Partner Profiles – Orlando Magic

Partner Profiles – Get to Know the Personas Behind the Brands

Net Conversion values our partners and the relationships that we have formed with them over the years. For our second edition of “Partner Profiles,” we had the privilege of meeting with Jay Riola, the Executive Vice President of Strategy & Innovation for the Orlando Magic.

The Orlando Magic is a professional basketball team that has won 2 NBA Eastern Conference titles, but their impact doesn’t stop there – this team strives to be champions on and off the court, supporting their community, and delivering legendary moments every step of the way. We have partnered with Orlando Magic for over a decade as their marketing agency, helping their team with online advertising, digital analytics, and other marketing services. It has been a pleasure to work with Jay and the entire Orlando Magic team as we collaboratively strive toward the company’s goals (and beyond). Get to know the personalities behind the companies we’ve helped succeed as we ask them some light-hearted questions for our new partner interview series.

  1. Introduction

My name is Jay Riola. I am the Executive Vice President of Strategy & Innovation for the Orlando Magic.

  1. Can you share a bit about how Orlando Magic and Net Conversion partner together? Who from Net Conversion do you work with directly?

We have partnered with Net Conversion for over a decade as our marketing agency, which helps us with online advertising, digital analytics, and other marketing services. Over the years, we have worked with a lot of great people from Net Conversion, including Frank and Ryan. When we first started the relationship with them, they brought to the table a lot of great ideas on how we could use online advertising, SEO, and data analytics to improve our overall marketing strategy. So here we are 10-12 years later. We’ve seen some great results and have definitely grown our program with you guys.

  1. Can you tell us a bit about your journey with The Orlando Magic?

My personal journey? Sure! I’ve been with the team since 2006. I started as an intern right after graduating from undergrad at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. I was hired into the department that was responsible for our new arena initiative. At the time, we played in TD Waterhouse Center, which later became the Amway Arena. I was part of an internal team that helped to get the new arena approved and oversaw its design and construction. My first 4.5 years with the team were focused on the arena effort. When the Amway Center opened in 2010, big data was taking off. Online resale marketplaces like StubHub and SeatGeek started to change the way that teams thought about ticket pricing, ticket distribution, and marketing. All these other things, which today are commonplace, at the time were pretty disruptive. We invested heavily in data and technology, and my role over roughly the last 10-12 years has been focused on using data analysis and marketing technology to improve our business and fan experiences, so that’s part of the reason why I get to work with Net Conversion. It [the Orlando Magic] has been a great organization to get my start in and to grow up with. 

  1. Can you share your favorite Orlando Magic basketball history moment?

The highlight for me was going to the 2009 NBA Finals; that was incredible. We were actually playing in the old arena. Seeing the energy all around the city that was created by the fan’s excitement was amazing. Another favorite moment was the opening of the Amway Center and watching the first game. Seeing all the work that we as a team had put in was incredible. We also hosted the NBA All-Star Game in 2012, which was also a great opportunity.

  1. Who on your office team inspires you daily?

I have the privilege of working with incredibly talented people. I’ve been fortunate to have a few great bosses. Charlie Freeman is our President of Business Operations and has been a great mentor of mine. Additionally, Anthony Perez, now with Shift4 and formerly CEO of VenueNext and Chief Marketing Officer at the Orlando Magic, is another former teammate from the Magic and close friend and mentor. Today, I have many great teammates, like Shelly Wilkes, our Executive Vice President of Marketing and Social Responsibility. She’s a long-tenured Magic employee, a great problem solver, and fun to work with. On my team are Ali Anderson, Lauren Lambis, and Erin Quigg – people I’ve worked with for a long time. I don’t take for granted that I work with great colleagues – just so many incredible people.

