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Interview with VP of Octagon Digital, Jim DeLorenzo

As sports marketing agencies try to build their digital capabilities, Octagon has become a industry benchmark. VP DeLorenzo speaks with Knicks fans about its exciting new platforms.
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I recently had the pleasure of meeting the VP of Octagon Digital, Jim DeLorenzo, at the first-ever New York Knicks Tweetup. DeLorenzo, who has over a decade of experience in the digital space, spoke with Knicks fans and digital enthusiasts about some exciting new platforms he's developed with his team at Octagon Digital: Twackle and FanWaves.

To give you a quick background, Octagon is the world's largest sponsorship consulting practice and a pioneer and leader in athlete and personality representation, and management. Octagon Digital, which is a part of Octagon Athletes & Personalities, is the company's standalone new media division, providing industry-leading expertise to Octagon and Octagon client-athletes on digital and new media issues.

As Twackle continues to aggressively expand and FanWaves hits the marketplace, I thought it would be a great time to catch up with Jim DeLorenzo to talk about Octagon Digital's current initiatives and possible next steps.

Below is a transcript of our conversation. Please leave your feedback in the comments section below.


PRC: As sports marketing agencies try to build out their digital capabilities, Octagon has become a industry benchmark. Where does new media fit in the scope of Octagon's Digital Department, and how do you leverage the tools to help your client-athletes?

Jim DeLorenzo: New media initiatives really are central to everything we are doing, both in terms of the products Octagon is developing in-house, and the partnerships we are sourcing. For our athletes, a partnership with an existing content channel that licenses our athlete's digital content obviously provides a direct benefit to that client. However, even with the products developed that do not directly benefit Octagon clients, the fact that Octagon is in the digital/new media space and launching cutting edge products indirectly benefits our clients by ensuring Octagon is an industry leader and able to identify and apply emerging trends.

PRC: Twackle has been the talk of the town at various digital/sports digital conferences. How would you sum up the service in 140 characters or less.

Jim DeLorenzo: Twackle is a technology platform that provides an online hub for the social sharing of real-time sports news. It's the pulse of sports! (5 characters to spare!)

PRC: How does Twackle integrate with other social channels?

Jim DeLorenzo: In re-launching Twackle this past March, we focused on the fact that there simply is too much sports content available right now for the average sports fan to discover and consume efficiently. To solve for this issue, Twackle surfaces the sports stories that fans distribute most often via Twitter. In other words, Twackle uses the Twitter user base as a giant social filter to determine the most compelling sports stories. Beyond these links, Twackle measures in real time the volume of Twitter messages around thousands of sports topics, and then alerts sports fans when there is a spike in traffic equating to a breaking news story. Once a user on Twackle finds compelling sports news, we allow them to easily redistribute this Twackle content via Facebook, Twitter, or email to continue the social sharing loop.

PRC: Twackle appears to have partnerships with the Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns and Washington Capitals, among others. How do these sports properties use Twackle to connect with fans and keep them in the know?

Jim DeLorenzo: Don't forget, the Washington Mystics, the Washington Redskins, and the USTA. The partnership integrations that we have in place differ depending on the partner. In general, though, we try to increase user engagement on our partners' sites by porting over to these sites slices of the Twackle content and functionality. Our redesign is allowing us to expand on the integrations Twackle can provide, and we expect to roll out some very cool new partnership integrations in the coming months.

PRC: Octagon represents some household NBA names: Chris Paul, Rudy Gay and Kirk Hinrich, to name a few. What type of new media initiatives can we expect to see from some of these players?

Jim DeLorenzo: I can't speak directly about any one player. In general, though, I'm a huge advocate of an athlete integrating new media tools that provide the athlete a direct communications channel with his or her fans. The great thing about the new media tools available to players today is that they allow fans to connect with their favorite athletes in a very personal, unfiltered manner that was not available even just 3 or 4 years ago. Of course, it is important that an athlete only commit to those new media projects that the athlete actually enjoys, otherwise the project will seem forced and disingenuous, and potentially alienate the very fans the athlete was trying to reach.

PRC: How does Octagon Digital measure success? What's next for your standalone new media division?

Jim DeLorenzo: Basically, on the athlete side, success is providing Octagon clients with a consistent digital strategy that helps them navigate the social media waters without distracting from their primary goal of being a professional athlete. For our properties like Twackle, the ultimate goal is to incubate them and eventually spin them out of Octagon as independent companies. I'm also personally fixated on turning Twackle into one of the premier destinations for real time sports content, and then using the engine we developed for Twackle with other content verticals.

As for what's next, we are going to be aggressively expanding through some recent agreements with large online sports portals, and should see those integrations come online over the next 1-2 months. Beyond Twackle, we just launched this week a Twitter advertising network for the sports world called FanWaves that we are really excited about, with the NY Knicks and Phoenix Suns as two of our launch partners, and are working on a couple different mobile apps that will go live this quarter.