Ben Conrad (Milwaukee Bucks) - Willing to go Anywhere

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This is a podcast episode titled, Ben Conrad (Milwaukee Bucks) - Willing to go Anywhere. The summary for this episode is: <p>The Marketing Stir tips off Season 3 with Ajay and Vincent welcoming Ben Conrad, VP of Digital Marketing and automation at Milwaukee Bucks. He talks about how community pride plays a big role in their brand and helps lead to successful campaigns. Ajay and the Marketing Stir team are excited to kick off season 3, but Vincent is missing!</p>

Speaker 1: Big data has gotten too big. Whether you're a B2B marketer, or a consumer brand, your data needs to be viable, relevant, and accessible, so that Stirista can help you retain customers, acquire customers, and make it personal.

Vin: Welcome to the Marketing Stir podcast by Stirista, probably the most entertaining marketing podcast you're going to put in your ear. I'm Vin, the associate producer here at Stirista. The goal of this podcast is to chat with industry leaders, and get their takes on the current challenges of the market, and we'll have a little fun along the way. In today's episode, Ajay and Vincent chat with Ben Conrad, VP of Digital Marketing and Automation at Milwaukee Bucks. He talks about how community pride plays a big role in brand, and allows for successful campaigns. Ajay and The Marketing Stir team are excited to kick off season three, but Vincent is missing. Give it a listen.

Ajay Gupta: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to another episode of Marketing Stir. This is the first time we are missing my co- host, but I will try to do my best here. We've had some missing guests in the past, but never a missing podcast host. But, that said, I am very excited to have Ben Conrad, who is the vice president of digital marketing and automation at Milwaukee Bucks. Ben, great to have you here and apologies for my podcast host. He's going to turn up, I'm sure, at any time.

Ben Conrad: All right. Well, thanks for having me. I really appreciate it. I'm excited.

Ajay Gupta: Ben, obviously a lot of our listeners are familiar with the brand, but tell us a little bit about the team, and what your role is.

Ben Conrad: Yeah. Obviously, I'm from the Milwaukee Bucks. We are an NBA basketball team. So, my role within the team, I'm the VP of digital marketing and automation. So, it kind of spans a lot of different areas as it relates to the marketing team. It's really interesting, because I think one of the things that people don't realize about sports in general is that the brand is big, but a lot of times the staff is small, and a lot of the things that people do are based on where they came from within the organization. So, this is my 25th season with the Bucks. I started in ticket operations, and then moved into database, email marketing, and some of those things. So, a lot of the things that I do now are based on some of the foundations that were laid during my earlier years. So, I mean, I really do all of our lead gen, all of our email, all of our marketing automation, our ticket offers, and not only is it for Bucks, but it's also for all of our other properties. Like Fiserv Forum when we have concerts and shows, we have a few other restaurants. We have a Mecca bar, which is across the street. We have a chicken tender brand called the Cluckery, our pro shop. So, myself and my team do all the marketing, and email automation for all those brands.

Ajay Gupta: That's pretty cool, Ben. And it's rare to find somebody who has worked anywhere these days for that many years. So, tell us a little bit about how you got started, and in particular, when did you switch to the marketing role?

Ben Conrad: Yeah, so I mean, many moons ago when I went to college, I went to college for marketing, but then, like a lot of people, I had this view of wanting to work in sports. I had always been passionate about sports, and wanted to do it. So, I got a role with the Bucks out of college, in the ticket operations team, and at that time the Bucks for example, didn't have a marketing department, so there wasn't even really an opportunity to actually go into marketing for the Bucks at that time. So, I started there, and then the whole idea of email marketing at that point, I mean this was 2000. So, then that was when we started to do email marketing. So, I had not done that, but then I started to do email marketing for the team. And so, as I progressed, and data became part of what marketing was... What needed to be for marketing, then I started to dig into that role. So, as my progression in the organization happened, each role that I had were roles that never existed in the organization before. So even the one I have now, I'm the first person with that title per se. So, essentially, I, myself and one other person started the digital department at the Bucks. And then the CMO that we currently have was our first true marketing hire, and that was I think around 10 or 11 years ago. So, we had different elements where I was in marketing, but I wasn't necessarily listed as marketing. And then that kind of continued to progress, whereas now obviously, full- fledged marketing in all aspects of what I do

Ajay Gupta: That's pretty crazy, Ben, especially when you think about the kind of brand name that your team has, to think that there was no marketing department to speak of when you started. So, how do you approach marketing? And especially from somebody who has built the marketing department from the ground up, and what's been a game changer for you?

