James Kotecki (00:08):
This is CES Tech Talk. I'm James Kotecki, bringing you an interview that I recorded live at the C Space Studio at CES 2023. Enjoy. Welcome back to the C Space Studio here at CES 2023. I'm your host, James Kotecki joined by not one, but two fabulous guests. To my immediate left, Raja Rajamannar, Chief Marketing and Comms Officer for Mastercard, and Crystal Dunn, a player for the US Women's National Soccer Team, which recently won the World Cup, and you're hoping to do it again?
Crystal Dunn (00:45):
Yeah, I mean, recent sounds very, very short time away, but 2019, four years almost, and now we're stepping into a new year of 2023, and World Cup is on the horizon.
James Kotecki (00:56):
And the World Cup is in New Zealand, Australia, this year?
Crystal Dunn (00:56):
James Kotecki (00:59):
Okay. Well, we can absolutely look forward to that. So you're both very successful in your respective fields, but you are here together. So first, can you explain why you are here together?
Raja Rajamannar (01:09):
See, firstly, I think I would not like to compare my success to hers. That's very unfair comparison. She is in the stratosphere out there. But on a serious note, firstly, as Mastercard, we are trying to not just market our own wares, but also do something good for the society in a genuine, authentic fashion. As part of it, what we do is we partner with some of the best artists and athletes around the world who not only signify the passion with which they play, and also the success that they have achieved in their field, but they're also very purpose driven.
So we are very fortunate that Crystal is our brand ambassador. And so together, she joined me today on the stage at CES to announce the launch of Mastercard Artist Accelerator, which is a platform to help emerging artists build their fandom, monetize their content, be in charge of the experiences that they create, so we're going to really teach them and do everything. And what she has done in the world of sports with her Black Women's Athletes Coalition, or collective, as they call it, there are some inspiration that we have derived from it and we are doing it, so we thought it'd be very appropriate for her to join me on the stage and together we did it.
James Kotecki (02:31):
And Crystal, what does it mean to you to make that announcement here at CES?
Crystal Dunn (02:34):
I felt incredibly proud to be on that stage at that moment, and one, I truly am a fan of music. I think music connects people across the world across different cultures, and I think what Mastercard is doing in finding ways for young artists to be mentored and to be able to tap into their talent and to market themselves and monetize themselves, I think is absolutely incredible. So I'm just so proud and happy to be a part of this brand.
James Kotecki (02:59):
So what's an example of something that a young artist can come to this accelerator program and do that they weren't able to do before? What will it change for them?
Raja Rajamannar (03:06):
So firstly, if you look at the young creator or an artist, they're good at what they do, which is to create music, but they're not so good in terms of marketing themselves, building a brand for themselves, cutting through the clutter and standing out, connecting with the fans, and owning their content and monetizing their content.
So what we are trying to do is to create this platform, which is the Mastercard Artist Accelerator where they signup, they get access to tools, education programs where we teach them how to do things, including for example, what is Web3? How do you mint your NFT? How can you provide NFT not just as a vanity badge, but as a gated token that gives experiences to the fans? And how do you monetize those?
We'll connect them to some of the top artists and top producers and DJs and so on, so they get to learn from the people who have already arrived. So it's about be plugging into the community that will create, it's about learning how to market themselves in the Web3 space, and how to really monetize, and we've got a whole robust set of activities and initiatives that are there under this umbrella.
James Kotecki (04:16):
Crystal, in the same way I wonder, have you had to learn and be mentored by others in terms of how to go from, okay, you're really good at your sport, but now you have to be a public figure as well, and that's a whole different set of skills, I imagine?
Crystal Dunn (04:29):
Yeah, I mean, definitely. I think when I was a young player, what these kids have access to now is night and day to what I had access to. If I wanted to be a better player, it was kind of grabbing a sibling and having them kick balls at me and I was like, "Okay, I don't know if I'm getting better, but this is what I have." And I think now kids having access to their mentors, and having a closer reach to those that they look up to is absolutely incredible, and I think that's what taps into the growth of the game.
James Kotecki (04:55):
Raja, we're here in the C Space Studio, we're talking about advertising quite a bit. As the head of marketing at Mastercard, what advertising trends are you looking at here at the beginning of 2023?
Raja Rajamannar (05:05):
So firstly, we are hardly one week into 2023, so I'll talk more into the immediate recent past, right?
James Kotecki (05:12):
Raja Rajamannar (05:13):
So unfortunately, there is a sea of sameness. The advertising load is increasing across all the media. Consumers are being bombarded by anywhere between 3000 and 10,000 messages every single day, even as their span of attention is shrinking, and now it is less than that of a goldfish.
So in that kind of a situation, you need to really stand out as a brand to grab the attention of the consumer in all this clutter, communicate your message, impress upon them so that they're inspired to make their choice in favor of your brand, and I think right now what we are witnessing is a lot of sea of sameness, and the clutter is there. In fact, the statistics show that consumers barely notice ads, where they barely notice ads they don't remember the message, where they remember the message, the attribution of the brand is mostly wrong. That's an overwhelming majority. So that trend is what I would say is the most alarming to me, and something which brands have to carefully think about. And if I can just state one quick thing at Mastercard what we have done is, we became a company more focused on experiential marketing than advertising-led marketing, precisely for this reason.
