Updated: Jan 15, 2021
Welcome back to our latest edition of The Impact Series! We are joined by the talented Cam Rizzardini.
Cam Rizzardini is the Brand Manager for the newly minted Seattle Kraken. As one of its earliest members, Rizzardini has been with the team since August 2018 having previously served as the Digital Media Manager. He oversees the production of photo, video, website, and social media assets as well as working in tandem to build the organization's brand strategy.
Prior to joining the expansion Kraken, Rizzardini served in a digital media capacity for Seattle Sounders FC and Helly Hansen. Having spent the better part of the previous six years in the Seattle area, Rizzardini has made the Pacific Northwest his home after graduating from DePaul University.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself. Was your original goal to make it into the NHL and/or for an expansion team?
I have a slightly non-traditional background beginning my career as a comedy writer and stand-up comedian, so I can’t say my original goal was to work in the NHL. But, I grew up a massive sports fan - particularly of football, soccer, and hockey. I’ve always been interested in connecting with people through entertainment, so I think I naturally turned toward sports after comedy.
The whispers of an NHL expansion to Seattle have been around for quite some time. I always thought about how cool that would be, but never imagined I would be apart of it. So, once the opportunity arose to help build and launch this brand with none other than Tod Leiweke, I just couldn’t say no.
2. How did working outside the traditional sports team side of the industry for nearly two years help shape your perspective?
What’s great about Helly Hansen is that it is sports! But of course, with some stark contrasts to the team sports world. This role gave me the opportunity to work 1-on-1 with professional athletes on their passion projects.
Contrary to team sports where you have limited time to build relationships with an ever-changing roster of athletes; this was very much a partnership with individuals, building deep relationships with them and often spending multiple days alone together in the mountains or on the water shooting projects.
This taught me to look at athletes like business partners. The potential they bring to a relationship reaches far beyond the playing surface.
3. Much of your career has been in the Seattle area. How has that impacted your current role in getting a feel for the local fanbase and launching a new team within a region you are familiar with?
The Seattle lifestyle has always attracted me, even as a child growing up in Chicago. So, when I had the chance to move here and work for Seattle Sounders FC, I made sure I really immersed myself in it.
I never say no to an adventure, no matter how daunting, and I try to live a life that resonates with Seattleites. I attend as many sporting events and consume as much media as possible. I am an avid outdoorsman, I live in Seattle city limits, and for better or worse I read every single comment, DM, and message board about the Seattle sports teams I work for.
It’s also important to appreciate Seattle as a boomtown. So much of this community came here from elsewhere to find a home and as we know, sports is a champion of belonging. As a transplant myself, I have found a home here in Seattle and with the Kraken.
4. How have you been balancing your time and objectives throughout the launch of the Kraken?
This project was a beast (bad pun very much intended). The team brand conversations began about 2 years ago, and it wasn’t until the five days before launch day that we were sure we’d be able to go. It was kept that tight.
It all goes back to the fans. We employed social listening tools, hosted our own fan forums and launched a microsite for fans to go in and vote directly on brand elements. Their input was massively important, and it became clear to us after considering 1,200 names that the Kraken was stirring up something special in the imaginations of the fans.
We built a robust launch plan with all sorts of fun, physical activations, and then of course, COVID -19 happened and we needed to pivot on nearly everything. That was devastating, but also represented an opportunity, as most problems do, to design and execute a digital launch strategy at an unprecedented scale in sports. This included cinematic trailers, a brand story microsite, and even setting up our own television station for 5 hours of in-depth coverage of the day including behind the scenes with executives about the brand process and where it’s going. All of this needed to be prepared with layers of confidentiality that I’m convinced would rival the CIA, and we were fortunate enough to be able to launch leak-free.
All of that is to say…balancing time and objectives was a near impossible task, and it was all about staying nimble and rewriting that balance as we went along.
5. Regarding the launch (and the build up to it), what have you been most proud of?
From the earliest days of this franchise, we always wanted to build an internal agency model for our brand and creative. So, what we’re most proud of is how much of this launch was done in-house. From the videos, to the websites, social media, digital deep dives, storytelling and more, our staff was empowered to concept and produce.
Of course, we leaned on many partners to execute this and those partners deserve a ton of credit, namely adidas. But our staff was ultimately the key to why this resonated so much with the fans. This worked because it was built by the people who understand this region and this brand the most.
6. What advice do you have for current and future brand managers who are aspiring to do what you do?
To aspiring brand managers, learn as many skills as you can. Pick up cameras, pick up adobe suites, learn to write, and understand business goals outside of your field. To be an effective brand manager, you don’t need to be an expert in everything, but it helps to be a jack of all trades. You need to understand creative processes to manage creative professionals, and you need to understand cross-functionality to grow a brand that meets everyone’s goals.
To current brand managers, listen to your staff and to your fans. No one knows your brand better than these people.
7. What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
Depending on the season, I am backcountry skiing, hiking, paddleboarding, wakeboarding, sailing and of course, playing hockey.
For anyone who is interested, you can find my work here: rizzcreative.com