Ben Conrad: Well, I mean, there's been a couple game changers as it relates to just the organization in conjunction with the marketing. In 2013, '14, we had a pretty challenging year. Well, I mean it was very challenging. It was the worst in our franchise history from an on court perspective. But then at the same time, we had new ownership come in, and that was a big game changer, just from we were able to... The NBA was changing as a business a ton, and I think maybe not quite at that time, but 10 years before that, you could be a really, really small entity, and still function at a really high level within the construct of what the NBA was. And that was slowly going away, it was really turning into obviously what it is now, like a ginormous business. So, we needed to transition as well, and new ownership, when they came in, made that possible, and that was by far the biggest game changer. The other biggest game changer in that timeframe was during the 2013, '14 season as well, we drafted Giannis. And so, at the time mean he was an interesting... Everyone saw him in every game. He would do one or two things that were just like, " Oh my god, I've never seen that before." But he was still 18, and still figuring everything out. So, at that point, that started the process of where we are today, of those were two major things. As far as for me personally, just on the straight up marketing end, I think one of the biggest things that we try to do at all points, because of my background, we always look at everything from the customer lens, first from a consumer experience perspective, and that's kind of where we start every single conversation that we have. I don't know if that's game changer necessarily, but it's certainly kind of our foundation, and philosophy.

Ajay Gupta: Great. And Ben, it looks like our cohost has turned up. This is quite the story Vincent, and we are on air, so we would all love to hear what happened.

Vincent Pietrafesa: No, I was on... A client had called me, and I was on the call. I thought this started later. This has never happened to me, Ben. I even wore a Jackie with Bucks colors. This is season three premiere. This is crazy. This is.. No, no, it's like one of my clients is inaudible and I was like, " I like to walk around and talk." And then I was like... And then I saw text, I didn't see... I didn't get me... Oh, you did call. I was like, " This is crazy. I'm in my office." I was here. There's no good story, and it just-

Ajay Gupta: Vin, we're going to not edit this part out. So, if we keep all of this stuff.

Vincent Pietrafesa: No, you could. I wanted to do the intro. I'm dying to do this intro. I don't know if we-

Ajay Gupta: It's too late buddy. It's too late. Oh my goodness. I got the intro today.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Oh wow. The first time, it's season three premier and... No, this, I was here, and then I was on the call, and then just went to the restroom, and that's it. I was like, " How did I miss this?" I was ready. Look at this jacket. This is Bucks green.

Ben Conrad: It's a great looking jacket.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Bucks green for you, Ben. My class of'96 brother. Come on.

Ben Conrad: Yeah.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Oh man, this is... Yeah, no, this is... What a way to premiere season three, is me being late to a podcast for the first time in 121 episodes.

Ajay Gupta: And you know what? it sounds like the bathroom trip had something to do with it. So, probably whatever you ate last night caused this.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Could have been. What did I eat last night? I don't even know what I ate last night. But yeah, sorry about that. That's a first for The Marketing Stir ladies and gentlemen. I was running late today. I had gotten sidetracked. That's the first time in the history of this podcast. I've even done one solo. But, Ajay was carrying it. I love it. I love it. I knew his true potential. Ben, so glad to talk to you again my friend, my fellow class of'96er. Or I'm sorry to keep giving our age away, but hey, we're proud of it. We're doing some great things, especially you my friend, and I wore this special green jacket for you, for the Milwaukee Bucks. The season is coming out. I'm excited for you guys, even though I'm a New Yorker, I don't root for the New York teams. Sorry to say that. I don't. But, it's so great to have you here. Let's get right into it. The 2015 brand, I want to talk to you about that. It seems to come at a good time with the recent resurgence of the team, but was the original plan to mark a new era of Bucks basketball? You guys are doing some great things over there.

