Name: Rachel Jacobson
Company: The Drone Racing League
LinkedIn: Rachel Jacobson
In 140 characters or less, tell us who you are and how you got to where you are today.
Mom with sports in my DNA. After many years at the NBA and a tech startup, I’m combining my love for sports and innovation as DRL President.
What’s one trend in media or marketing that you’re buying or selling?
More than ever brands are looking for innovative and visually exciting opportunities to engage with the next generation of sports fans. At DRL, we’re focused on creating deeply impactful integrated partnerships that connect world-class companies with our young and tech-obsessed audience of 250+ million fans — whether that’s through immersive FPV (First Person View) content, or emotionally captivating athlete stories through our international broadcast distribution, digital channels, virtual drone racing DRL SIM video game, stadium-events in iconic venues (once it’s safe to do so) or custom programming.
How do you define engagement?
Fans loving and connecting with DRL. We’re seeing incredible growth in engagement – over the past year, there’s been an uptick in viewership by 200%, participation in our esports tournaments has increased by 90%, and our social media follower base has risen by 60%. This is just the beginning, and I’m so excited to help continue to expand and deepen our fan engagement over the next year and beyond.
What’s a lesson in audience (fan) engagement that every marketer should learn?
Be straightforward with your fans to earn their trust, love, and loyalty. A league is nothing without their fans, and if you’re not connecting with them in an honest, real way — you’re going to lose them.
What’s the project or campaign that you’re proudest of? Why?
I officially joined DRL a couple weeks ago, and I am so impressed with the league’s constant push for excellence — the team is ambitious, works at the highest level and quickly gets amazing results. We’ve rolled out a digital STEM program, DRL Academy, to support students studying remotely during COVID — which has already provided 600+ DRL Simulator codes for free virtual drone racing lessons and physics tutorials. We brought sports back to fans at home through our first-ever fantasy esports event, the DRL SIM Tryouts, which saw millions of fans tuning in and thousands competing for prizes on FanDuel. Most recently, we joined the #ALLinChallenge to raise money for food for frontline heroes, and we’ll continue doing more philanthropic initiatives to give back to our fans and the world.
What are you working on right now? Any exciting future plans that you’re able to share?
We’re thrilled to premiere our first-ever fantasy virtual drone racing series, the 2020 FanDuel DRL SIM Racing Cup, this Saturday, May 16th at 2:30pm ET on NBCSN and DRL’s Twitter. Twelve top pilots will compete across eight levels on our true-to-life drone racing video game, the DRL SIM, to support COVID-19 relief and raise funds for Direct Relief to get protective gear to frontline workers. Families, sports fans, and tech-lovers will tune-in to our high-speed esports tournaments weekly on NBCSN and Twitter and enter a free daily fantasy sports contest on FanDuel to win prizes after each race.
What are you reading, listening to, and/or watching right now?
It’s hard to be glued to anything other than the news right now – so I am following the daily updates on the pandemic and how it’s impacting global businesses to ensure we’re constantly innovating and evolving to support our fans and our partners.
As a connected fan, who’s your favorite athlete to follow on social media?
Well, my new favorite athlete to follow is 2018 DRL Allianz World Champion NURK — he has an incredible YouTube channel where he shows you awesome FPV (First Person View) racing and freestyle footage and gives you tutorials on the engineering process behind drone development. I love that NURK, along with all of the other DRL Pilots, are both athletes with incredible personal stories and diverse backgrounds as well as amazing content creators. They leverage innovative technology and high-speed racing competition to create visually immersive videos that inspire fans to explore new worlds, experience flight, and learn about the mechanics behind the futuristic sport of drone racing.
What’s a piece of advice you received that you’re glad you ignored?
When I graduated from Cornell all of my friends immediately moved to the city to be closer to their jobs and well, after four years of college, they weren’t ready for parental supervision again. Everyone was pushing me to move to NYC.
I didn’t end up moving to the city and instead, decided to save money and live with my parents for what turned out to be the next three years. To this day, that time with my parents was such a blessing. My dad got up every morning at 6am and took me to the train station, and then returned to get me at the end of the day. At my wedding, he spoke about how those 8 minutes in the car together were always the best 8 minutes of the day.
What’s one element of the sports industry that you’d like to see change?
I’m proud to be a part of DRL, which has a significant number of women in senior roles, including our COO Ashley Ellefson, and I’d like to see more women in leadership positions at other major sports leagues and brands. While the sports industry has definitely progressed over time, we need to continue to elevate experienced professional women as diversity in gender and background drives innovation and positive results across the board.
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