Jordan Mandelkorn has one of those jobs every sports fan wants: marketing manager for the NBA's San Antonio Spurs. A Vermont native who loved playing sports as a kid—until he realized he wasn't big enough to make the big leagues—Mr. Mandelkorn graduated from college with a degree in sports marketing and has worked for a variety of professional franchises over the past decade.
For the past two seasons, he has overseen marketing for the Spurs and was lucky enough to watch them win the NBA Championship in 2014. In his current position, he helped launch the Spurs app, currently among the Top 5 downloaded NBA apps, and the team's second-screen experience, Spurs Challenge.
Mr. Mandelkorn is recognized as a Digital Trailblazer because he's a forward thinker, eager to dive into data and use it to inform other marketing decisions. A key focus for the Spurs this year is mobile, as the team has watched a lot of its website traffic migrate from desktop computers to mobile devices.
Q: As a Digital Trailblazer, you're doing outstanding work to further digital marketing. Why is digital an important part of your day-to-day job?
Mr. Mandelkorn: My current job encompasses both digital and traditional marketing for the Spurs, but we have made a conscious shift to really make an investment on the digital side. Digital marketing is exciting because it's always changing. It challenges you to stay relevant and stay on top of trends. And with the consumers on mobile, we are thinking mobile first as much as humanly possible.
Q: Tell us about a moment in your career that was pivotal and why it affected you so strongly.
Mr. Mandelkorn: My first position with Spurs Sports & Entertainment was overseeing marketing for our AHL and WNBA franchises, the Rampage and the Stars. It was a great opportunity to familiarize myself with the San Antonio market and SS&E's approach to marketing. After a season with both franchises, I was able to make a transition to the Spurs. The last couple of years have been incredible. As a sports fan, my dream became a reality in this job.
Q: How important is harnessing the power of data for a business like yours? How do you and the Spurs use data to better connect the team with your fan base—and keep building that base?
Mr. Mandelkorn: Data is vital to what we do. We're able to collect data proprietarily and from a number of first- and third-party sources. All this data is compiled and disseminated into a workable format to aid in decision-making. Buyer behavior, fan profiles and media affinity scores are just some examples of the recent uses for the data we collect. The data helps us form a better understanding of what makes our fans tick and what adjustments we'll make in our marketing strategy moving forward.
Mr. Mandelkorn: Our app has been huge for us. We are seeing people who were typical desktop users or mobile Web users really start using the app as their central source for content about the team—checking dates and schedules, looking for team news. We've developed a good base and our focus has shifted to increasing the app's utility and new features that benefit our users. For instance, we added a feature that allows fans to provide us feedback regarding their arena experience during games. Service is a big emphasis organizationally, and this feedback helps inform our decision-making in creating the best possible experience for our fans.
Fans can now also listen to the Spurs radio broadcast through the app, and there's also great live stat tracking during the games.
Q: Sports franchises, leagues and broadcasters have been on the cutting edge of multiscreen, cross-platform marketing activities. Aside from your own team efforts, is there a recent app or digital marketing effort you think really stands out?
Mr. Mandelkorn: One that jumps out is Starbucks' mobile strategy. They've done an excellent job of making their app matter. They could have put together an app that just helps you find a store. But the way they have created the rewards program and integrated Apple Pay is a great example of going a step further. In sports, the NBA Warriors and Hawks are doing exciting things around ticketing, even testing direct purchase through Twitter. Eliminating steps for the customer is something we are interested in—how can we make them jump through one less hoop and streamline the process?
Q: What parts of your marketing strategy keep you up at night?
Mr. Mandelkorn: The digital marketing landscape is always changing, and you have to stay well-informed with emerging trends and make adjustments to both new and conventional strategies. A new piece of technology could come out or an algorithm could be adjusted at a moment's notice. Remaining current while adapting your marketing strategy to an ever-changing landscape will always be a challenge, but that's part of the fun.
Q: You have been involved in sports marketing for a long time. What's the most memorable sports moment you've witnessed in person?
Mr. Mandelkorn: That's easy. Winning the NBA Championship in 2014 was unforgettable. The opportunity to witness it live and be a part of it was surreal. Right after we won the final game, I was still working up in the media section. The [Miami] Heat guys had to remind me to stop and celebrate the moment. You can work in sports 40 years and never make a final, let alone win a championship.
About the Sponsor
The Digital Trailblazers Series profiles some of the industry's most visionary digital executives—those pushing the boundaries in digital marketing. For more on this series, including intelligence and insights from Quantcast, visit the Digital Trailblazers Hub.
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