Ben Conrad: Yeah, I think, so new ownership came in, and during that period I think there was a realization that over the last probably 10 years, there was kind of a group of fans that were kind of lost to some degree. We hadn't been very good. Nothing spectacular. And the brand, without sounding too corny, it wasn't cool to have Bucks stuff. And I think that was one of the things where we wanted to not only reconnect with the community as a whole, but also specifically there was a younger demo that had not grown up with interest in the basketball team, because it just wasn't compelling for them. And one of the things we wanted to really start that with was really getting back to community. And if you meet people, and I'm sure this is not any different from other places, but if you meet people from Wisconsin, the level of pride that people have for the state and where they're from is off the charts. It's almost, and most people will probably say it's annoying. But it's just people really have a lot of pride. And then you take that down to the city of Milwaukee, people who live, work from, their pride for the city, you can't even ignore it. It is so strong. I mean, it's a chip that people wear on their shoulder like nobody's business. So I think wanting to get back to that feeling of that Wisconsin pride, hardworking, connecting back to the city of Milwaukee, and the things that make Milwaukee great, all the while just honestly making it cool again to wear Bucks gear. And I think that was... And to be part of the theme, part of the brand, part of the organization. So I think that was really the driver, is that we wanted to reconnect, almost like... And we had a campaign that was... Reintroduced ourselves back to the community as, " This is who we are, this is where we're going, and this is what we want to get to." Which, fast forward to 2021, we got there, we won a championship, it was awesome.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah, no, exactly. And I want to talk about that championship. It's like Ben, I walk around New York City here, there's people with Bucks gear on. They wear it proud. Maybe they're from Wisconsin, maybe they're not. You got, I think, the best player in the world. We'll get to him in a moment. But, let's talk about that championship. You guys are world champions. And you won it, that was exactly 50 years after the first one.

Ben Conrad: Yeah.

Vincent Pietrafesa: What was that like? What was that like? And how... Especially, you're a smaller market team, talk to me about that. And then a question I want to know, and everyone I think listening is like, " Wait, did you also get a ring?" Talk to me about all of that.

Ben Conrad: So, what it was like. It was surreal, to be honest. I still get goosebumps just thinking about the experience of being there. But I think the interesting thing about that championship run was what people... As you look back at it now, what people probably don't remember a little bit is that we started the season with no fans. It was the season right after pandemic. So, we started the season with no fans. So, it was a really weird kind of vibe all the way through. And then in February... And we started late, because the bubble had ended in summer, so we started a couple months late. So, the timing of everything was really off. So then, we started in February having fans, and when we could have fans back, I think it was 10%, it was a really small number. So, we were at roughly around a thousand people were in our venue through February. And then March came in, some of the restrictions lifted a little bit, but during the regular season, the most people we had at a game was 25%. So, I think we were around the four to 5, 000 range. So, it was just a really interesting way to take in games. But then the playoffs started, and then we got moved up to bump it to 50%, and it was like, so we're going through all these different things, trying to plan, and it was intense, because the timing of the playoffs is incredible, because basically you have compact game, and then whatever happens in that next game could mean your season's over. It could mean that you have to go on sale with a new series. It could mean you're extending it. There's so many ramifications that just come off of that game. Well, one of them was, in the first round against the Miami Heat, we had won the first three, and then the City and everyone else said that we could go, we had just gotten the okay to go to 50, but then they said we could go to 100, and that literally happened within a couple days of each other. So, as an organization, we were kind of sitting there like, " Oh my gosh, how are we going to kind of..." If we would lose the next game, our next game I think was going to be three or four days later at the end of that week, we're like, " How are we going to be able to do this with everyone, and mobilize in that timeframe?" But then we won, which is awesome. Then we had had a little bit of time to do that, but then we had to figure out, " Okay, now we got to run the arena again at 100%, sell 100% of tickets." Have all that kind of similar experience while still having some of the COVID things, like mobile ordering was the only way to buy food. There was different things within the arena that the experience was just different then. So a lot of these people that came to... All these fans that were coming to the games during that playoff run, they had not been to a game potentially during the entire year. So their experience of what a live event was, was completely different than when they got there. So, it was just that part, from a business side was just wild. But then, as we moved forward into the end, we got Phoenix, we won that, the series against Brooklyn, then we went to Atlanta, then Giannis gets hurt, and everyone is besides themselves like, " Oh my God, what's going to happen?" And then Chris and inaudible step up in an incredible way to get us through to the next round, to play obviously, Phoenix. And then we go down 2- 0, which we had done previously against Brooklyn as well. But we go down 2-0, and it was just, oh my God, we were... A lot of pits in the stomach. And then the team just literally came out of the gates, and just went on obviously an incredible run. And then game six, I was very fortunate, I was able to sit in the stands with my wife, which I hadn't actually been to a game with my wife probably, inaudible, but with just us two I should say, not without our kids, probably in 10 to 15 years. And then, I got to soak in the game as a fan, and it was incredible. It was just incredible. And I think the craziest thing is that I was... If you watch the game, at the end of the game when Giannis hits his 50th point off at the free throw line, they span the crowd in the back. You can see my face in a blue polo, clear as day, my phone lit up with text messages from all these people. And the worst part is my face looks mad, because at that moment, at that exact moment I was looking at the game, still kind of worried, " Is this really happening to me? Is this really happening right now?" And then also getting overwhelming... Becoming overwhelmed with emotion of all of this. It was just... I mean, just thinking about it now, and talking through it, I just get chills thinking about how incredible it was. Because I mean, the thing is, especially when you work in sports, people always ask me whenever I do talks to schools, or different things, " What about your job do you like the best?" And the thing I always say is that, " In the end, I get to help provide people, and be a part of something that gives people experiences that they take away for the rest of their lives." Whether it's a first game with your mom, dad, brother, sister, friend, whatever. There are these first time experiences, or just general life experiences that you get to do, that I get to help play a role in, that you never forget your whole life. And then I basically got that. I live that, and it was just incredible. There's no other way to describe it, other than it was incredible.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah, that's amazing. And how about that ring? Did you get a ring?

