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MKTG INC Q&A with Tracy Perlman at the NFL

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Y-PERLMAN-master675Photo Credit: Richard Perry/The New York Times

MKTG INC was fortunate enough to sit down with Tracy Perlman, the Vice President of Entertainment Marketing and Promotions with the National Football League. She gave us some great insight into her years at the NFL, how the Halftime Show was born, and what it’s like to be a woman working in sports.  MKTG INC produced the NFL’s Legends Lounge, a VIP hospitality area, during this year’s Super Bowl.  Enjoy!

MKTG INC Q&A

Tracy Perlman (Vice President of Entertainment Marketing and Promotions, NFL)

Q: You’ve been at the NFL for close to 20 years. How’d you get started?

A: I interviewed during my senior year of college and started the day after college graduation, on my 22nd birthday! I was in the HR department as a floater, so I got to “float” to every department at the League and fill in when someone was out. Talk about learning on the fly! I worked for the Commissioner, in PR, in Football Ops, Events, you name it. After 10 months something that appealed to me was open: a programming coordinator for NFL Films. From there I took the opportunity to grow and develop in different positions. I have worked for the League, NFL Films, NFL Enterprises, NFL Properties and NFL Business Ventures on everything from NFL Sunday Ticket to producing events and TV programming to marketing and promotions to entertainment and players.

Q: What’s the cocktail-party description of your day-to-day job?

A: Working every day to develop content and opportunities to extend our game and our brand beyond the field. A great fan promotion like Together We Make Football; a general audience movie that drives fans to embrace our game; an amazing TV integration that shows moms interacting with our Player Health and Safety platforms. Working with the Legends of the game to create content for NFL Network and NFL.com to show their love for football and put the game in perspective for the fans. It is different every day and it allows me to take the game I love and highlight the passion through entertainment and the player/fan connection.

Q: The NFL has a reputation for seamlessly executing high-profile events, but in the marketing business, we know that sometimes things can go awry. Can you share an example that really tested your ability to stay cool?

A: There are so many I’m not sure where to start! Early in my career, we did a Super Bowl in Atlanta. We were hosting a party for 5,000 people at a place called Dean Estates, 30 minutes outside of the city. All of sudden it started to ice-storm. Atlanta was NOT ready for the weather. We were told to cancel the event because they had no salt for the roads so the busses couldn’t get there. So the day of the event, we moved the entire party into a hotel ballroom. We actually had the National Guard move all the décor. It was pretty crazy! But in the end, it looked like the event was supposed to be there the entire time.

Q: The NFL is as much an entertainment business as it is athletic. How do you strike a balance that keeps both casual and hardcore fans engaged?

A: We are storytellers, and there’s no better storyteller than NFL Films. We appeal to the casual fan who wants to know the personal story and the avid fan who wants to know about the competitiveness. We have offerings that cover everything and we are very careful not to be intrusive when it comes to the competition.  We offer avid fans access to things like the Draft and Combine, and we offer casual fans music, entertainment and unique opportunities.

Q: From Halftime Shows to the spread in Marie Claire, a lot is being done to attract and engage female fans. Why is it so important to have so many female fans taking an interest?

A: Female fans make up 45% of our fan base. They are as knowledgeable and as engaged as their male counterparts. Our ratings are up with female fans and we want to keep them interested. We also want them to use football as a connector for their families and friends. We want them be confident in their children playing the game and we want them to engage with our product. Going to them where they are is part of the strategy. Homegating products, women’s apparel, and nailgating with COVERGIRL are all hitting that demo.

Q: Warren Sapp, Jerry Rice, Emmitt Smith: all NFL legends who went on to compete on Dancing with the Stars. How has the evolution of football players into mainstream celebrities affected the NFL’s visibility?

A: It has helped elevate the profile with different demos and expose our players to a new fanbase. A few years ago Emmitt Smith and I were on the NFL Thanksgiving Day parade float and about 100 13-year-old cheerleaders were chanting his name. He had just won Dancing with the Stars. He leaned over and said, “Who would ever have thought that would be part of my fan base?!”

Q: The Super Bowl is coming to the New York area this year. What does it mean to have the world’s most high-profile game played on the country’s biggest stage?

A: It means the most media and entertainment programming coverage we’ve ever had. It means more events, more high-profile media placements, more sponsor activation. It means the standard is elevated and we will strive to deliver!

Q: MKTG INC is producing the Legends Lounge this year. ­What’s your take on that experience?

A: We want to reconnect our Legends to each other and the game of football. We want to celebrate their accomplishments and have them truly embrace the history.  It will be an amazing opportunity to see guys reconnect for the first time in years. It will create the standard for all Legends events moving forward.

Q: The NFL is a strong supporter of many charitable causes, from support of the military to cancer awareness. Is there one that rings particularly true to you?

A: Play60 and fighting childhood obesity is a cause that we can all stand behind. We want to make sure we communicate to our fans that you can have a truly balanced lifestyle. We want kids to go outside and play, and it doesn’t have to be football!

Q: You’ve worked for two different commissioners over an era that’s seen drastic changes to the game and the NFL experience. Can you think of one thing in particular that made the biggest impact?

A: They are very different leaders. Commissioner Tagliabue changed the game when he cut the original deal with the Union. He built a strong game that was very stable. I believe that Commissioner Goodell has strengthened the NFL brand and allowed us to stretch our goals and thinking. Innovation and challenging the status quo is the mantra. The focus on the fans and the players is extraordinary and has helped us continue to grow.

Q: Women like you, Val Ackerman, Marla Miller and Kim Ng are seen as trailblazers for women in this business. What’s the future for women in sports?

A: The sky is the limit. As the fan bases grow and the games grow beyond the field, women will help mold the messaging and the strategy to keep up with the technology and the fans.

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