  1. What’s a funny/cool moment that has stuck with you throughout your Orlando Magic career?

During my time working on the arena project, we would travel to other facilities that were going through their opening phases. One of the arenas we went to was the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, where the NHL Devils play. Bon Jovi was playing a series of shows before they converted the arena for the hockey game. We got to watch the concert and stayed to see the changeover of the arena. During this transition, we kind of accidentally wandered into the Bon Jovi after-party for a bit. We also unintentionally “snuck” into the Bon Jovi locker room but were soon caught by the band’s manager and arena security. It was cleared up that we were allowed to be there, and fortunately, we were invited back the next night to watch the Devil’s hockey game. But yeah, it was great to see the artists and fans.

“Who is the coolest person you’ve met?”

Great question, so I’m an NBA junkie. I’ve had the chance to meet Shaq and Tracy McGrady, who are legends in the league and for the Orlando Magic. I’ve also met Adam Silver, the commissioner of the league.

  1. What is your favorite dessert?

I’m not a ‘sweets’ person, but I am a big fan of M&Ms… in particular, almond M&Ms. Followed by Peanut Butter M&Ms, followed by Peanut M&Ms – in that order; there are no bad M&MS. I would recommend if you have not tried Almond M&Ms, give them a shot.

  1. What celebrity would you be best friends with?

In the basketball world, Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal. In other fields, George Clooney. He seems fun to be around, and his movies are interesting and entertaining. 

  1. What would your team’s theme song be, if you could pick any?

There is an Orlando Magic theme song, the original one played with the team. It’s a fun one; it’s very Orlando Magic themed and a very stereotypical 80’s tune.

 Original Orlando Magic Theme Song

“What about your office team?”

We have a number of “Swifties.” I am not personally a “Swifty,” but I have no doubt that it would be a Taylor Swift song.

*After consulting with our internal Business Strategy & Innovation department ‘Swifties,’ I am told that Taylor Swift’s Mastermind would likely be our department song due to its focus on planning and strategy and that being a key focus for the role our department plays within the Magic organization (“…if you fail to plan, you plan to fail, strategy sets the scene for the tale…”)

  1. What are some of your core values?

The Orlando Magic has established core values that are fantastic. Our core values are Teamwork, Community, Legendary, and Innovation. Teamwork speaks for itself, as we have team sports and groups like the Solar Bears and Orlando Magic. Second is Community – we have invested in our community by volunteering and serving; it’s in the DNA of our team. The next one is Legendary, and I think it’s delivering a top, first-class experience for fans. The last one is Innovation – and we, as a team, are willing to try new ideas, and take risks, to help achieve breakthrough results. In my house, we have Kindness, Respect, Honesty, Do Your Best, and Love Big.

  1. What’s a fun fact not many people know about you?

This isn’t a fun fact, but it is a fact. I’ve been playing tennis with my wife… and losing a lot. I want to get us into playing pickleball since I think that may be better for me [to win].

Also, in addition to my role with the Magic, I adjunct teach two masters-level college courses on Sports Analytics. Since 2016 I have taught at the University of Central Florida as part of their DeVos Sports Business Management program, and over the past two years, I have virtually taught a course at Linfield University (located in McMinnville, Oregon) as part of their Masters in Sports Leadership business program. I really enjoy teaching and have loved interacting with students looking to break into the sports and entertainment industries. 

  1. What is the most significant thing pending on your bucket list?

Good question; my wife and I turn 40 in a few months, so we are entertaining the idea of going to Australia to see the Australian Open. Australia and New Zealand have always been on our list of places to go. I also would love to go to Spain and Portugal, so those are definitely on the list. I’m also a huge sports fan and am so glad to work in the sports industry. I would love to go to events like the Ryder Cup or The Super Bowl to see the operations behind it. I’ve gone to almost every NBA arena – about 70% of them.

“Off the top of your head, which ones are left for you to visit?”

I have yet to go to Utah, Sacramento, Minnesota, Toronto, or Dallas.

Turning Strategies Into “Always On” Tactics.

Work With Us

Want to be one of the businesses featured in our blog?

We’re always looking for new partners who want to work with marketing and analytics experts relentlessly dedicated to improving your ROI and business intelligence. Let’s talk more about how we can help your brand.