Ben Conrad: I did get a ring. I'm mad that I don't have it. I don't have it with me right now, but I did get a ring. It's gorgeous. It makes me feel uncomfortable even having it on to be honest. Right now it's literally sitting in my basement, on the bar, in the middle, in this beautiful case-

Vincent Pietrafesa: That's awesome.

Ben Conrad: For visibility. So yeah, it's inaudible it.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Congrats man. I love that story.

Ajay Gupta: Yeah. And Ben, I can relate to the empty arenas, because we have season tickets to the Spurs here, and at first, they weren't allowing anybody, and then they were allowing very small subsets for each game from the season ticket holders. So, it was very strange, given that Spurs is usually playing to sold out a arenas normally.

Ben Conrad: Yeah, and it was weird too, right? Because as a season ticket holder, you probably only got to go to a few of them, because we only had, in the end, if you have 4, 000 seats, but the Spurs I also believe have very strong season ticket base, where we do as well, where it's like, if you have 10,000 season ticket holders but you only have 4, 000 seats for a game, how are you going to get everyone the chance? Plus give other people an opportunity to go with other different plans. So, it was really a lot of... Our ticket operations during that period did an incredible job of playing connect the dots, and figuring out, how do we get as many people as possible the opportunity to experience basketball, while still keeping everyone connected to the brand, and their investment that they made in the team.

Ajay Gupta: So, related to that Ben, how much does brand loyalty come into play when it comes to planning marketing campaign? Obviously to get through the pandemic, you needed that connection with the fan base. I would love to hear about how the loyalty portion of the marketing comes into play for you.

