Interview with Jim DeLorenzo, VP Octagon Digital
Jim DeLorenzo is a multifaceted professional in the sports industry. An attorney by trade, Jim is currently the Vice-President of the Digital sector of Octagon. In today’s social media craze, Jim and his staff at Octagon Digital, created Twackle.com in response to the massive explosion of Twitter. Jim, the founder of Twackle.com took a few moments with us today to share his expertise and experiences within world of social media.
Josh Feinberg: Can you speak on your career path and experience leading to Octagon?
Jim DeLorenzo: My experience has been heavy on the digital media side and not as much on the sports side. I was pretty fortunate that I was able to eventually combine the two (digital media and sports) because I actually am a huge sports fan. My background started with law (as an attorney) almost a decade ago, representing the original Napster. From the law firm and handling those types of digital media property issues, I moved over to AOL where I was handling a lot of mobile and instant messaging transactions. I then ended up becoming head of business development and took care of the marketing issues for a start up (company) called Qloud, which was backed by Steve Case and his company Revolution. I focused primarily on online music applications that lived inside the various social networks working through Marketing Analytics software to boost my clients ROI.
We launched initially on Facebook and then quickly moved to MySpace, High Five, Friendster, and all the others. In less than a year, we ramped up about 7 millions users or so. I had a successful exit with Qloud and at the time of that exit, I was looking around and trying to decide if I was going to continue with the acquiring company or move somewhere else. At that moment, a position popped up at Octagon, which was looking for somebody to stand up their Digital Division.
So again, being a huge sports fan and obviously being involved in the digital media space, it seemed like a good opportunity to combine the two. Now at Octagon, running the Digital Division, I have two main responsibilities, one of which is to find new digital marketing channels for our athletes online. These Marketing Statistics can really help understand the changing forecast of Marketing which really benefits our clients. Another is to develop our own stand-alone digital properties, the first of which is Twackle.com.
Josh Feinberg: Following your undergraduate work, I take it, that it was not your intention to work in the Sports Industry?
Jim DeLorenzo: I wouldn’t say I didn’t have any intention of working in sports, but it wasn’t something I was actively trying to pursue. It wasn’t as if I was pursuing internships (in the sports industry). Again, I’m a gigantic sports fan, so I always thought it would be something that would be fun but it wasn’t something I was going to actively pursue.
I went straight from undergrad to law school, then law school down to a firm here in D.C. So I was not necessarily following a career path that would typically lead you to a sports related company.
Josh Feinberg: When did you join Octagon?
Jim DeLorenzo: About a year ago.
Josh Feinberg: For those not familiar with Octagon, can you give a brief overview of the company?
Jim DeLorenzo: Octagon is a global company. Octagon Athletes and Personalities is based here in McLain, Virginia. We have about 800 athletes worldwide representing pretty much every major sport. Some of our bigger clients include Michael Phelps and Chris Paul.
Josh Feinberg: Now can you go into what you do within the Digital sector and how that is incorporated into Octagon Athletes and Personalities?
Jim DeLorenzo: Well I think what you are seeing, more and more is that people are consuming their sports content online. Every athlete, every league, and every team are looking for ways to connect with their fans online and are shifting to different online platforms. For Octagon, one of my responsibilities is to help the agents find the right opportunities for their athletes in a digital medium. An example would be, if you go to NBA.com, they have videos running of Chris Paul. They have behind the scene videos chronicling what it is like to be a young, NBA super-star. Having NBA.com as a platform, to push those videos has a lot of benefits for Chris (Paul). That is one of the things I am doing out of the digital sector.
Basically, I am trying to find digital marketing opportunities for our athletes online and helping to provide both the athletes and the agents more of a consistent digital strategy.
Josh Feinberg: Looking at the social media platforms, specifically Twitter… We have seen an explosion of athletes and personalities jumping on-board. What is your reaction to the Twitter craze?
Jim DeLorenzo: Again, that gets back to the whole concept of athletes, teams, leagues, and different brands trying to find new ways to connect with their fans online. For a long time for an athlete or a team, that meant writing a blog. To write a blog, that really does not fit into an athlete’s daily schedule because they are busy being a professional athlete, which is all-consuming. When you have somebody that is a professional blogger, they are sitting there banging out a couple posts per day on a team or player. Than you have the player who is spending the vast majority of their time focusing on being a professional athlete, which is what they should be doing. So they are always going to be at a disadvantage to the professional bloggers, in terms of the amount of content they can produce and how much time they can spend trying to make that content compelling.
