Dreams do come true. That’s the message behind Elisa Padilla’s career journey. The daughter of two blue collar working parents, growing up in Newark, New Jersey Padilla fell in love with the sport of basketball as a little girl, and now she works as the Senior Vice President of Marketing for the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center.
Bringing over twenty years of experience in the marketing industry, Padilla oversees all of the marketing efforts for the team and arena, which include branding, advertising, merchandising, database research, creative, websites, and social media. She’s also the author of the award-winning branding campaign, Hello Brooklyn. Previously, Padilla worked at companies including AT&T, HBO Sports, Nickelodeon, the NBA and the New York Knicks.
She took some time out of her busy schedule to chat with Her Agenda about her career journey, lessons learned along the way and what’s next on her agenda. Read and watch for a peek inside the agenda of Elisa Padilla.
Watch the debut video in the “Peek Inside Her Agenda” series:
For the full text, and bonus clips, see below:
Her Agenda: I’m fascinated that the senior vice president of marketing for a sports arena, the only sports arena in Brooklyn, and one of the most talked about teams, is a woman. I’m sure when you tell people that that’s your job, they probably are so excited to hear all about what you do and what you get to experience. So, what would you say is the best part of your job?
Elisa Padilla: The best part of my job is that every single day is different. There is not a day that is replicated.
Her Agenda: Wow! That’s exciting, and that doesn’t happen a lot, because people get into this routine with jobs. In your current role as senior vice president, you oversee all of the marketing efforts for the team and the stadium, so that includes branding, advertising, merchandising, database research, creative websites and social media. But what does that look like on a day-to-day basis? What’s your everyday like?
Elisa Padilla: Everything that we handle in my group is everything that’s consumer-facing and also brand management. So on a day-to-day basis, depending on what’s happening, on the arena side, we really focus on upcoming events, really driving ticket sales, and the promotion of the Nets, because that’s how we’re measured. We’re measured on ticket sales and we’re also measured on fan and consumer engagement through the social platforms. On the team side, it’s a little bit different, because we have temporal moments throughout the year where we really know, “Okay, this is the start of the season, this is holiday, this is all-star,” so it’s really planning ahead, looking at the calendar, and saying, “Okay, you know what, what are the platforms that we need to promote to ensure ticket sales, to drive team re-ratings, and to really engage our consumer base?,” because our season ticket holders are our number one priority. But it’s also for the folks that aren’t our season ticket holders. “How do we get them so engaged that they want to continue to be part of the brand, that they want to come see us live here at Barclays Center, or they want to watch us on TV?”
Her Agenda: Well what does that look like when you go into your office? What’s first on your agenda?
Elisa Padilla: First on my agenda is- I’m usually in the office about 6:30 in the morning, and it starts off with, “Okay, what are the priorities for the day?”
“I’m usually in the office about 6:30 in the morning, and it starts off with, ‘Okay, what are the priorities for the day?”
So, whether its reviewing ticket sales reports–that’s usually the first thing that I do, is print out the ticket sales report for the team and also on the arena side–to look at how we’re doing with sales and then really identifying on the team’s side. If I see that there are couple games that are light- working with the team and saying, “Okay, how are we going to strategize to really push and highlight this certain game to drive ticket sales?”
Then on the arena side, it’s really looking to see, “Okay, if we have the event that we own and that we promote, what are we going to do to push ticket sales?” That will take probably about the first hour of my day.
Then on some days, usually I’m in meetings from like 8:30am all the way to 5:00pm, because I’m involved in everything, in terms of anything that’s consumer facing. Some days, I have to come to the arena to look at signage, to look at concession signs, or to work with the signage company to put up signs, because we want to make sure that everything from a brand perspective is consistent. That’s really important. So again, every single day is different. There are some days where my inbox is filled with emails, I’m on the move, and I’m trying to respond to emails in between meetings. It’s exciting.
“There are some days where my inbox is filled with emails, I’m on the move, and I’m trying to respond to emails in between meetings. It’s exciting.”
Her Agenda: And you respond to emails in your free time! I remember when we were emailing to set this up, you were so responsive. I’m like, ‘How is this woman, a senior-level executive of Barclays and Brooklyn Nets, and she’s emailing me back like this!?’ *snaps fingers*
Elisa Padilla: Yeah, well I think it’s really important, right? Communication. Also, I don’t define myself by my position. I feel that at the end of the day, you have to be respectful no matter who’s emailing you. Whether it’s the ceo of the company, or whether it’s an intern. I treat everybody the same, just in terms of my responsiveness and just being responsive to people, because that’s being respectful of their time.