Ben Conrad: I mean, it's everything, right? Our campaign, coming out of that, was built for this, was kind of where we were. And as you were moving forward into the... Through the pandemic, I mean let's be honest too, we are very fortunate to have an incredible talent, and incredible player that it's easy to connect with, on top of a successful franchise. And we also had a new arena. So, we had a lot of very positive things for fans to stay connected. And if this had happened in the years that I talked about before, who knows what would've happened. But, I mean, we knew that fans were excited about our team, and they couldn't wait to see it. And we continued to build our marketing campaign to get as many people to experience our product as possible. But, the fan loyalty that we experienced, I mean shoot, look at those final shots during the championship. I mean, we had 18,000 inside of the arena, and I can't remember the exact number, 65, 70,000 outside. We had literally 100,000 people almost in this area of people. And the people that were outside were just watching it on screens for that community feel, and just excitement. So, talk about brand, and loyalty, and excitement, and dreams and visions realized all at the same time. I mean, that culmination of all those people experiencing that together, it's unbelievable, and it dives into where that rebrand started. When we... Circling back, that's what everyone envisioned of, it was a community experience that everyone felt together, and I think when you talk to people about that accomplishment, they just get... The Bucks fans that you talk to who are there, and they can't even speak enough about it, how amazing it was.

Ajay Gupta: Nice. So recently Ben, I watched the movie Rise, which is based around Giannis' life. So what does he do? Obviously on the court, we all know his accomplishments, but how is he used in the community? What does he mean to Milwaukee?

Ben Conrad: I mean, he obviously is a special, and incredible person. So, he has made this space, and this area his home, and he continues to commit to the area, as well, and people just connect with him. I mean, there's all those... During that, I think there are books about him, and there are stories, all the different things about how he connected early on in his career with different people that were here, that helped him. I mean the reality is, navigating through life, here's an 18- year- old kid living in another country without his family at the time, at all, because they couldn't come over here, and they are like people in our organization that basically hung out with him, taught him how to drive. So, he really locked into, I think, this community, and I think people truly embraced him, and really see his story. And also, from an organization perspective, I think he's a connection of someone against all odds type scenario, where he came up through that space. And then the organization was at a low point, and did a similar thing, and without being too corny, it was done together. I think for what he does business wise, I mean there's some obvious things. He helps us sell tickets. I mean he helps us do all of those things, because he's such an incredible talent. I think the biggest impact that has changed who we are as a brand, is he took... I mean the team did as well obviously, but he's the rocket if you will, that's pushing it forward. I mean, we went from a city brand, to a state brand, to then an international brand. So, whereas we're sitting right here, right now today, if you talk to people from other parts of the world, and you say, " Milwaukee," they may have no idea where that is, but they probably know the Bucks, and they probably know Giannis on some level. So, I think that's the biggest change, where the stage that we play on got a lot bigger.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah. And I love that he stayed with the city and the state. And you're right about that Ben. It's like I said before. New York City, you walk around, melting pot of people from all over the globe who are coming to New York, and just coming off the summer here with... That's when the jerseys come out, it's hot out. You see Milwaukee Bucks, and Milwaukee is well represented, and hats off to you. But I want to talk about some of the challenges. You're the first sports team we've talked to, but a lot of our clients are sports teams. But, what do you believe is the greatest challenge that most sports marketers are facing today?

Ben Conrad: I think the biggest challenge that... For us, and I think a lot of teams is finding that unknown fan, and making sure that you can provide them the best experience within the arena. So, everything we do is to try to continue to connect with fans, but also very simply, when fans come into our arena, if you have a ticket, and you have four, and you transfer them, you do whatever, trying to find each one of those people, understand who they are, and being able to provide them the best possible experience within the arena walls. I think the other part that's really challenging, and I kind of mentioned it earlier, is that most sports teams, while they have a very big brand, have a very small staff in relation to what they do. So, I think about my team, we have, overall our entire marketing department consists of around 25 people. My team in particular is... I always make the joke, it's three and a half, with me being the half. And we do all the email, all the marketing automation, all the different things for all the different entities that we support through our entire portfolio, which includes all Fiserv Forum events, our pro shop, obviously Bucks, and all the individual entities that happen within the Bucks as well. So, it's a lot, and we're all intertwined in all kinds of different parts of the business. So, I think when you start to talk to people in the sports world, like myself, they wear a ton of hats. And so, trying to... And then, the season comes, and then it's like everything that you have to get done, it needs to be done very quickly, and very efficiently, because as soon as that game ends, there's another one staring you down in the face a couple days away. So, I think those are the biggest challenges. And the solves for a lot of it, if you're fortunate, we're very fortunate in our spaces to be able to help solve them with some technology. But, I think staff resources, and then time are what really work against, I think, most sports market inaudible.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Very interesting. And Ben, as we're gearing up for the start of the season, what do these next six months look like for you, and really look like for the industry?

