Have you ever wondered who plans the music and the entertainment between plays during a basketball game? Basketball aficionado or not, we all appreciate the moment our favorite song hits the speakers after our team scores points.
The Brooklyn Nets are totally having a moment right now, and much of its success has a lot to do with Petra Pope. Petra, Senior VP of Event Marketing and Community Relations for Brooklyn Nets plays a huge role in bringing the Nets brand to life with dance teams, music, video production, costumes, lighting, and halftime entertainment. She oversaw entertainment during the Nets first season at Barclays Center, that welcomed up to 19,000 guests a day. And because she has home court advantage at Barclays, she gets to sit on the best concerts. Think: Jay Z, Alicia Keys and Justin Timberlake.
And did we mention she speaks fluent German and is a black belt in Karate? Yeah, we love her and she’s a total win-win. Read on to learn what really goes down behind scenes at the Barclays Center.
Photo Credits: Jasmine Gonzalez and Brooklyn Nets
VIBE Vixen: Tell us a little bit about what you do on the regular basis.
Petra Pope: I oversee three departments: game presentation, community and events. During games I’m usually in the back just going over my emails for events that might be coming up. Once a game starts I’ll just focus on timing, what’s coming out on the board, what’s coming out on the various cameras.
What happens during the planning process.
We go over scripts that are really detailed. It includes every thing that happens once doors open so every video that’s playing right now is scripted. It’s the entire show. From the music, videos, LED, we work with the building to make sure everything comes out as planned. We promote the next game and our sponsors. It’s all well-documented so no one has an excuse to say they didn’t know.
Yes, game time starts at 7:33pm and then we start from there. Our basketball buddies come out and they’re the kids that stand in front of the players during the anthem. We have a live coverage of our color guard and the national anthem. Our Nets open video, which I love. I’m always proud of the open video. That’s what sets the tone for the game.
What happens if something goes wrong? Especially if children are involved?
Everyone’s on head-sets. The game director will say, ‘ok coming up to commercial break’ so everyone’s aware. He’ll call for the time out, then the kids will run out so the likelihood of them going over doesn’t happen. The kids are pre-trained so they’re told in advance once they join the team that if for some reason you’re out there and the music doesn’t start look up at the coach. He’ll give them a signal that means something happened upstairs and no music’s about to start.
Sounds like a well-oiled machine!
But that’s trial and error. That happened before and the kids were looking around like ‘what do we do?!’ so we learned we have to tell them look to the left.
Let talk more about the rundown of events.
The run-down changes every single game. The only thing that remains the same are the times in which they take place so you know that a quarter break is always a quarter break is always a quarter break.
Now if the game goes into overtime, then what?
The dancers know to watch the clock and if the score is near or close then they’ll take it to the back and they’ll run through a quick routine. They’ll alert the game director via the head set ‘next up’. We never say ‘overtime’ cause that would jinx the game! Everybody knows that next up means overtime. It’s one of those superstitions.
What are some of the new projects you’re implementing?
This year we have created our own Brooklyn Nets drum line. They’re Brooklyn kids aged 13- 16 years old and they play on the concourse at quarter break about 15 times a season.
I think the main thing that we’re kind of always honing—and not that it doesn’t work—is choreography and tricks. I always tell them, if I’m bored with it, our season ticket holders are bored with it. And this season they’ve done an excellent job in keeping it fresh, adding props and adding stunts and adding tricks and that’s what differentiates us from everyone else.
I think we have great fans. The camera goes to them, they’re dancing, they’re into it. Again, we have a really diverse crowd so I think that’s the biggest challenge to make sure that we’re hitting every pocket and everyone’s happy while still maintaining the integrity of Brooklyn.
What are you looking forward to most this season?
Wins! What I look forward to the ongoing process of coming up with different elements that will make a difference. As an example, we found this great group that’s performing on Kids Day and they’re called Unlocking the Truth. It’s a kid’s rock and roll band from Brooklyn and they’ve performed a few places.
What are some of your challenges?
Budget is always a challenge. We’re challenged to do the best and to bring the best but it’s expensive. We also have to keep everyone’s happy from ownership to the young people to the not-so-young people.
Sounds like you have to stay in the know, too.
That’s why I drive to work and I live in Chelsea. So I’m used to the radio. We’re actually having another performance for Kids Day and they mentioned Becky G. I had no idea who that was until they played the song for me and I was like ‘yup I know who that is’ so she’s performing during halftime for our Kids Day as well so it’s stuff like that that keeps us relevant. I embrace my team. When they say: ‘Have you thought about this?’ I love it, let’s go for it. I empower them to be different and I empower them to challenge me. Not all my ideas are great so if you don’t think they’re great tell me and sometimes they’re right and I think that encourages them to be creative.
Inspiration comes from the most bizarre places. Whether I take the subway and I see this really great group on the side doing something fun or I even go to other teams and I see what they do and I add our Brooklyn twist to it. I’d like to take everything that we do to the next level that creates more interest and keeps the fans engaged.
How large is your team?
I have a total of 14 people on my team. Directly and then indirectly I have the dancers, the kids so there’s probably another 60 people and with game night staff there’s probably another 60 or 70 people.
You’ve worked at a few places prior to coming to Brooklyn. How does working here compare to your previous job?
I’ve been around for 30 years. I started with the Lakers and then I went to the Knicks and here. I think what’s consistent is just the love of entertainment. At each location I was at different times of my life personally. I was in L.A. when I was in my 20’s, and they were winning championships. There was a different owner and it was a different experience.
It’s an awesome time to be in Brooklyn now. It’s great to open Barclays Center. It’s humbling to be a part of such a big project.
What’s the most exciting aspect about your job?
The ability to be consistently creative. To come up with fun ideas that feed into our fans and the diversity of our fan base to come up with ways to make them “ooh” and “ahh”
To date, what’s been one of exciting events that you planned?
Everything has its own special moment. Working with John Forte last season at the Brooklyn chant was something that I was very proud of. I think creating an atmosphere that feeds into Brooklyn is a proud moment when the fans interact and are engaged. I take all the small wins into one big win.
Who’s your favorite player?
I don’t have a favorite player. I’ve been in the NBA for 30 years. I can’t say that I have one favorite player. I’m probably more old school than anything and I’ll give you the old school names like Magic Johnson. I used to work for the Lakers so I’m old school. I definitely like more of the old school way of playing the game than I do new school, but they’re all incredible athletes.