Updated: Jul 3, 2020
*Furloughed due to COVID-19
During the last few months, a personal goal of mine was to focus on bringing to life more career stories of people I admired - to drive inspiration for others, to learn from and to share with our greater sponsorship community. This week, we had the chance to sit down with Elisa Padilla (Senior Vice President, Creative Strategy and Partnership Marketing at Roc Nation) to learn about her current role, her career experiences with various sports organizations, and her advice for the next generation of sports leaders.
Can you share with us a little about your life prior to college? What was family life like and at what point did you fall in love with sports?
I’m an inner city kid, born and raised in Newark, NJ. I am one of six kids – the youngster girl. Born to Puerto Rican parents and raised in a very traditional Latino household.
I had a great family life. My family and extended family were my friends and to this day, one of my siblings is my best friend.
One of my older brothers was a high school basketball star player and that’s how I was introduced to sports. Many of our family outings were to watch my brother play basketball. I fell in love with the game of basketball and was lucky enough to start my professional career working for a professional NBA team.
Take us through your journey. Early in your career you started out of college with a job with the New York Knicks – what did you learn early in your career, that sticks with you to this day?
How lucky was I? My first full-time job out of college, I landed a job with the New York Knicks during their glory days. The one key learning that I learned early on was that if you make a mistake, own it. Don’t try to fix it and make it worse. To this day, I live by that learning.
You spent some time in the media world, with HBO and Nickelodeon. What did you learn while working in that space and why did you switch if your goal was working in basketball?
During my MBA time I realized that I wanted to be a diversified marketer. It was important to me personally to be able to sit in a room and discuss any area of marketing. When I had the opportunity, I took it and worked in the media world. During my time at Nickelodeon and HBO, I learned about multicultural marketing, kids marketing, and the importance of storytelling to get consumers to consume content. I don’t look at those experiences as working outside of basketball. I look at those experiences as making me a better marketer for when I return to work in basketball again.
You’ve mentioned to me that when you were younger, you always wanted to be the director of marketing for an NBA team. After your work in the media world, you got there. How did that come about?
The experience in the media world made me a better marketer. In 2010 when I received a call from a recruiter for a job with the Nets, the job was in marketing for the arena the team was building. It wasn’t until I was in the interview that I learned that the Director of Marketing for the team had resigned. I called the recruiter and said that’s the job that I want. I want the Director of Marketing job for the New Jersey Nets.
When you moved back to basketball as the Director of Marketing for the Brooklyn Nets, you helped rebrand the Nets as they moved to a new market – from New Jersey to Brooklyn. What kind of things did you learn while you were re-branding the team? Can you take us through the ‘Hello Brooklyn’ campaign from that year?
The brand transformation of the Nets was a once in a lifetime opportunity. The Nets will always have a special place in my heart. When I arrived at the Nets in 2010, the team logo and colors were done. My assignment was to figure out how to launch the teams’ new identity.
We did research. We knew that Brooklynites were starving to have a team of their own, again. We did research on Brooklyn. We needed to understand the mindset of people who live in the borough. From a marketing standpoint, we wanted to have our brand voice come from within the borough. We approached the team move as if we were an expansion team and it worked.
Hello Brooklyn was born because of its simplicity and that’s how you greet people. Our vision was to enter the borough in the most humble manner. The line was inspired by this video by Jay-Z and Lil' Wayne.
How we launched the brand. The video that tells the story.
Our vision for the launch was to be part of the conversation and be everywhere. We took the 360 approach and wanted to be where people live, work and play. We did it.
Over your 5+ years with Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, you worked your way from Director of Marketing to CMO. Take us through the journey and what you feel was key things that drove your success as you climbed the corporate ladder.
I put my head down and worked. I focused on delivering the best work I could put forth to help move the business forward. I surrounded myself with really smart people and make sure to add value to everything that I did. I wasn’t chasing a promotion; I was always chasing the best work.
Shortly after, you got recruited to go to separate jobs at Apple and Howard Hughes (in the real estate world) but you got the news that Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico. Coming from a Puerto Rican background, how did that impact your life or your career? (ie moving to Miami to be closer to your family in PR).
I was recruited by Apple in 2017 and made the move to Cupertino in August 2017. I was at Apple for a month when Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico. My life was completely turned upside down. The island was completely blacked out. I didn’t hear from my parents and younger brother for two  weeks. It was a devastating time. It was the first time in my career where I was faced with making a choice between family and career. I chose my family and returned to New York. I have no regrets.
So in order to be closer to home you took on a role as the Senior Vice President of Marketing for the Miami Marlins. Was baseball any different than the world of basketball, or at the root of it, were the roles & responsibilities similar to before? It’s a longer season I can imagine.
The fundamentals of the marketing are the same. From where I sit, I believe it’s about evoking emotion to drive action to get share of wallet. My role with the Miami Marlins was very similar to my role with the Brooklyn Nets. My focus was consumer marketing; bringing the brand to life in the most relevant manner to drive awareness and sales.
Baseball is a different sport than basketball. Baseball caters to the traditionalist, the game has no clock and you have multiple games in a home stand to attend a game. The baseball season is long and the games just keep coming.
In 2018, while at the Marlins, you helped develop the “Our Colores” marketing campaign to introduce the new Marlins brand. Taking into consideration the city of Miami and the culture, how was this different than say when you worked on the re-brand for the Brooklyn Nets?
The rebrand of the Miami Marlins was very different than the brand transformation of the Brooklyn Nets. The goal with the Marlins was to reconnect with the community, to establish the team as the city’s team and infuse Miami into the game. Our Colores accomplished that goal and more. It was so rewarding to see the city of Miami wearing our gear! We were thrilled with the outcome of the brand relaunch.
Most recently, you're working as the Senior Vice President of Creative Strategy & Partnership Marketing at Roc Nation, one of the world’s largest entertainment companies. Can you share with us what’s different about the sports world and this side of entertainment? (recording artists, producers, etc.). How do you think differently about the work that you’re doing now?
It’s interesting because the work at Roc Nation is great due to the fact that it’s sport and entertainment at an intersection. We can leverage each side of the business to accomplish our goals. On the sports side, you know when games are played; there is a schedule that can guide you. On the entertainment side, things are a bit more fluid. You have to react quicker and be prepared at all times.
The biggest difference in this role is that we aren’t marketing a property [venue or team], we are promoting individuals. Every individual is different, their own brand which is very different than anything I’ve ever done before.
Currently, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you’re on furlough. How are you using your time now? Recently you started a project called “Kicking It With EP” – can you tell us what your hopes are for that initiative?
Kickitbyep was born from my goal of wanting to give back. I want to educate, inspire and pay it forward. I want to use this platform for people to tell their stories. Through authentic storytelling, you can educate, inspire and pay it forward. I want to build a community where people are supportive of one another and they can learn through consuming snackable content. Check out more here - https://www.kickitbyep.com.
If you were to go back in your career, tell your younger self some advice – what would it be?
I’d tell my younger self to be more patience. To stay at a place you love and learn to develop your voice to make a difference.
Many students & young professionals are using this time right now to reset. What would your advice be to them, as they think about their careers in a post-pandemic world?
Network, network, network.
Outline your goals and connect with people who will help you reach them. Once you get a job, put your head down and focus on results. Delivering outstanding work and adding value is what makes the biggest difference.