James Kotecki (06:26):
Talk about experiences. A lot of something people are wondering about here in C space and beyond its CES is how people are going to be experiencing the metaverse. Is that even the right term to use? We've been talking about it for a few years now, it's increasingly top of mind for folks. I want to ask you both about it. First Raja, starting with you from a perspective of Mastercard, do you use that term, do you like that term, are you preparing for whatever your definition of the metaverse is?
Raja Rajamannar (06:50):
I would say it is one in three, which is, yes, we use that term and we are playing in that space. Whether I like it or not, doesn't matter what it is. But the reality is today, objectively if you look at it, metaverse gives incredible level of immersion for the consumer. So it puts you in that situation, which is fantastic.
On the other hand, it is still a clunky experience, with the result of it, the scale is nowhere. If you look at Decentraland, there are hardly 300,000 people on the platform, and I think others are even lesser than that. And Roblox, which is predominantly gaming, has got much bigger number, but they are more on the gaming side as opposed to really being in a metaverse kind of an environment. So this is one situation, but on the other hand, what we do is we try to learn and stay ahead of the curve as far as the emerging technologies are concerned.
So we play on all the platforms, Horizon Worlds, Decentraland, Roblox and Sandbox, and we did many experiments. And one of the interesting and important learnings we have is, as small as metaverse is, it offers some extraordinary possibilities. So for example, when we have Grammy Awards, which is one of our longstanding partnerships, sponsorships, and there we curate experiences, when I talk about experiential marketing for our customers and card members, that money cannot buy, but you can get only with a Mastercard, and that experience is truly priceless.
Now, in that situation, what happens is you can give that experience only to a certain number of people every year, it's very small and finite. metaverse, this year, we actually offered that entire Grammy Awards experience in the metaverse. And people from around the world actually joined and had the Grammy experience. So we could increase the number of people who could participate by 8x, for a very small incremental dollars.
James Kotecki (08:37):
Raja Rajamannar (08:38):
So it was a very well worthwhile experience for us from that point of view. But I would say over the next three to five years, this is the space which we should watch out for.
James Kotecki (08:46):
Crystal, are you thinking about sports in the metaverse? What that might mean for players, what that might mean for fans to experience these things in a virtual, more immersive environment?
Crystal Dunn (08:53):
Yeah, I mean I think the world we live in now is one, very fast paced, very forward thinking at all times. And I think for me as a player, just one thing I have heard is fans loving the idea that they have more access to players that they are inspired by. And I think that that's truly incredible, because one thing that Mastercard is doing is providing fans with more of a priceless experience of being a fan. Because as a player for me it's like, seeing a packed stadium, that's what gives me energy to want to go out and give my all in the field. And to know that the fans are enjoying themselves while they're able to attend these games is so important for the growth of the game, and I think more companies tapping into giving that experience to fans is only going to exponentially grow this game.
James Kotecki (09:39):
Well, obviously now you're an inspiration to many people. Who's someone that inspires you?
Crystal Dunn (09:43):
Oh, man. I mean, I've looked up to so many players that came before me. I went to, my college was University of North Carolina, and I know going to that school I was like, "Well, Mia Hamm walked these halls, that is pretty cool, you know?" So I think I give a lot of homage to the players that came before me because they're pioneers, they ultimately laid out the path that I'm walking on now, and I think without them, I wouldn't be as strong and confident and an advocate for the things that I'm passionate about today.
James Kotecki (10:09):
There's never enough time here in the C Space studio, but one more fill in the blank question for both of you. 2023 will be the year of, blank, starting with you, Raja.
Raja Rajamannar (10:18):
2023 will be the year of, I'll say two things, learning and artificial intelligence.
James Kotecki (10:26):
Crystal Dunn (10:27):
Oh man. Championships.
James Kotecki (10:30):
Crystal Dunn (10:31):
No, I'm just kidding.
James Kotecki (10:33):
There we go.
Crystal Dunn (10:33):
For me this year, personally for me is about self-care. I think as fast-paced as this world is that we live in, I think we don't always take that time out of our day to check in with ourselves and make sure that we have everything that we need, and I think this is a year of just doubling down on that and checking in on yourself.
James Kotecki (10:50):
Beautiful. Well, Raja Rajamannar of Mastercard, and soccer star Crystal Dunn, thank you so much both for joining us here in the C Space Studio.
Raja Rajamannar (10:57):
Thank you for having us, I appreciate it.
James Kotecki (10:59):
Well, I hope you enjoyed that live conversation from CES 2023. Look up the CES C Space Studio for more conversations like that, and get even more CES at ces.tech. That's C-E-S.T-E-C-H. And of course, please subscribe to this podcast so you don't miss a moment. I'm James Kotecki, talking Tech on CES Tech Talk.