Her Agenda: What did Jay-Z think of it?
Elisa Padilla: I don’t know first hand what Jay-Z thought of it, but I did hear that he was very pleased with the way that we launched the brand.
“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.”
Her Agenda: After looking at that poster for months, and when you finally saw the big billboard with Hello Brooklyn, how did that feel?
Elisa Padilla: Again, just, dreams do come true. And while people want to say Elisa you were the author, at the end of the day it was a team effort. I wouldn’t be where I am without my team. I have an incredible team that I work with and since we’ve gotten to Brooklyn we’ve doubled in size. It’s not just me, I’m part of a group where there are 27 of us. I work with a lot of smart and talented people.
Her Agenda: Has your management style changed over the years?
Elisa Padilla: So my management style is that I listen first. I think listening is very, very important. I don’t think a lot of people listen. I listen and I try to understand everyone’s role in my group and that was a skill that I developed as a marketing assistant when I had to work with the creative groups and the sponsorship groups. In order to get them to do what we needed them to do, I needed to understand what their day to day was like. I have an open door policy. I believe in full transparency, with me, what you see is what you get. What you see today is the same thing you’re going to get tomorrow. What you see tomorrow is the same thing. If I’m upset with you, you’re going to know it, if I’m happy with you, you’re going to know it. I set clear expectations so that everyone on the team understands what their little piece is of the puzzle. I can’t do everything, so setting clear expectations and if you have any questions you can come ask me.
“I have an open door policy. I believe in full transparency, with me, what you see is what you get.”
When I wake up in the morning, I think of two things. I think of delivering excellence to my boss, so that my boss can deliver excellence to his boss. And I think about my team, and I think about giving them every single opportunity and putting them in the best light to succeed. If my team is successful, that means that I’m successful.
Her Agenda: You’ve accomplished a lot, but you mentioned moments where you felt you weren’t going to quite get it. How do you overcome those moments of doubt and anxiety to still accomplish what you need to do?
Elisa Padilla: I keep myself in check. I feel that every single day is an opportunity to earn my chair. I don’t take my chair for granted and everyday I know that I have to be on my A game. I try to read, I try to understand what other companies are doing just in terms of how to garner not only brand affinity from consumers but also what people are doing to drive ticket sales. Sometimes it’s a little overwhelming because I’m managing the marketing for a professional sports team and also for the arena, so sometimes it’s a little overwhelming. But at the end of the day, when I feel overwhelmed, I take a step back and I’m like okay, what are the priorities, what needs to get done? What do I need to accomplish? I really keep myself in check. At the end of the day, I want people to like me for me, not for what my title is. There are a lot of times where I’ll be in meetings or even networking events and I never ever say my title, because I don’t want that to be the first impression that you get of me.
“I think about my team, and I think about giving them every single opportunity and putting them in the best light to succeed. If my team is successful, that means that I’m successful.”
Her Agenda: You once said that it’s ‘one thing to launch a brand, and it’s another to maintain it.’ We’re in year two for the Barclays Center and the Brooklyn Nets, so how do you maintain the voice of the brand?
Elisa Padilla: I’m like the brand police, and everyone knows it. I reinforce it, I reinforce what we stand for and I reinforce not only from the brand voice, but visually. It’s funny, I now have colleagues who will be at the arena who will take photos and say “did you see this? this isn’t right.” They’ll tell on each other (laughs). And that’s okay because we’re all in it together. I think that’s the most important thing, when people think about the Brooklyn Nets, we want them to know that we’re hardworking, that we’re passionate, that we’re witty and that all we want to do is win. The people who come to our games, we want them to have a great experience. When I think about people who come to Barclays Center for events, we want to give them great customer service. We want to make sure they’re able to taste Brooklyn through our culinary experience. It’s repetition.
“I keep myself in check. I feel that every single day is an opportunity to earn my chair. I don’t take my chair for granted and everyday I know that I have to be on my A game.”
Bonus Video: Working as a Woman in Sports
Her Agenda: You are in a position not many women find themselves in — a senior management position — and in the world of sports, what has that experience been like for you? You’re also a woman of color, so how have you navigated and what’s that been like for you?
Elisa Padilla: I was raised by two blue collar parents who didn’t have an education and they drilled into me that education was very very important. So, I was the first member of my family to get my MBA, that was a huge accomplishment. And the second thing that my parents taught me is, you have to work hard. My parents got up every single day and went to work. No matter what they went to work. They really instilled in me, if you work hard, you know what, the rewards will come.
I’m very passionate about education as well, because my parents told me, ‘you know what, somebody can steal your lunch, they can steal your pocketbook, they can fire you from a job, but no one can ever take your education away from you.’ That’s really important to me. I thank my parents for what they instilled in me.
“…my parents told me, ‘you know what, somebody can steal your lunch, they can steal your pocketbook, they can fire you from a job, but no one can ever take your education away from you.’”
Her Agenda: And as you navigated and moved up in your career, did you experience any challenges that were unique to being the only woman in the room?
Elisa Padilla: No, you know what, I’ll share a success. I still sit in boardrooms, and a lot of times I’m the only woman, but when there is a project that’s really important and they say Elisa, you’re going to be the lead, that to me is success right? That to me is like okay I’ve demonstrated, I come in every single day and I work, and I work so hard to keep my chair, that it’s like that’s my reward. I look at some of my counterparts and their like ‘oh, you know it’s a boys club.’ I don’t look at it that way. Yea gender, absolutely, there are times when nobody in the boardroom looks like me but at the end of the day, I have a chair in the boardroom. I have a voice at the table, and I celebrate that. I try to tell people that it’s not about being a man or a woman, it’s really about the intellectual property because I was hired because of my intellectual property, not because I’m a woman.
Her Agenda: What advice do you have for any young woman who wants to follow in your footsteps?
Elisa Padilla: That she can do it. She can do it. If I did it, look, I’m an inner city kid. My parents were blue collar workers. I was a poor kid, but you know what, I did it. Anybody can do it. You just have to put your mind to it. You have to work hard, and not take anything for granted and not expect to be handed something. You have to work for it.
“There are times when nobody in the boardroom looks like me but at the end of the day, I have a chair in the boardroom. I have a voice at the table, and I celebrate that.”
Her Agenda: What’s next on your agenda? What’s going to be your next goal?
Elisa Padilla: My next goal is to continue to do what I’m doing but taking it to the next level. I really, really, when I think about Barclays Center, I want to put this place on the map. My goal for Barclays Center is to make it a global destination where if people are coming to New York and they make a list that says Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, that Barclays Center is on that list. On the team side it’s really to get people and develop that brand affinity to really make people and Brooklynites diehard Nets fans.
[Editor's note: This post was published Mar. 24, 2014]