Shot Callers: Kristin Bernert, SVP of Business Operations, Madison Square Garden

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With two incoming stars in R.J. Barrett of the Knicks and Kaapo Kakko of the Rangers, New York sports fans will have plenty of reasons to find their way to Madison Square Garden this fall and winter.

FOS Editor Ian Thomas chats with Kristin Bernert of Madison Square Garden about the exciting coming seasons for New York sports and what it’s like to serve the fan bases of those teams.

Edited highlights appear below:

On the excitement surrounding the 2019-2020 season (0:29)

Bernert: “It’s immeasurable to see the excitement of our fan base. Welcoming both players was an unbelievable experience…It was an experience that I think our fans won’t forget and the staff won’t forget…One of my favorite moments, since I’ve been at MSG, was we had a draft party for the Rangers. There was a few thousand people here and, and a really revved up crowd waiting to welcome our number two pick at the time…for them to have that so early was actually really cool.”

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On gaining new fans while also strengthening bonds with old fans (01:47)

Bernert: “It is really about understanding our fans and what they expect from us, what they want from us. It’s about engaging new fans and starting them young. It’s also about making sure when they come to the Garden, that it’s an experience that whether it’s their first time here or the 200th time here, it’s an experience that thrills and excites and makes them want to come back again and again. So knowing who they are is a big part of that. I think we have a good feel for who our fans are. We’ve recently done segmentation work around our fan base to get to know them even better so that we’re able to personalize how we speak to them and grow through those communications.”

On reaching a more diverse fanbase (04:11)

Bernert: “Amanda Kessel is going to be an ambassador for us. What a wonderful representative for the game of hockey with Amanda. But it just goes to show and you invest. Great things can happen. So when we’re investing in girls, we’re investing in different parts of New York that don’t have access to ice or it’s just difficult to get there. We’re doing a lot more street hockey and ball hockey. We have a big partnership in Harlem with the public schools there. We see hockey as a real growth sport. I think that we grew 5% last year in terms of youth participation is great in New York City. We want to grow that significantly. I think that there’s a huge opportunity and we’re in it.”

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On how esports is helping grow MSG’s partnerships portfolio (08:08)

Bernert: “We have a reputation and have a lot of trust with our marketing partners. So we’re able to guide them, we understand what they’re trying to accomplish and we’ve been working with them for years and understand their KPIs and their business objectives. They can trust that we’re going to deliver. So for us, that’s been a seamless transition and we’ve been able to get partners like Spectrum, partners like Squarespace. Pepsi is very involved with CLG and for them, it creates a well-rounded portfolio just coming through us as kind of one-stop-shop to get NBA, NHL, and esports all in one.”