Ben Conrad: Oh man. I mean, this is a very... I think most people you talk to, while specific in the NBA, it's a kind of an overwhelming feeling right now, because it's like, we're 11 days away from our first playoff game. I'm sorry, first preseason game, that was a bit presumptuous.

Vincent Pietrafesa: I love the spirit though. I love it.

Ben Conrad: Yeah. But, I think it's just trying to get ready, and trying to build for each, making sure we can get obviously all the tickets sold for all the games that we have, and then at that point, how we're creating unique experiences for all those games. And I think the biggest challenges that we're looking at right now is we're still a little bit... There are parts of the business that are still, " Coming back from COVID," I think, as it relates to ticket sales, and some other things. So, I think we're trying to continue to build on those, to help impact our business. One example is groups. Groups are still slowly working back into that space. But from a digital side, and a marketing automation side, for us, it's really about enhancing the fan experience. Right now the biggest thing that we're working on is enhancing our in arena, food and beverage mobile experience, and I think really just driving, and trying to marry up the people that we have in our market, and then the ticket products that we have, and making sure that we can hit the right people with the right mark over the next kind of six months, to get prep for playoffs again. So, I mean that's the ultimate goal, but we got to make sure that we're hitting all the marks in November, as well as December, as we lead into that space.

Ajay Gupta: Ben, obviously you're very passionate about what you do, and your passion for Bucks comes through as well. But what is your favorite part of your job, if you had to pick one?

Ben Conrad: Oh man. I mean, like I said, I'm a very experiential type person. I value having an experience with someone almost over anything else. And I think just that idea, and that being able to provide that experience. I think the thing to me personally, that I'm most excited about that's happened over the last probably 10 years, is that I've gotten to build a team, and then I've gotten to... Hopefully they would say this, I think they would, that really positively impact people in their careers along the way. And part of the coolest thing about being here a long time, is that each year I obviously learn more, but there's more people that I get to interact with, that I get to hopefully provide things for them, that can help them along in their career, and their experience as well. So, I've been really fortunate to have some amazing people that I work with, and that work with me. So, I think just being able to continue to impact their careers in that aspect. But then, I mean, anything for me that... The best part is when you get to experience something with other people, that's really amazing, and communal. I think that's about as good as it gets for me. That's why I love live events. I mean, one of the things, I'm a huge Bruce Springsteen fan, I've seen him 19 times, and so I'm really excited on March 7th at Fiserv Forum will be my 20th. But just things like that, where it's like, I get to go see them with my closest friends, that we've been to all 20 together, and I just can't wait for that. That experience that we're going to have is going to be amazing, and it can't be replaced. That's what I get excited about.

Ajay Gupta: And your career is probably one that would be a dream job for a lot of youngsters, or people trying to get into the sports marketing industry. So, what advice do you have for somebody in college, or just graduating, who wants to get into sports marketing?

Ben Conrad: I think the most important thing is to intern. It sounds really corny, but most of the people that I know that continue to move around in sports, is I think you have to be able to be willing to do two things. You have to be willing to intern, and you really have to be willing to go anywhere, because I think there's a lot of opportunities there. To be frank, I'm the anomaly, to where I started with the team, and have continued to be able to make my path within one team. Most of the people that are really successful in sports have been willing to move around a little bit. So, I think that's... Be willing to take an internship, and to do it, and to almost like do, I don't want to say whatever, but to do an internship in any spot, whether it's minor league, or major league, whatever it is. And then be willing, and be flexible enough to be interested in moving to another space. Because I think that's where you can really make your headway to gain that experience, to be able to get into sports. Because like I said, I think there's very few of me per se, as far as where you started as an intern, and then continued to work your way up. And as I mentioned the Ajay before, also with the stuff that you're interested in doing. When I started, the job that I have now didn't exist, and each job that I've had that I have now didn't exist. So also just be open to what's happening, and what's available to do.

Vincent Pietrafesa: And I remember talking to you, Ben, where again, you've been there 22 years, and you're still a young man, and you started out with tickets, and doing a variety of different things. And also, you are the anomaly in the sense that you grew up in that area, right?

