By: Justin Harlow, James Hadnot, and Michael Kuruc III
The Staples Center became our second home during the trip. We rose early once again for a 9:00 meeting with the Los Angeles Clippers Vice President of Marketing, Matt Paye. I’m positive I’m speaking on behalf of the whole group when I say that this was one of the most amazing presentations any of us have ever been a part of. We nonchalantly made our way through the premium Delta Suite because it’s about our 3rd time doing so and are used to the beauty of it by now. We walked into a gorgeous conference room where we found 20 Clippers yearbooks and 20 complimentary LAC t-shirts matched up with each seat around the table. Mr. Paye had great energy and actually thanked us for allowing him to give a presentation because he loves doing them, and he blew us away.
Mr. Paye joined the Clippers in January of 2015 as the second executive hired after Steve Ballmer took ownership of the franchise. He previously worked with NASCAR so he gave a nice rundown of some of the strategies and experiences he had there, and then compared them to his current role with the Clippers. He went into depth on the demographics of the very diverse NBA fan, and talked about how much potential the league has on a global level. He discussed the league’s exploding presence on social media, its huge numbers in retail sales, and year-round events for fans to keep engaged.
When we got to talking about the Clippers specifically, he described the re-branding process and the current marketing strategies that establish the Clippers as their own LA team and what differentiates them from the history-rich Lakers. Mr. Paye also talked about monitoring players’ social media presence, and the positive impact on sponsorship partnerships from investing so much on fan experience and creating a place where people want to be. He articulately answered every question we had and, even though he wasn’t there at the time, described the fallout that the organization experienced from the Sterling controversy.
What really amazed all of us was his pure compassion. Mr. Paye highlighted the most out of anything that we talked about the impact that the Clippers have on the Los Angeles community. He passionately presented the foundations that the Clippers partnered with, and stressed the importance of making an impact and making sure the Clippers foundation is at the forefront of the whole franchise. He described a $3 million investment just in one foundation called CityYear to help improve LA high school dropout rates, and another investment in Vision to Learn to screen and provide students with prescription glasses free of charge so they’re more engaged in the classroom. His compassion and pure love for what he does was truly awesome to see and his presentation overall was stunning. All in all, another experience to be extremely grateful for.
So, we were greeted by Sara Ries at the headquarters of the NFL Digital Now as well as the office house for the NFL Network. Sara then lead us to a live showing of a Path to the Draft show. We were on set while the network was on air covering the University of California-Berkley Bears Pro-Day. Andrew Siciliano was the host of the show and gave us great insight once he was off air. He explained how he never wanted to do TV. His career path started in radio, then Andrew transitioned to doing both radio and television before working now on NFL network. Ries gave good insight as well as a director explaining that some days she has coverage of over 8-9hrs. With all that being live coverage, it takes a lot to research as well preparation to insure a successful. After hearing from both Siciliano and Ries on the main stage, we went throughout the other stages and sets seeing them use graphics in a virtual reality sense. As a group, we walked all throughout stages, visited edit suites, control rooms, and also where the feeds of video comes through to the station. We finished our tour in the digital space for NFL Now and Ries just explained more about how the network is always active making sure content is coming across whether NFL Network is breaking news or if breaking news has broken and needs to be put on air.
When you’re in the presence of the only site to host the Olympic Games twice (and possibly 3 times), you know it. That’s what we all felt when we pulled up to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The history is prevalent with the Court of Honor and huge statues at the front, and the Olympic rings and torch just complete the effect.
We met with the facility events manager, who took us through the mid-level seats and down into the tunnel from which the USC Trojans run out of during home games. He answered all questions we asked and we discussed some of the logistics for when the NFL’s Rams move back to town. We also talked about some upcoming renovations that would include an improvement to the press box, which would see it span from endzone to endzone and skyrocket 5 stories tall. It would also include 20 suites that go for the price of $10 million each. Yes, $10 million each. And the craziest part is that 17 of them are already pre-sold. That just goes to show the passion that USC alumni and the LA community have for their team and for the landmark itself.
To get a complete tour of a 93 year-old historical landmark that is also one of the most iconic venues of the world’s most prestigious sporting event is indescribable. The tradition is rich, and the experience to see all of it first hand is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
After visiting the LA Coliseum, we headed over to the University of Southern California’s Heritage Hall. Upstairs, we found a museum dedicated to all things USC sports including National Championship trophies and Heisman Trophies. After seeing the pride of
USC athletics, we headed into another room which houses some USC artifacts such as a ball signed by the 2003 Women’s Volleyball National Championship team and a ball signed by USC Alum Lisa Leslie. From there we headed down the stairs and were absolutely blow away with all we saw. The state of the art athletics facilities in the basement of heritage hall are above world class. From the two golf simulators, to the equipment room which holds all the equipment for all of USC’s sports teams, everything was top notch.
From there, we headed through the vestibule to the John McKay center. The McKay center, which holds the training room, weight room and what they call the “Nike Wall” was a sight to see. The “Nike wall” is an interactive display that shows the equipment set ups for all the USC sport teams. This was interesting to me because it went so in depth into all aspects of the equipment, from the travel clothes, to warmup clothes all the way to game day outfits. After that we made our way upstairs and saw all the student athlete study areas. USC’s philosophy on student athletes is they are “students first, athletes second.” This is a cliché heard many times in the world of college athletics but USC seems to really embody this. Their football team’s GPA is the highest it has ever been at a 3.0 so they are clearly doing something right. After seeing all they offer their athletes from an academic perspective, we saw what USC had to offer to their football team. We came into the atrium and were surrounded 360 degrees by state of the art technology, and greatness. A large collage made of separate TV’s showing all sorts of sports was on one side of us while the football team’s trophies and national championship rings were on the other. They then had us sit down in some chairs and showed us a “hype” video for the USC
athletic department. They told us to imagine that we were USC perspective athletes and were being asked to commit to the school after this video. After seeing the rest of this amazing facility I was ready to sign the papers before the video. However, the sprit of USC athletics team aspects had me ready to be saying “Fight On” for the next four years. After the Video, we got to see some of the offices of the coaches and even try on a 2004 National Championship Ring! Then came the best part of the day, USC’s football team room. Our tour guide promised us that the chairs we were about to sit in were the most comfortable chairs we would ever sit in and they did not disappoint. If they had those seats in Grant Auditorium however, I don’t think I would make it through a whole class. We then saw a wall of all USC’s draft picks. USC has the most overall draft picks, first round draft picks and first overall picks of any school in the nation! This is staggering to think of how storied their program is. All in all, visiting USC’s athletic buildings is an experience that was once in a life time but what happened in the hours following made me proud to be an orange.
We headed over to Miceli’s restaurant located near our hotel for a meal that will not soon be forgotten. It is just a quaint little place with a huge secret. All of the wait staff, are performers. We heard songs ranging from Frank Sinatra, to Frozen and every where in between. We also talked, we talked about everything under the sun. From marriage, to alpacas, any thing you could think of was talked about. Some of us even danced a little (looking at you Nick and Jess ;)). After we departed the restaurant and got a picture with the worlds greatest bus driver, the entire bus partook in something that will stick with me forever. I will never listen to “Don’t Stop Belevin’” with out seeing professor Veley’s hands swaying side to side and a sea of neon blue faces using their phones for mics and belting out the words of Steve Perry as loud as their vocal cords would allow. Today was the day that I realized what this trip means. 20 kids, many of
whom had never met before the first information meetings, having fun in Los Angeles over their spring break while making friends and connections that will last for a life time. This made me proud than ever to (in the words of professor Veley) “Be Loud, Be Proud, Be Orange.”