Mar 28, 2019
Jared Dent, Senior Director of Marketing Strategy and Ops at Turner, sits down with Myles Kleeger, President/CCO at Braze to chat March Madness -- from reminiscing the glory days to top picks for the tourney! Many brands use the vehicle of this tournament to bolster engagement with customers. Jared also gave us insight into Turner's marketing strategy in the new world: a multi-screen, streaming, Teamcast NCAA experience.
PJ Bruno: Hello there again this is PJ Bruno, welcome back to Braze for Impact, your weekly tech industry discussed digest. I am thrilled to have with my today two good friends Myles Kleeger, our president and CCO at Braze; and also Jared Dent whose marketing strategy and operations at Turner. Welcome Jared. Welcome Myles. As you know, March madness is upon us. Today kicks off the sweet 16, feeling the jitters a little bit, you see people in the office wearing their shirts; it's all about those bragging rights, right? How we feeling? Anxiety? Joy? Myles, I know you've got some butterflies.
Myles: Yeah, for full discloser here, I'm a blue devil, in case anyone didn't know. I'm still actually recovering from Sunday's events which were thrilling and horrifying all at once.
PJ Bruno: That was a close one. You're a big Zion guy, I guess right?
Myles: Yeah, I am a huge Zion guy, I love this Duke team, I love all Duke teams, but I particularly love this Duke team; we can talk more about that if you'd like. But, the thought of this season coming to an early and unfortunate ending this past Sunday; was honestly something I couldn't really fathom. As I was watching it unfold, it's been meant to be this year in a lot of ways, but then all of a sudden, we were going to lose. We should have lost that game, on multiple levels. But those guys, one of the reasons I love them, is they have a will to win that I have rarely seen, and that's what makes them special. They just don't back down from anyone or anything.
PJ Bruno: It was a wake up call at least, right? It's kind of like okay, now it's time to get moving.
Myles: Yeah, so I'm kinda old, but when I was a sophomore, lets go way back to 1995, I think was around the last time Georgia Tech was relevant.
PJ Bruno: 2004, final four championship game, thank you.
Myles: Nice, actually we didn't make it to the finals that year, we lost in the final four. Exactly. But if anyone remembers 1995 UCLA Tias Edney, he literally ran down the court in like 1.2 seconds, hit a layup to win the game, I think it was the first round. Would have been a monster upset, they win and then they coast the rest of the way, and I think all great championship teams have to survive that moment of adversity, and I'd like to think that last Sunday was our moment. We will see.
PJ Bruno: So ideally the hard part is over, and now we're just going to strengthen out, cruise through to the finals. Zion, I gotta say, when a man is busting out of his sneaks, it's time to leave the college game and go to the pros, you know?
Myles: Yeah, and there's a lot of speculation out there that he's going to get the biggest sneaker contract in the history of sneaker contracts. Largely because Nike can't afford to not sign him. If you think about it, if he does not sign with Nike, everyone will say, Oh he doesn't trust them the shoes aren't good enough for him, they have to get him. Which means he is going to cash in.
PJ Bruno: Jared, you got a horse in the race as this point? Anything you looking for?
Jared: As Myles eluded to Georgia Tech not being in the tournament, especially or the last couple years now, it's been more about work for me and enjoying some of those close games.
PJ Bruno: That's good.
Jared: Yeah, we're struggling a little bit right now.
PJ Bruno: Well you know I got a surprise for you Myles, I am actually a Virginia Tech, alum.
Myles: Are you really?
PJ Bruno: I went to three different undergrads. I went to University of Delaware, Notre Dame, and Virginia Tech.
Myles: Wow, interesting and Delaware and Notre Dame are both coached by former Duke assistants, by the way.
PJ Bruno: [inaudible] lets go. All right so I got love for you man. We wish you the best.
Myles: Well thank you, I'll be there tomorrow night.
PJ Bruno: You're gonna be there?
Myles: Yeah heading down to D.C. In the morning. And I don't intend to come back until very late Sunday.
PJ Bruno: That's a true fan. Well all right, lets get into it, shall we? March madness, obviously be all have our memories and what not, and obviously Jared, working at Turner, he's had to work very closely with it for the past...
Jared: This is year nine as part of the Turner NCAA relationship. Everyone asks me, Is it crazy? Is it mayhem going on? And I'd say, yes but, after nine years it's sort of a normal, a normal life.
PJ Bruno: Normal stress right? It's the best time of year.
Jared: You know what you're walking into, you know what you're planning entails, you know what the execution is going to look like. It's certainly mayhem, madness if you will.[inaudible]
PJ Bruno: You're actually one of the few whose allowed to say march madness, you don't have to come up with...
