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Q&A: NYCFC COO Matt Goodman on Citi Field series, NBA experience, analytics

Goodman: “That’s the foundation of our business – people in the seats.”

New York City FC COO and Chief Commercial Officer, Matt Goodman (Photo courtesy NYCFC)

Matt Goodman is a former NBA executive who was recently hired by New York City FC to become the club’s Chief Operating Officer and to fill a newly created position, Chief Commercial Officer.

The Dallas, Texas native served as Senior Vice President of the NBA’s Team Marketing and Business Operations (TMBO) department where he was responsible for growing NBA, WNBA and G-League team profits through strategic consulting on all aspects of business operations including ticket sales, premium sales, sponsorship development, marketing and digital. He served as the league liaison for the Brooklyn Nets, Dallas Mavericks, Detroit Pistons, Los Angeles Lakers and Memphis Grizzlies.

Prior to joining the NBA, Goodman served as Vice President of Corporate Partnerships for the Cleveland Browns. He started his career with Mandalay Baseball Partners, where he helped launch both the AAA and A affiliates of the New York Yankees (Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and Staten Island Yankees) and served as Vice President of Sales for the AA affiliate of the Texas Rangers (Frisco RoughRiders). He holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Arkansas.

Pro Soccer USA recently sat down with Goodman at the NYCFC offices in Manhattan. Goodman expressed his desire to enhance the fan experience through his encounters in other sports and facilities while describing the benefits of the Citi Field Series and how the supporters concerns will be addressed.

Pro Soccer USA: Did you see metrics and analytics as a vital tool for the NBA?

Matt Goodman: It was really David Stern’s brainchild, which was these teams competing on the court, but also collaborating in the business because a rising tide lifts all boats. In five and a half years we went from went from four to 10 people in my department. And in that time the average size of an NBA team’s business strategy and analytics team increased from three to 10.

PSUSA: It looks like you supervise a lot of departments in your new position at New York City. Oversee ticket sales, suites premium seating, corporate sponsorship, marketing, business intelligence and analytics, as well as a youth programs.

MG: First of all, I appreciate the anxiety attack (laughs). The key to the whole process is that those things that you just listed are all tied together. And what we often see is silos start to build. I focus on youth, I focus on marketing, I focus on tickets. And when you get those siloed organizations that’s when there’s a lack of innovation, there’s a lack of trust. And frankly, there’s a lack of movement. And what I was pretty clear with Brad when we were talking about this opportunity. We’ve got to be able to tie all these things together and make sure that the leaders of those specific groups are all on the same page and recognize how valuable each of them is to the other and create that real rising tide lifts all boats opportunity here, too.

PSUSA:  Can you give us an example of how you’ll utilize analytics to put more people in the seats which would be one of your most important goals, right?

MG: That’s the foundation of our business – people in the seats. It’s what makes a great fan experience, it’s what makes the players excited to play, it’s what makes sponsorships in stadium valuable. When you talk about the analytics and how that pertains to driving more people in the seats, we have to understand the different segments of our customers. And the only way to do that is to look at who we have today, what their makeup is, where they live, what their zip codes are, what is their propensity to buy, what type of messaging do they prefer. And then we can start to build what we call lookalike campaigns. So, it’s our responsibility to figure out how we can create packaging for all of our customers. But you need information in order to do that.

PSUSA:  Have you been able to determine a segment of that population that is missing from the equation?

MG:  The short answer is no. It’s a robust project. We’ve narrowed down a shortlist of finalists for people to come in here and run that group. We’ve recognized that some of our digital and social channels have an opportunity to see a new level of customization, so that we’re able to start to do that a little bit and that allows us to start to test. We’ve scratched the surface by starting to test a little bit in terms of variety of messaging.

PSUSA: Let’s talk about the Citi Field Series. Four of the 17 home games will be played at Citi Field which was the venue for last year’s playoff game against Toronto FC. How are you addressing the concerns of fans from that experience? Limited seating options, obscured views and altered views with the big net used for baseball, things like that.

MG: I have not been able to experience it live since I was not there for the playoff game. But that’s not an excuse. I’ve been able to read a lot of the feedback that we got after that last game. I think we were a victim of such a quick turnaround in terms of when it was identified we were going to play there and the time we had to kind of get ourselves prepared to go to a new place to play and convert all of our fans and season ticket holders into that venue. Now we have more time to plan. But we are not going to be able to take that net down. That’s out of our control.