Ben Conrad: Yeah. Yep.

Vincent Pietrafesa: So it's not like, some people dream of sports marketing and they're like, " Ah, I just want to get into it." And you're like, " Oh, okay, I got sent to the Chicago Bulls. Well that's not my team growing up." In your case, it's the team, and you're doing it, and you get to experience it.

Ben Conrad: Yeah.

Vincent Pietrafesa: I want to ask a few questions before we wrap here. One is our staple question that our fans love. And how do I know they love that? Because they've been coming up to me at conferences, as group events are back. Yes. And the LinkedIn question. Again, with your title, The Milwaukee Bucks, visible, awesome franchise. You must get solicited via LinkedIn all the time. What's a message that gets Ben Conrad's attention, and what's a message that you hate? What's a pet peeve of the LinkedIn reach out?

Ben Conrad: Oh boy, wow, this is inaudible.

Vincent Pietrafesa: How much time do you have? Right?

Ben Conrad: No, it's a dangerous territory.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah.

Ben Conrad: I would say, I'm a corny guy, so anything that's funny, that hits something. I would say this, if you're messaging me personally, and you've at least done a little bit of research to understand something about me, and then you message me with something along those lines, and it has some humor involved, I'll at least look at it. The thing that I probably... The thing that I actually just experienced this today actually, now that I'm thinking about this, that I really can't stand, and it drives me nuts, is if someone messages me, and I don't respond, and then they message me again saying something to the effect of, " I've tried to message you, why haven't you reached out?" Or something like that. I was just like, " Well, I didn't reach out to you in the first place."

Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah.

Ben Conrad: "I don't know what your expectation was of me in this part of our current arrangement."

Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah.

Ben Conrad: I think that's probably the one that I struggle with the most, is when people... Or, they misunderstand our role, or they say it's like, " Oh, as the NBA," well I don't work for the NBA, I work for the Bucks. So, those kinds of things. But, I mean, I understand too. There's people, they're just hustling, they're trying to their best, so I get it.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah, but you're right. It's like if you don't reach out... The one I hate is like, it's like, " Did I do something wrong? Hey, I didn't hear from you." I'm like, " Well no. Yeah, you did a lot of things wrong. And how much time do you have?"

Ben Conrad: Yeah.

Vincent Pietrafesa: But yeah, I don't like those. I like that too. I like when someone is... Funny always gets my attention. That always grabs me.

Ben Conrad: Tough to beat a good pun.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah, oh puns are fantastic. Right? Ajay's king of puns. He's like that subtly, naturally funny, but he'll throw a good pun out there. But Ben, what do you like to do for fun? You're up there... And I want to say something first, because you could tell the Milwaukee Buck fans are loyal, right? Because basketball, the heart of it, December, January, February, that's cold in Wisconsin, you're going outside, you're going into an arena, that is dedication, that's a fan base. I love... I just wanted to add that in there, because I have friends who are living in the Milwaukee area, or went to University of Wisconsin in Madison, they live in that area now, they die hards, and they love it. So, hats off to them. But, talk to me about hobbies. What do you like doing? You said you have a family. What do you like doing in your spare time, when you're not working?

Ben Conrad: Well, I am a habitual youth sports coach. So, my daughter, I have a daughter right now that's a freshman in high school, and I have a daughter that is in fourth grade. So, I love coaching their sports teams. I've been coaching girls basketball since my oldest daughter was in fourth grade. So, now I'm starting back up again, with my youngest. And my daughter also plays a little golf. So, we like to play to play golf together as a family, which is fun. And then I think outside of that, my biggest passion outside of sports is music. Like I mentioned Bruce, I love... And it's harder now with kids, and activities and stuff, with man going to a live concert. There is... The juice you get from a really good live performance is like... I was just saying to my friends who were talking about going to Bruce, is like I just need it. I need that feeling, because it's just impossible to replace, and it's so special. So, going to a really good live concert, besides sports is my favorite.

