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Volume 7 No. 149
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Hangin' With ... Rebel Ventures Head Of Creative Strategy Joe Puglisi

Joe Puglisi joined Rebel Ventures by way of The Players' Tribune.
Photo: Rebel Ventures

JOE PUGLISI was hired in April as the head of creative strategy for Rebel Ventures, a digital strategy firm that has represented sports teams around the world including Real Madrid, the NFL Philadelphia Eagles and NBA Golden State Warriors. He was the director of creative strategy at Buzzfeed before being recruited by The Players' Tribune to be head of branded content. Rebel Ventures is preparing to open an office in N.Y., where Puglisi hopes to expand its media reach. Puglisi spoke with SBD Global about Rebel Ventures and his take on the ever-changing sports media landscape. 

On Rebel Ventures’ goals ...
Joe Puglisi: The goal is to help sports teams and organizations maximize their revenue opportunities by recognizing the power of their content in the marketing mix. I come from a long history of finding display advertising and interrupted advertising as the thing that consumers want to avoid at any cost. The sports world has yet to fully shift away from those sorts of executions. There are some examples of shifting to content marketing, and it's happening as we speak. When you think about it, sports, in general, is the last great captive audience. You cannot turn away from your live sports programming because you have to watch it in whatever form it is being delivered to you. That is why networks can still charge a premium for ad placements on major live sporting events. ... Live sporting events are the last place you can have interrupted advertising that is effective because people can’t get that content anywhere else.

On the challenges in sports media ...
Puglisi: Look at what is happening below the surface -- every single league or team are all trying to find ways to get around the fact that they are delivering their product through other people’s pipes. Everyone is trying to find out what the solution is to delivering their content in a different way, and pretty soon the levee is going to break and these guys will start thinking about non-traditional revenue models. When they do, coupled with the fact that they are in the audience business, their service to that audience will be the most important piece to sell back to advertising partners and sponsorships. The whole sponsorship model is going to change. For Rebel, it's about understanding that landscape, how publishers can capitalize on serving their audience in different ways and forging brand partnerships. ... We are uniquely situated to drop in and help these teams to take their game to the next level. These teams have the most engaged audiences of all time. Figuring out how to reach them in a better way, and rewarding them for following, and creating something unique for them, is a path to new revenue.

On the best way to engage audiences ...
Puglisi: This is not a one-size fits all service. By that I mean many teams have internal operations that are more sophisticated, while some are just getting into this. I like to think of us as a “rent-a-publisher” operation and strategy agency that can drop in, quickly evaluate what’s going on, help level up areas of the business and help the organization secure a more sophisticated way of selling partnerships. For some teams it might take 10-12 months, for some teams it might take two-plus years to get to that point. It really depends on the team. I will say, I have been very impressed with our clients and their ability to know what they don’t know, and lean on us to help fill in those gaps.

On Rebel Ventures' future ...
Puglisi: We do have several partnerships in the works with major publishers to give us a little more media firepower. We are also getting into a similar relationship with some major media-buying establishments too. My hope is that we can build out our studio aspirations in L.A. and get a couple of wins in content development, because I see a massive opportunity for us in that space. That’s on the immediate horizon. The long-term vision for expansion is: we’re not trying to become a billion-dollar company; what we really want to do is have a core of high-quality and well-known international brands and help those brands take their marketing and team fandom to the next level. ... We want the best of the best, and we want to help them continue to lead by example in their respective leagues.

Hangin' With runs each Friday in SBD Global.