PSUSA: The other thing I heard was the long lines to get into Citi Field. A lot of fans didn’t get in until after kickoff.

MG: There are a number of factors that go into that type of stuff. When you’ve got rabid fans, you’ve got to be able to get them in as fast as possible, you’ve got to make sure that their benefits and amenities again are on par with what they’re used to in their quote/unquote home facility. In this business it is impossible to please everybody. At the end of the day, someone’s hot dog is going to be cold, somebody’s line is going to be long. It is impossible but we will strive for perfection there as best we can. I think the positive of the Citi Field Series from a fan perspective is do you want to go to a game on Wednesday night or on a Saturday night.

PSUSA: Saturday should be better and there are four fewer midweek games compared to last year.

MG: And the fact that you get an opportunity to tailgate. To give our supporters the opportunity to tailgate on Saturday, pre-match. I mean, I very much look forward to engaging in that process.

PSUSA:  Is there any way to replicate that tailgating experience at Yankee Stadium? And is that at all important for you to look closely at in terms of driving ticket sales?

MG:  It’s a good question. There’s probably a loose connection there. I know we’ve got supporter bars that are close to Yankee Stadium that do a lot of that type of delivery but the bar experience is not the same as a tailgate experience. I don’t have a great answer for you but exploring it and doing a deep dive into where there are potential opportunities to do some of that will be a fun project.

PSUSA: You were employed at one time with Madison Square Garden. So, you are sort of a New Yorker?

MG: I’m told if you live in New York for 10 years you can call yourself a New Yorker. I worked close to 11 years at MSG.

PSUSA: What were your responsibilities?

MG: In April of ’09 as one of the suite salespeople for the Garden’s billion dollar transformation project. I ultimately ran the sales group that was responsible for roughly $500 million in contractual obligated income at a time when the economy had just fallen out and we were going to market with the most expensive premium inventory in the history of sports. I had some really interesting conversations with some high level executives at some very notable financial institutions.

PSUSA: Have you been to any Billy Joel concerts?

MG: I have been to one Billy Joel concert before he started the monthly performances. We had been talking about that even back then.

PSUSA: You’ve also worked for the Cleveland Browns and helped launch a couple of minor league franchises under the Yankees. You’re a well-rounded guy.

MG: Yes, well-rounded. That’s one way to look at it.

PSUSA: But all these experiences – basketball, football, baseball and now soccer. Is there crossover as to how you enhance the fan experience and fan services?

MG: I’m going to put the question back on you. What do you remember the first time you walked into a live sporting event?

PSUSA: It’s vivid for me. It was Yankee Stadium with my father. It was 1967. I got home from my paper route and my dad told me to grab my glove and hop into the car. We had a black and white TV so when I walked through the tunnel it was the first time I saw the blue seats and the green grass. I think about that every time I walk into the stadium.

MG:  That’s it! The level of detail of that memory will be with you forever. And that’s why I got into this business. I still remember my dad taking me to old Busch Stadium for the first time in 1982. I was four years old. Every time you open a facility for a match or a game, regardless of the sport, somebody is going to get that experience that you and I just talked about. It’s our responsibility as stewards of any particular brand to make sure that it is as memorable as possible.

PSUSA: What stands out to you after six weeks on the job?

MG: The one thing I can say without question is, you can’t replicate the kind of validity of fan that this club has already. To see the supporters and to understand what has been built in a very short period of time without their own permanent home. That’s a foundation that anybody in my business wants – that kind of commitment.

PSUSA: You’ve arrived in a league that appears to be in good shape and the players seem happy with the new CBA.

MG: I briefly met [MLS Commissioner] Don Garber at the MLS 25 event but also had an opportunity to sit down with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. He is a leader I will always kind of try and emulate – he’s brilliant. He talked about how much respect he has for Don and MLS. When you think that Major League Baseball is 125 years old and NFL football at 100 years old and NBA basketball at 75 years old and for this league is just 25 years old and to have done what it has done so far. Just in terms of franchise valuations if you want to look at it from a basic standpoint.

PSUSA: Good thing you’re not looking to be an expansion team now. It’ might cost you $600 million.

MG:  That’s real money.

 

 

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