SBJ/Dec. 14-20/People and Pop Culture

Plugged In: Jen Maurillo, MLS

A 15-year MLS veteran, Jen Maurillo is the point person at the league when it comes to planning events, ranging from the All-Star Game and MLS Cup to board meetings and community gatherings. With that responsibility of directing everything from strategic design and formatting to staffing and execution, Maurillo has seen the league’s growth firsthand.

The signage on the skybridge still excites me. When I walk into the hotel lobby and I see the signage, even though I know I approved it last week, it still excites me. So it’s little things like that, when I think about how far we’ve come, that make it so much fun.


Photo by: © 2015, THE NASDAQ OMX GROUP, INC.
Growing in scope: When I started, our events were totally hospitality focused. It wasn’t until many years later that all the public-facing things came in, like the concerts and city festivals. For our All-Star Game in Denver this year, it was really a seven-day event in my opinion because we had programming for all these different things targeting different audiences.

The big accomplishments: When we had Macklemore and Ryan Lewis at the Power & Light District in Kansas City [for the 2013 All-Star Game], I think that was kind of a moment for the league. It was the biggest fan-facing activation that we’d had at any one of our events. At that point, I looked at the commissioner [Don Garber] and told him, “We’re here.” We had 10,000 people at the event and had to turn away even more people.

Working on short notice: People often ask, “How do you plan an event like the Cup in a week?” We’re not really planning this event in a week; we’re just planning an event like this in multiple markets for months at a time. There’s some things we’re never able to finalize in some markets in advance, so it makes that week before a bit of a scramble, but we’re able to have a pretty solid plan in every market that can possibly host.

Proud partners: Seeing the level of excitement and how many partners want to be part of our events, it’s at a totally different level than it has ever been before. Feeling that momentum is helping drive what we’re doing too. We can really present any idea to a partner, or look through a profile of partners, and say, “You can really help us bring this idea to life.” We really haven’t been at that place before, which is fun.

Looking ahead: We’re re-evaluating what the experiential pieces are around our events, because there is so much focus on social and digital right now. But I think it’s about finding the balance. MLS’s “special sauce” is getting people out at the stadiums, and experiencing the brand and atmosphere in the building.

— Ian Thomas

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