, but to be the CMO of the 49s when I was a little kid. Thought this was a great opportunity to get to that next step and be part of the NFL, which is the Google of professional sports. And I had the opportunity to come in and run a number of functions. And it was too good of an opportunity to pass up. So that’s what I’m doing here. And then this is going to be my fourth season with the Jaguars”.
- On the great work his team is doing in terms of fan engagement: “I think the report you’re talking to came from Zoom, which was monitoring fan engagement during the schedule release. What the schedule really is for those who don’t know. It’s like the Academy Awards for social folks in sports, especially in football. So every year, all 32 teams put out these crazy videos, trying to capture everyone’s attention as soon as the schedule is released. And this year we were fortunate enough to be number one in terms of fan engagement, which is pretty incredible because if you look across the NFL, we’re actually the smallest franchise in terms of a fan base on social. We’ve been 32nd, we’re trying to catch up. We obviously want to be higher, but as one of the newest franchises, only being 25 and a half years old, 26 years old, this coming season, we’re a little bit behind some of the iconic franchises in the NFL. So for us to outperform all of those franchises in terms of engagements and impressions and things like that for the schedule release was quite an honor. What we did this year. So we have this running joke with schedule release that every year we’re trying to brainstorm a new concept, a new idea, something that’s going to catch people’s attention”.
- On his advice to any teams looking to offset losses in ticket sales due to COVID-19: “Honestly, it’s the number one thing that we’ve talked about the last two and a half, three months. There’s a chance that football comes back without fans in the stadium. And how do you make up for the loss of revenue between the ticket sales and the sponsorship revenue of the ads that go on in stadium? And so, we’ve become a social and digital company overnight. We immediately, when COVID hit, started to think of alternate content that would be highly engaging for our fans and sponsorable. So we came out within the first couple of weeks with something called 904 Workouts, which was our strength and conditioning coach teaching at home workouts with his daughter. So his daughter happens to be a part time employee on our staff and she was the guinea pig who did the workouts and our strength and conditioning coach was teaching our fans with three or four minute workouts exactly what you could do from your own backyard using nothing but stuff that you would find at your house”.
- On the new things his team is doing to offset losses in ticket sales: “And now we have 95 to 100 people all working down this parallel path of trying to create great new content. And so some of the themes that we’re looking at, or some of the types of content or podcasts, photography, video, radio, TV shows, games, print articles, and interviews. And from a schematic standpoint, it’s things like behind the scenes, exclusive, lifestyle, game day entertainment. If there’s no fans in the bowl. Educational, we launched our kid’s corner, while we’re here, what can we do with local kids? And then fan focused and community focused types of content. And so we’re in the early stages now of building out all kinds of new pieces of content. And content can be, like I mentioned, it doesn’t have to be video. It could be print, it could be podcasts, like we’re on here. It could be anything that entertains. And our goal is to come out with all of these so that we have new sponsorship revenue opportunities to provide for our sponsorship team who might not be able to make revenue for having in bowl signage this year. And bowl signage makes up a huge portion of the revenue every year.”.
- On the various scenarios and respective tactics that the Jags and his team are exploring at the moment: “We’re trying to look at the world in three different ways. There’s the no fans in the stadium, there’s some amount of fans, 25 to 50% of fans in the stadium, or, God-willing, full stadiums. And we’re trying to plan accordingly to those different scenarios. And so some of this content will happen no matter what, because it really just brought great ideas to the forefront. And some of it is more dependent on what is the world looking like in three or four months when the football season is supposed to start. If we know that our fans are not in the bowl, but are at home, how can we create a full second screen experience that makes them feel like they’re in the bowl. Could we have the prompts play on their app, where we’re getting people excited or streaming Duvall, or having players jump into their app and wave their hands up in the air like we would in bowl to recreate what they’re missing not being there. So those are things that we are really, really trying to get after and plan accordingly. It’s been a fun challenge. It has added seven, eight hours of meetings each week over the last couple of weeks and moving forward. But it’s what has to be done right now just given the uncertainty of the sports landscape”.
- On his experience going through his first NFL virtual draft: “The virtual draft was something that none of us had ever experienced before, obviously. It was incredibly nerve wracking going into it just because there was so much unknown. Was the technology going to work? Was everyone going to be able to communicate? And look, I’m not on the football side, so their experience was different. I wasn’t at the home of Dave Caldwell, our GM, or Coach Morone, our head coach. They were dealing with their own stresses. But for us, we went from having a party every year at our facility where we have 10 to 12,000 people to trying to figure out how we could do that virtually. So how do we create a virtual party to get people excited for the draft?”.
- On the NFL virtual draft and what they did such as bringing in influencers and interviewing coaches and players during the NFL Virtual draft: “ We didn’t know if it was going to work or how it would go, or if people would want it tune in. And we were thrilled when we were able to produce our first ever IG Live show. We brought in a local entertainer/influencer who happens to be a huge Jags fan. And he interviewed our coach, different players as they were getting ready for the draft. And it was really well received. It went off as well as we could’ve hoped. There were a technical glitch here and there where he wasn’t able to bring a guest on when we wanted him, because the IG Live wouldn’t allow it. But that’s the fun that you have flying by the seat of your pants in this digital age, which is so different. But it did take a lot of preparation”.
- On how his team prepared for the virtual NFL draft: “I will say we did more practicing and prepping for that weekend than ever before. We also made sure that everyone had very specific defined jobs because we were all in our homes. So funny enough, like I don’t usually have kind of a in the weeds job on draft day. This year, my job was to literally watch every minute of draft coverage on ESPN and NFL Network so that I could pull quotes from the air that I could get over to our graphics team, that they could put on our IG graphics within an hour of that being drafted. Other people were pulling stats, other people were doing the interviews, other people work designing and creating. And we had five different designers working on different mediums, whether it’s Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook or YouTube. So it was a full team effort. Everyone was working the entire draft. And it really went off better than we could have ever hoped, but I think it was all based on the preparation we put into it”.
- On his clubs’ goal for this year: “Goal number one is to try to be as flat to our revenue goals as possible. We all know we’re not going to exceed those goals this year, but we’re trying to save as much as we can. The goal of this company was to keep everyone employed and I’m so thankful for the club that we have not had any layoffs, nobody has lost their job during this time, which is different than what a lot of people can say. And that’s been our number one goal. And so as we go into the year, we’ve got to try to make up the revenue. This is why we’re trying to be creative with how we do it. I would say another one of our goals is to constantly entertain our fans. That’s the same every year, but how we go about doing it might be different. So this year we’re going to watch predictive gaming and we’re going to come out with three games. That’s a project that I’m leading and I am incredibly excited to be heading up. We’re going to hopefully add AR to our app. We are doing all these things with the goal of entertaining and with the thought that we might need to entertain them on their phone or on their computer instead in the bowl. So that’s what we have in our mindset and to give people an escape too. If people want the news and they want to go through and know everything that’s going on in the world, that’s up to them and we encourage it, but we want to be an escape to them at a time where there are no sports to escape to. So we’re trying to keep that in our framework as well”.