Jared: Some way around that, yeah. It's exciting. Year nine of the deal. I've been there the whole time, this is my thirteenth year at Turners. It's just a giant tin pole for us that we certainly get really excited about, that we put a lot of our energy and effort into. It's an event that truly is, it's big right?
PJ Bruno: Obviously it's the biggest college tournament but it's also seasonal event that's an opportunity for any brand to take advantage of to bolster engagement. When march comes around, I know two things to be certain. One, I am going to bail on lent about a week into it and two, it's march madness and I'll probably lose some money.
Jared: Sometimes those things are correlated.
PJ Bruno: This year I'm giving it up. But yeah, cool thing is, we see a lot of companies taking advantage of it, obviously the restaurant industry with all of their free delivery party packs. Cool thing for adobe analytics, their hack the bracket technology, stats compiled from 56,000 colleges. Last year they only offered 50,000 rows of data, this year 3.5 million rows of data. So you can get your hands in that and try to inform your bracket. My favorite one we've seen thus far, Buffalo Wild Wings has introduced the jewel stool. A custom bar stool with a cooling system built into the seat and this recognizes a reported rise in vasectomies during the NCAA basketball tournament; when thousands of men schedule the procedure to coincide march madness so they can spend their doctor ordered rest time watching games.
Jared: True story, I have a friend who had a vasectomy timed around it. Full disclosure, I have not had a vasectomy, however, last year I tore my ACL skiing; conveniently had surgery the day before the NCAA tournament so I literally saw every single minute of the tournament last year. It was magical. I was in a lot of pain, but I was also in a lot of joy.
Myles: I read that stat, it was something like Athena health reported that in 2017 vasectomies increased as much as 30% during march madness. That's nuts though. I thought it was more like, you know what? My college team is doing so bad, I just don't want to procreate anymore. I thought the motive was a little different.
Jared: There's gotta be easier ways to take a couple days off to watch some basketball I have to imagine.
PJ Bruno: So after the past your almost 13 years at Turner, Jared, what kind of strategies and promotions stick out to you at Turner for this time of the year?
Jared: Yeah I think that for this, the scope and scale of it is one thing; so what truly has been a challenge for us, especially in the beginning, is that you probably didn't know where Truth was on your t.v. Dial right? No knock to Truth, I love them, Impractical Jokers fan, for sure. But I think that was one of the biggest things, is that CBS had the tournament solo for so long, so how do we become that destination as well, so a lot of it is really just putting the TBS, the TNT, Truth logo associating that with march madness; I think that in the beginning that certainly was the challenge. Outside of that, where we are at now is, we're trying to be everywhere you want to watch the tournament. Really trying to be fan driven. We're on some 17 different platforms you can stream march madness.
PJ Bruno: YouTube now, right?
Jared: Yeah, everywhere right? And so we're trying to be across all those devices, we're trying to be there for the fan; because we understand that certainly, we want you to watch on TNT, we want you to watch on TBS but the tournaments going on; unless you've had a vasectomy you're not going to be in front of a T.V the whole time. So, we wanna make sure we're on whatever platform you want to watch on, we wanna make sure the app, we wanna make sure you're on your connected device, whatever it is. So I think, that's sort of the biggest transition that we've moved to; from just exposing us as part of it for TBS and TNT, to truly being on whatever platform you want. And you have access to the tournament and you can watch and enjoy.
PJ Bruno: Also, just on top of that too, creating some almost fresh content formats around, obviously the game is the game; but I know after the miraculous Duke comeback last weekend there was 5 minute clip you guys put together that basically, on the march madness on demand app, that basically compressed or condensed the end of that game into a 5 minute thing you could watch on the go. Which was awesome for people who are not huge passionate fans they can get pulled into the drama of it and then become a fan from there.
Jared: Did you guys do your brackets? Do you guys have brackets in eh wild?
PJ Bruno: Of course. And who do you have going all the way?
Myles: I might have Duke going all the way, you might want to fact check that one.
PJ Bruno: I will check you on that.
Jared: I'll admit, first off NCAA.com the official bracket of march madness, plug there. But I will admit I have Duke going all the way as well, but I will cavi ant that as a warning, I do a bracket every year with jyutsu my dad and my brother for 30 years now, I have won one time. So despite the fact of how much college basketball I watch, how invested I am, for whatever recon I cannot pick...
PJ Bruno: 'cause you pick with your heart.
Jared: Yeah that's right. Probably too much heart, probably too much ACC bias.