Her Agenda: When you were a little girl did you imagine that you would be doing what you’re doing today? What was your dream when you were a little girl?
Elisa Padilla: I don’t ever remember saying, “I want to do this when I grow up or I want to do this when I grow up.” I fell in love with the sport of basketball, because my older brother played in high school. His games were family outings. I’d be on the bench with my other siblings cheering him on.
Then when I went to college, we were required to do an internship, and I originally thought that I wanted to do television. I wanted to do television production, and I was fascinated with TV and programming. I did an internship at a cable network, and I quickly learned, “Okay, I don’t like this.” But I sat next to the sales and marketing people, and I was like, “Well, I’m more interested in what those people are doing,” and that’s when I discovered sports marketing. When I went back to school after that summer internship, I took a marketing class and just fell in love with marketing. The thought of working on a product where there is a psychological twist to it, because you’re promoting something and you want consumers to really make your product their choice. That’s when I fell in love with marketing.
Her Agenda: But as we talked about earlier, you have over twenty years of experience in marketing. You’ve been across a lot of different companies from Disney to AT&T to Nickelodeon. So as you moved and maneuvered through your career, how did you know what the right move was to make, even if it wasn’t in sports marketing?
Elisa Padilla: So my very first job out of college, I was blessed enough to work for another professional franchise. My boss was incredible. I just looked up to her and I thought to myself, when I grow up, I want to be just like her.
I spent four and a half years at that sports team and then moved on, went to work for Disney in sports. That didn’t work out just in terms of when I got there, it was very short lived, the department I was working in. I came back and I started working for the league. So I spent over 10 years in basketball, and I thought to myself, I don’t want to pigeonhole myself in basketball, I really wanted to diversify my background. That was the goal, because I wanted to be a marketer with a diverse background.
Her Agenda: Did you imagine you would ever have the chance to manage the marketing for the team and the arena?
Elisa Padilla: No. (laughs)
Her Agenda: Does anyone else do that?
Elisa Padilla: I do have counterparts across the country. And I think that based on our success here, I think that a lot of other companies are really looking at that. For example, there is one, a counterpart for another team in New Jersey where she used to only do the arena side and now she’s doing both. There is not many of us who do it, but those of us who do it, I think we’ve been pretty successful at it.
Her Agenda: Rewinding to when you were at AT&T, how did you manage to still keep your ears and eyes open to what was happening in sports and get the call for the opportunity here?
Bonus Video: Getting The Call For Her Dream Job
Elisa Padilla: I definitely read all the trade publications. I wanted to keep my pulse on what was happening in sports, but believe it or not, the cal that I got from the recruiter was someone who I had met like six years prior, and I had kept in touch with her. Every holiday, I’d send her a card. I really, I wasn’t looking for a job when I got the call. It’s interesting when I even came in for my third interview, I didn’t think I was going to get the job. When they called me and said we would like for you to meet the CEO, it wasn’t like I was nervous, but I wasn’t nervous, because I was like ‘I’m not going to get this job, so why be nervous.’
Her Agenda: But it was meant to be it seems! Now we’re here and we’re doing this interview at the Barclay’s Center and you’re doing it! You were also behind the Hello Brooklyn campaign which I loved. What was the approach with that, how did that come together?
Elisa Padilla: When I started with the Nets, we were a year and half out from moving to Brooklyn. I was thinking about the brand and what moving to Brooklyn was going to mean for the team. We had research that showed that Brooklynites were very hungry to have a team to call their own. And internally with the team, we talked about what was our approach going to be. We didn’t want to be like the big bad guys coming in. With everything, with how long it took to build the arena, we really just wanted to come in and really be part of the fabric of Brooklyn.
When we started thinking about the brand voice, as we were talking we were like we want to have the voice from within the borough, we don’t want to speak to the borough. We thought that was important. Someone sent me a YouTube link, and the song was “Hello Brooklyn” by Jay Z and he wanted me to look at the graphics in the video. The graphics were great, and I was like wow, “Hello Brooklyn,” this is pretty cool. I literally wrote “Hello Brooklyn” on a post-it and put it on a Kleenex box by my computer and looked at it every single day. I thought well you know what, I like the simplicity of it, I like how it’s so humble. You say hello to everyone that you meet. We talked about it, we talked about it and we put a presentation together and showed it to upper management and it was approved.
“When we started thinking about the brand voice, as we were talking we were like we want to have the voice from within the borough, we don’t want to speak to the borough.”
Click through to page two to see what Jay-Z thought of the campaign.