Gracie Pugliese, Director of Arena Marketing for the Milwaukee Bucks, is responsible for anything related to concerts and special event marketing. Like many positions within the sport industry, Gracie Pugliese’s job often entails long hours and off-hour shifts, which have allowed her to transform her co-workers to “family members” – one of her favorite things about the job! Join me today as I learn more about what makes the position of director of Arena Marketing so fun and appealing to Pugliese, as well as how she got into the career, and what she considers to be her biggest accomplishments!
Please note: The interview with Gracie Pugliese was conducted via a typed conversation. Editing changes were made to make it easier to read while maintaining the voice of the interview.
Tell us about your role as the Director of Arena Marketing for the Milwaukee Bucks.
As Director of Arena Marketing for the Bucks, my team handles all items related to concerts and special event marketing and promotions, as well as the marketing of the arena itself and the Deer District overall. A few things we focus on day-to-day are: running our various social accounts, ad buying and promotions for upcoming shows, working with promoters on marketing planning for each event, and food and beverage organization and promotions.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I never have a “typical” day! Every single day is different in my world, depending on show announcements, sales, show days, etc.
When was the point you realized that you were meant to do this career? Take us through that realization.
When I went to college, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I knew the careers I wasn’t interested in, but I felt like the career that was meant for me wasn’t apparent yet. I knew what I was good at – organization, public speaking, writing, and communicating. I majored in organizational communications with a minor in event planning. When it came time to start my internships, I had a strong desire to work in the sports world. Not because I was a massive fan of sports, but because of the excitement and fast-paced world it seemed to be.
During the college years, I landed internships with ESPN Radio Cleveland, The Greater Cleveland Sports Commission, and Sports Time Ohio. After graduation, I was deciding between a job with a Cleveland radio group and a Marketing Assistant role on the arena side of Cleveland State University’s convocation center, the Wolstein Center. This was the first time I realized there was an entertainment side to the sports industry. I had never really thought about what went into putting on concerts and events. I decided to accept the Wolstein Center job – and the rest now seems to be history!
What surprised you the most about starting a career in the sports industry?
I didn’t realize how small the industry can be! It’s amazing…you can almost always find colleagues in common in one way or another. And you’re certainly very likely to work with a co-worker again down the road if you stay in this business.
A common label people working in marketing get is that they are creative (sometimes more creative than most people working in sports). Is this realistic? Beyond creativity, which you have a ton of, tell us about other skills and abilities required and/or often overlooked when working in sports marketing?
I think creativity is definitely a necessity when it comes to sports and event marketing. However, I think skills such as organization, passion, and drive are equally as important as creativity in these roles.
Tell us about the importance of all stages of the sports marketing process from executing on ideas to tracking data to know if an idea worked.
I think part 1 – which for me is brainstorming, is massively important. I’ve been a department of 1 for most of my career, and I used to struggle with not having others to bounce ideas off of.
Currently, I’m building an arena marketing team, and also have the marketing support on the team side to brainstorm and conceptualize ideas, which makes a huge difference.
From there, the planning process is key. How are we going to make this idea come to life, and what logistics are involved?
Once we have a plan in place, the analytics side comes in. How will we measure the success of this project? How can we track leads, sales, etc?
Each step of the process is equally important!
What would you include on a list of your top 3 biggest accomplishments (or moments) working in sport?
1 Running A Marketing Team
Running a marketing department at the age of 22 when I just started in the business. No clue how I did it!
2 Helping The Future Workforce
Every time I’m asked to speak to young people or people that may just be getting into this business. I love being able to encourage and empower people, especially young women, by explaining my experience with them, and by assisting with any sort of mentorship they’re looking for.
What are some of the most rewarding parts about working in sports (and particularly within your role as the Director of Arena Marketing for the Bucks) versus the most challenging?
I think the most rewarding part of my job is being able to say (and mean it) that I absolutely love my job. I feel very fortunate to have found a role that I love and have been successful. Additionally, I feel very fortunate that I work with people that become family. When I moved from Ohio to Arizona, I was 25, had never been to AZ, and knew no one. The people I worked with there truly became my family. Sometimes working multiple 16 hour days in a row, you get very close to the people around you! Similarly, the same scenario when I moved to Wisconsin. And again, coworkers have become my closest friends.
The challenging part is definitely the work-life balance. Working so many nights, weekends, holidays, etc in addition to “normal business hours” can definitely take over your life. I’ve learned that it’s extremely important to make sure you take time for yourself in order to stay sane!
Stacey’s Final Thoughts
As final thoughts, Gracie Pugliese is so much more than Director of Arena marketing – she’s also a close friend to those that she works with and an inspiration to those who are looking to get into a marketing career within the sport industry. Though her passion for sport marketing is strong, so is her passion for driving the future workforce. Encouraging and empowering younger individuals to pursue their passions is something that Gracie Pugliese considers to be one of her biggest accomplishments, and is an admirable way that all sports professionals can give back to the community. Gracie Pugliese is also a shining example not only someone who relishes in the opportunity to work in an extremely fast-paced environment but someone who is rocking it with the thriving Milwaukee Bucks organization!