Vincent Pietrafesa: I agree with you. I was recently at... I went to go see Elton John for his farewell, and then I went to go see Chris Rock, and Kevin Hart did a few shows together, in this New York, New Jersey area, and they never perform together. And then the opening act, oh surprise, was Dave Chappelle, and I'm like, " This doesn't get inaudible." People went nuts, Ben. People went bananas.

Ben Conrad: Yeah.

Vincent Pietrafesa: And I remember just looking around, and just seeing everyone happy, and seeing everyone cheering, and someone sitting next to me, we're just laughing together. I don't know this guy. And especially with the last couple years has been, I was like, " It's magical." It's magical. It feels even more special.

Ben Conrad: Yeah.

Vincent Pietrafesa: And again, it was a night away from our kids, all two times, me and my wife. So I'm like, "This is even more special. I'll go to anything if it involves without the children." I love them though, ladies and gentlemen. Don't email me, and think I don't love them. So, we got a lot of rabid fans. Rabid fans, Ben.

Ben Conrad: Well, the interesting thing is when they start to intersect. So the last concert I was actually at, was Olivia Rodrigo with my daughter, and three of her friends.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Yep.

Ben Conrad: It was really funny, because, I mean, she's an incredibly talented singer, songwriter. If I was going to a show, that wouldn't be the first one I would pick, but it was incredible. But it was really fun, and honestly, just amazing to see that show through her eyes, is the same way that I feel when I go see people that I'm passionate about. So, it was really fun to really experience the show, but also experience her feelings, and watching her, with her friends, and how that made her feel. I thought that was amazing. So I think, those are the things too, as you get older with kids, is there's really cool experiences for yourself, and when you get to experience stuff like that, and see your kids in that same space, it's really special.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Oh definitely. And that, like you said, that's something that she'll remember the rest of her life, her first concert.

Ben Conrad: Yup.

Vincent Pietrafesa: And you got to take her. So, that's amazing. Ben, last question from me. Was there a parade? How was it, if so?

Ben Conrad: Oh my God, there was a parade. It was amazing. I got to ride in one of the floats.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Nice.

Ben Conrad: Throw tee shirts out. I mean, I don't remember how... I mean, I don't remember the distance, and it was all kind of a blur, but it went through the city of Milwaukee. I mean, the streets were lined, 15, 20 deep, at all... People on rooftops. We had a huge event after, where, I mean there's just a sea of people. It was awesome. I don't have the full level of words to describe all the feelings. It was one of those things where, especially from a organization, it's like, I mean 50 years since the first one, for me personally, at that time it was my 23rd season. So that feeling of accomplishment, and just the community of it all. I mean, it was incredible. I think the funniest part is, a close friend of mine who works downtown somewhere, he's got a great video of me. I saw him throwing a tee shirt that eventually made it onto, of course me posting it on my Instagram story, but just little things like that, just again, more memories that live forever. It was awesome.

Vincent Pietrafesa: That's amazing. Thank you so much, Ben, for sharing your story. We love having you here. Ladies and gentlemen, that's Ben Conrad. He's the vice president, digital marketing automation for the Milwaukee Bucks, the 2021 NBA Champions. Ladies and gentlemen, if you live in the Milwaukee area, go to a game. If you're a company out there, hit them up. Get some season tickets. As Ajay mentioned, we have that. I'm in New York, but they have that in San Antonio there, as well. But Milwaukee area, hit them up. Also, if you're visiting the area on business, go to a game. They're fun. Ladies and gentlemen, that's Ben Conrad. I'm Vincent Pietrafesa. Late. I was late today. How dare I, for season three. What a way to kick it off. That's Ajay Gupta. This has been another episode of The Marketing Stir. Thank you so much, and thank you for listening.

Vin: Thanks for listening to The Marketing Stir podcast by Stirista. Please like, rate, and subscribe. If you're interested in being a guest on the podcast, please email us at the marketingstir @ Stirista. com, and thanks for listening.


The Marketing Stir tips off Season 3 with Ajay and Vincent welcoming Ben Conrad, VP of Digital Marketing and automation at Milwaukee Bucks. He talks about how community pride plays a big role in their brand and helps lead to successful campaigns. Ajay and the Marketing Stir team are excited to kick off season 3, but Vincent is missing!

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