Category: GEMA, GEMA Alumni Spotlight

Title:GEMA Alumni Spotlight – Joe Ruggiero (B‘02), Senior Vice President of Consumer Products at the National Football League

In his role, he leads the NFL’s Consumer Products business, which licenses rights to make officially licensed NFL products that each year generate over $3 billion in sales, including apparel, headwear, and video games. His team is also responsible for the NFL’s ecommerce business and supporting NFL clubs with all on-field products. Joe joined the NFL in 2013 from management consulting firm McKinsey & Company. He received his undergraduate degree from Georgetown and his MBA from New York University. Joe lives in New Jersey with his wife Lauren (B ‘02) and their four children.

What was your first “big break”? Or, what is the most significant experience you have had that has made your success possible?

My first big break was a “right place at the right time” moment in 2012 that allowed me to transition into the sports industry. I had spent my early career as a management consultant serving a variety of industries, but with a passion for sports. As I was looking to move to a new path from consulting, an opportunity at the NFL that fit well with my skill set became available – if that timing hadn’t lined up, I may have ended up doing something very different. However, it was building a skill set that positioned me to capitalize on that right opportunity when it came along that helped to make that transition possible

What is the most challenging part of your job? What is the most rewarding part?

The most challenging part of my job is continuing to find new opportunities to grow the business that I lead at the NFL – the bar for success at the NFL is always rising, so doing things just as good as you’ve done them before is not good enough. The most rewarding part is helping to bring the NFL to life for our fans – it’s a fun feeling to have my kids point out a Madden football video game or an NFL Shop commercial and say “daddy helped to make that”.

What is a current project you are working on that you are excited about?

Video gaming, ecommerce, and sports betting are three areas that my team spends a lot of time on. These areas are changing so quickly, but are key opportunities to engage with fans, so we are working on a variety innovative partnerships and initiatives here.

Are there any ways that you feel Georgetown especially prepared you for your career?

Georgetown has been a key part of preparing me for my career. Georgetown introduced me to such a wide variety of people from all over the country and the world, and those people skills that I developed at Georgetown later helped me to naturally build business relationships and lead diverse teams.

What is your best advice to those who are starting out in your field?

Keep lots of doors open by being well-rounded. Especially in the sports industry, being passionate about sports is not enough – not only do you need to be extremely passionate, but you also need to be the best at what you do from a business perspective. So build expertise in those skills and work experiences that can make you stand out. It’s great that someone may be the world’s biggest New York Jets fan, but what will make that person successful in sports is the business skills, experience, and relationships that complement that passion.

How is the ever-changing media landscape affecting your industry?

Media changes are clearly impacting the sports industry (and sports is impacting the media industry). It’s a fundamental part of our strategy at the NFL to engage with our fans how, when, and where they are, so we spend a lot of time studying consumer behaviors and trends. In my world of consumer products, that means we are looking at things like how buying habits are changing with ecommerce, how content and video gaming are converging as video gaming grows, etc.

Best Business Advice Received:

Play the long game. Few people are going to get everything they want right away, so focus on long term

Trait You Most Admire in People:

Creativity. I’m always impressed by those who have the vision to see something that others can’t and then the push to see it through.

Favorite App, Website, Podcast or Social Platform (other than related to your own company):

Twitter. I don’t post, but I read a lot on Twitter – it’s become my go-to news source.

Favorite Georgetown Restaurant or Bar:

The Tombs. While I was at Georgetown, Champs was our go-to bar at night, but I loved the history of the Tombs and the camaraderie of walking down the stairs and knowing you were always going to have some friends there to see.

Favorite Georgetown Memory:

I still remember walking up the stairs to the Village C dorm on my first day on campus to check in and having a feeling that I was off to a great adventure, and that feeling absolutely turned out to be true. Nine years later, my wife and I were married in Dahlgren Chapel in front of many Hoya friends and family, and we still go back to campus at least once a year to reminisce.