Myles: Yeah, I have a lot of ACC bias as well.
Jared: It's looking good right now. 5 out of 6 teams not bad.
Myles: Better to have ACC bias than PAC 12 bias.
Jared: Especially right now.
PJ Bruno: Gotta go with your gut at the end of the day.
Myles: I'm just curious, who else do you have in the finals?
Jared: I think I've got that rematch between Duke and UNC. Watching that NACC tournament.
Myles: Did you know that we have never ever once played in the NCAA tournament.
Jared: I did not.
Myles: IN any round, yeah.
Jared: Wait what?
Myles: Yeah. Never. We always get put in different brackets and things, or in different regions and it's never worked out that way, so it would be pretty special to see.
PJ Bruno: Oh man, lets see that. You know what I will say for Duke? Because I am not a huge Duke fan, but JJ Redick now plays for the Sixers.
Myles: He's all tatted up too.
PJ Bruno: He's all tatted up, he's got his own podcast.
Myles: He's transformed through the years.
PJ Bruno: He has. He's such a leader, right? I mean I just love to see him out there. Go Sixers. Anyways, it is pretty cool though that the idea of the bracket, obviously there's the official place to get your brackets, but then there's all these other brands that are leveraging the idea of the bracket; and the idea of play, we're going to get you involved. It just seems like such a brilliant technique.
Jared: The pop culture aspect of march madness, is what ultimately drives it to the level that it is, because college basketball fans are certainly one thing, but if you look at the scope and the scale of march madness; it's because of the casual fan coming in and being truly invested, where they may watch the super bowl, but their not nearly as invested. Something about those brackets really just draws people in. They've got skin in the game, and it just feels like anybody can win. My brother watches no college basketball whatsoever, can pick a bracket that beats me, consistently. It hurts but.
Myles: I don't know if that says more about you or less about him but it deodorant real matter. [inaudible] the casual fan part of it, I agree is what makes it so special. We're here in New York here right now and we've rarely had regionals here but a few years ago we had one, I know we have one coming up next year; but it's just so fun to bring people in from all over the country, sporting their colors walking around the streets. It's just a fun vibrant, it's just like Saint Patrick Day every day, when this is going on. People are just happy.
Jared: Until they lose.
Myles: Yeah, but even then, it's just like you're part of something bigger, though. Which is really cool. Even around the office here. Yeah like people rocking gonzaga t-shirts, they don't wear gonzaga t-shirts very often around here, but they feel compelled to do so now.
PJ Bruno: It's pretty rad, and so now lets talk more about Turner specifically. Cause all these brands are tacking advantage but Turner, I mean in the past decade we've just seen so many changes, we've seen so many transitions across multiple screens, you've got streaming, Myles mentioned team cast, right? So, how is the cross channel marketing really changed the game for you guys?
Jared: Yeah, for us, certainly team cast is a great example, what we try to bring to the table, no knock to CBS, they're great partners with us, is that we're constantly trying to innovate, we're trying to bring that cross channel. Trying to put in front of people, new kinds of content, new ways to interact, because if you look at the media landscape, it's changing. There are certainly lots of different ways to consume it, whether it's a condensed game like you mentioned, whether it's through the eyes of some of our talent, I think that's something that's unique that we can bring to the table.
Myles: Charles Barkley is unique.
Jared: Right, for sure. And like you mentioned, team cast. SO every year the way our deal works is that every other year we rotate the final four with CBS. So this is an off year for us, so this is CBS final four. So you won't see team cast this year, but you will see it back next year. We see growth, we've seen people are starting to understand what those destinations are and that they're able to find something that's unique to what their looking for. Certainly the innovation trying to be cross channel, has made us change the game. You can't just say tune into TNT and that's it. That can't be your only message.
PJ Bruno: Absolutely, and for me the whole team cast, being able to watch the game through the perspective of your team, I didn't realize how valuable that was until I watched last years Superbowl, Eagles versus the Patriots, and listening to the commentators because I am a birds fan, I was like, why am I hearing it through this New England perspective through the whole game. It kind of like sullied it for me a little bit.
Jared: Yeah I agree. There's a big anti Duke bias in the media. Particularly guys like Thor Rafter, he's great, but I think sometimes there's a lot of, people try to compensate because they say, that their such Duke homers, I think sometimes people try to go the opposite direction so they are not accused of being a Duke homer. So, I'm sitting there listening to it, I'm like really? Come on. That was so not a foul. It irritates me sometimes. SO having that opportunity of hearing the different perspectives of broadcasters is really cool.
PJ Bruno: That's what we want man.