Now you have Twitter come along, all of a sudden, you have a channel that athletes can use that fits into their life very easily. They can use their mobile device to send a short, 140 character messages. It doesn’t require them to sit in front of a computer. They could be on their way to practice or on their way back from a game. Or in the case of Charlie Villanueva the other night, have the ability to throw out a Twitter post in the middle of a game, during halftime. It fits to more into the athletes’ life style and the time constraints that they have, which are very demanding.
The great thing for the fan, because of the immediacy of Twitter and the fact that Shaq could write something during half-time, or even sit at a diner and say “come meet me at the diner and I’ll give you free tickets to the Suns’ game tonight”. The immediacy is something that you can’t replicate in a blog. It provides a benefit to the fan that wasn’t there before; this feeling of immediacy and intimacy with the athletes and having a real connection there. That’s one of the things that make it appealing to the fan and consumer standpoint. I think it’s (Twitter) only going to continue to grow. It really fits into the athlete’s life and the consumer loves it because they’re getting little nuggets of information faster and more on a real-time basis than they ever could otherwise.
Josh Feinberg: What exactly is Twackle?
Jim DeLorenzo: One of the problems you have with Twitter is that there are massive amounts of data and it becomes difficult for people to manage it. One of the things that we thought would be helpful is to have a sports focused front end on Twitter. What we do, we find and aggregate all the messages on Twitter related to sports and put them into Twackle.com in the appropriate area using our navigation. This allows the user to quickly find the topic they are looking for. We surface all of these messages in the form of “feeds” which allows the user to find feeds on a topic very quickly. Whether that’s the NFL, New York Giants or a particular player on the New York Giants, they can drill down and find the information they feel is compelling very easily. If they’re looking at our NY Giants feed – we are pulling that information in real time, every message seen on Twitter will feed into Twackle. There it is an aggregation and discovery tool for sports content on Twitter. Beyond that, you have the ability to have a native Twitter integration. You can log into Twackle using your Twitter ID and password. With that integration, when you post a message live on Twackle, it shows on your Twitter stream. You end up with a multi platform play as the user. If you look, there’s actually a top ‘Twacklers’ module that shows the people that have used Twackle the most over the past week. Some of those people are actually teams. For example, the Charlotte Bobcats are on there. They’ve started to use Twackle and use it as one of their platforms for distributing their Twitter messages as they live ‘tweet’ during games.
Josh Feinberg: How long since Twackle went live?
Jim DeLorenzo: We got something up there with Twackle at the beginning of this year. In its current form, we started telling people about it back in February. There was actually a Sports Business Journal article about it early in February. It really hasn’t been that long, you’re looking at 4-6 weeks since we went live. It’s pretty new and we continue to rev out new functions. We have some pretty cool things coming down the pike that I think people are going to find very interesting. It’s relatively young in the cycle right now.
Josh Feinberg: With Twackle’s initial launch, I would imagine it’s not perfect and it does not satisfy everyone out there. Can users suggest information they would like to see on Twackle?
Jim DeLorenzo: People can always send us messages; we do have the ability to send comments back. They could also send messages through the Twackle feed. We are always open to suggestions. User feedback is crucial for Twackle. We recently had the people of ‘Women Talk Sports’, which is a great blog obviously focused on Women in Sports; reach out to us telling us we need more content around Women’s Sports. They were right and we did. We’re definitely open to any suggestions on a content side…any content areas we are not currently covering – we definitely want to hear about that, along with any suggestions. It’s pretty easy for us to throw up items in regards to a specific topic, as long as there is content behind it. On the functionality side, same thing, we always like to hear from people. Any comment from our users is always helpful. It’s a huge advantage to have that connection with our users.
Josh Feinberg: Any other features the user should be aware of?
Jim DeLorenzo: One other functionality I wanted to mention was the ‘Top Links’ module. For every one of our feeds, take the NY Jets and Kerry Rhodes who is a safety on the Jets, he has his own Twitter page. We have 800 or so feeds that we continue to add everyday. For every one of those feeds, we pull out the links on an on-going rolling basis for the past 24 hours, the links that were sent the most through those feeds. If you look at the general NFL feeds, the module shows the links sent the most; either on Twackle or Twitter- and the Top Links module becomes a user generated recommendation engine.
Josh Feinberg: What is the relation with Twackle and Octagon:
Jim DeLorenzo: It’s an Octagon Digital property. The ultimate plan is to spin it out and turn Twackle into its own independent entity.
Josh Feinberg: To close, let’s relax a bit with few quick response questions:
Josh Feinberg: Favorite Athlete (all-time)?
Jim DeLorenzo: Joe Klecko
Josh Feinberg: Favorite Team to Follow?
Jim DeLorenzo: New York Jets
Josh Feinberg: Who do you have winning tourney?
Jim DeLorenzo: Being a graduate, I have to go with Duke