Jared: I think from a marketing standpoint too what's been big for us is because we are a cross channel, the way we're marketing is really about making real time decisions, so were integrating live scores, live feeds into our ad placements, wherever they are. If its a billboard, if it's an ad online, where ever were connected, we're trying to integrate, give you that sense of, you're missing out right now. And then what we're doing Is making real time decisions on what's driving people where. How are people then going from our ad placements out there, and are they downloading the app, are they streaming online are they going to a connected device? Then make decisions real time is that funnel working or do we need to move our dollars somewhere else. So that's sort of getting into the nitty gritty.
PJ Bruno: Yeah those live scores, man that's huge. Thats big
Jared: But that's a big component of it right? So its driving that immediate urgency for consumers to go, I can't miss this, and then also making sure we're getting that message effectively in the right place.
PJ Bruno: Awesome, two of the things we talk a ton about here at Braze, and we're always thinking about is, personalization in automation. More and more marking departments, marketing companies need to think about this stuff. So, from where you're sitting for almost the past 13 years, what are some of the most game changing automation personalization pieces that you've seen at Turner?
Jared: I mean for sure it's the growth, the ability to use data, and the ability to truly attract your marketing [inaudible], and get effective attribution. I think that the game changer. No longer is it just were buying radio spots and we're buying TV spots and we're just gonna run them and fingers crossed everything goes well. Really its that knowing who we're talking to, knowing what type of message that should be based on the data. Is this a casual fan? Cause then its probably more about brackets then don't miss this game. Or to be honestly maybe this year, more about, you gotta see Zion. If you're a casual fan, you're probably tuning in for Zion, that's whats driving in a lot of instances. But if you're hardcore it's about here's the whole tournament, here's every which way you can watch it and get connected to it. It's making those decisions based on knowing the consumers. I think that's where the marketplace and marketing is driving to; more technology based more data driven, it's more attribution. It's no longer the old school mad men style.
PJ Bruno: I'm curious Jared, as kind of purveyors of all things tournament related and visibility in so much data. For your corporate champions and your key sponsors, we all know who they are, do you provide that layer of consecrative advice to them, in terms of what types of activations might be most effective for them?
Jared: For sure. I think we look to partner with them in way that are going to be effective for them. Ultimately, that's valuable for us. Our partners are happy if they are seeing success, then we're happy as well because that drives revenue on our end at the end of the day. So, it certainly is partnering with them it's helping them understand our data, our consumers that we have access to, so we can help draw those activations. Some of them may be activations that we then actively pursue a brand that we say what we're doing here aligns with you. Aligns with what you're looking for.
PJ Bruno: Huge, makes sense. Wow, I mean, this has been a great time you guys. I wish your teams the best of luck. Virginia Tech, give them hell. But at the end of the day...
Jared: You took us down a month ago.
PJ Bruno: Yeah, yeah. But now I mean it's for keeps.
Myles: And the big guy wasn't on the floor.
PJ Bruno: That's true. Well, hey Myles, we wish you the Best of luck, no matter what. Thanks for being here. Jared thank you so much for flying up, hanging out with us.
Jared: Myles, I'll tell you real quick, just because you'll appreciate this, since we were talking about Turner experience. I love my job, and sort of the reason is that I get to travel to some of these events. I'll be in Minneapolis for the final four there.
Myles: I hope to see you there.
Jared: That's right. You'll appreciate this as a Duke fan, I was at the Villanova North Carolina final. And I look and probably a couple rows in front of me just off to the right is Michael Jordan watching that game. I mean that's huge right, being a basketball fan. That's amazing. SO I almost watched the game through his eyes just to see how is he reacting to everything that's going on, and when that Villanova buzzer beater went in and literally you could see the pain in Michael. So I know as a Duke fan to see the tar hills fall that way makes you feel a little better inside.
Myles: It does, it does. Everyone's going to face their time in that position, you know? I've been there before. I do like to root for the ACC overall. Accept if it's Carolina.
PJ Bruno: Well, if you guys to make it to the final four together, make sure to snap a picture for us.
Myles: By the way, the activation you guys do on site of the final four is ridiculous. I was at Indianapolis in '15, it was so impressive.
Jared: We've got a log of stuff in store this year in Minneapolis. SO we are excited about it. That's another thing of turning this into a bigger cultural event.
PJ Bruno: Its an experience, right.
Jared: It is an experience. It has to feel wrapped around the game.
PJ Bruno: In a lot of ways its the Superbowl of college. All right, well thanks for being with us, y'all. This is Myles Kleeger, Jared Dunn, and PJ Bruno wishing you happy brackets.