Professional Conference Call: Bryan Srabian, Vice President, San Francisco Giants

Last Wednesday’s guest on the Sports Business Chronicle weekly conference call was Bryan Srabian, Vice President of Brand Development and Digital Media at the San Francisco Giants.

He discussed his career path beginning at Santa Clara University, 20-plus years at the Giants, transitioning from sponsorship to digital, spearheading the launch of the team’s social platforms in the early 2010s, how he views the digital landscape in 2018, the organization’s innovative culture, Vine and advice for students looking to break into the industry, among other topics.

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On his career path and how he got his job with the Giants…

It’s a story that seems a little dated at the time. I did go to Santa Clara University. The same home as Steve Nash, Randy Winn and some other notable names when I was there. I’ll never forget when I stepped on the campus, there was a flyer that said, ‘Do you want to have a career in sports broadcasting?’ In the back of my mind, I always thought that would be a cool gig. I became part of the broadcasting team there, which is really small, and I think we had a listening radius of maybe one to two miles off of campus, so this is pre-internet, pre-streaming, pre-anything. It was your old AM dial. That was a pretty cool gig for me. It opened some doors.

One of those was in 1994. The World Cup was in the United States. Up the street in Palo Alto was one of the headquarters for one of the rounds, and I just kind of walked into the office, offered my services and they just kind of threw something and said, ‘You’re manager of media relations’. I had zero background in management or Portuguese, which was the main language spoken since Brazil was the main team there. Kind of figured it out and that was a good experience.

That led me to meet a few professionals in the sports industry from the Bay Area, because a lot of them were volunteering. When it came my senior year, I realized the sports broadcasting thing was fun, but probably wasn’t going to be the next Bob Costas. Used those contacts to get an internship with the Giants in media relations through someone I met at the World Cup. … After that, I got a gig with the Giants out of college. I keep saying this will be a really cool job to have for a while, and then I’ll get a real job and here I am 20-plus years later.

I did leave for a little bit, but essentially that’s how I got my start. It was pre-internet. It was pre-LinkedIn. Emails had just started. I was still writing hard letters. In fact, I have a lot of letters that were sent back to me. Some of the rejection letters, which I thought were really cool because they were all on team letterheads and I just thought one day I’ll say, ‘Hey, look at this. I got all these letters from my favorite sports teams’. It was just a lot of networking and volunteering and putting yourself in the right place at the right time, and it just kind of worked out.

I know times have changed now. It’s a lot easier to reach people, but it’s a lot harder, because there are a lot more people in the pool and a lot more distraction. I think the fundamentals are the same. You put yourself in positions. I didn’t necessarily have a path and thought, ‘OK. If I do A, B and C, I’ll get the job’. It was just kind of, ‘Hey, this is cool. There’s an opportunity here for me. I’m just going to throw myself into it and see what happens’. Really what it does is it builds your network. It’s all about your network. It’s all about making an impression, getting face time with certain people. Those impressions could potentially pay off down the road.

On how he figured out how to navigate the role as the Manager of Media Relations during the World Cup…

This is where your people skills or your street skills come in handy. We’re turning into this kind to have specialized skills. ‘I’m really good at this. I’m a really good writer or I’m very good at this’. I think you’ve got to be a problem solver. You’ve got to figure things out. Not saying I’m a smart person per se, but I pretended to be at least. You just figure things out. You talk to people. ‘What do I need to do?’

Again, this was just kind of thrown in the fire. A lot of it was just communicating and getting the right forms to people. Paperwork, communication to certain people. Making sure people understood where they needed to be. I learned a lot. I didn’t think I mastered that position by any stretch. They needed capable people. If it was a really important position, I don’t think I would’ve got it, but they needed bodies that were available for any hours, and people could kind of figure it out on their own. I think that was one of those things where I leaned on other people. Asked a lot of questions, but used my gut in other instances and just kind of made it work.

Not rocket science, but I think the lesson there is you have opportunities and on my side of things, we understand that you might not be 100 percent experienced in certain areas. If you hire smart people and people who learn and it’s more about your character and work ethic and just kind of the attitude, that’s who you want in place versus someone who might be more experienced and more skilled, but the attitude might be too much ego, lack of work ethic or there for the wrong reasons. There to watch games or to get access or to build a resume as opposed to really making something happen. Again, your resume can only say so much. It’s really the intangibles that you’re looking to build and I’m looking to hire.

Entry-level. That’s always the big question. ‘How do I get hired if I have no experience?’ There are ways to get experience without getting a full resume and we can touch on those. We’re looking at the same pool of candidates, and they’re in that level. It’s more of like your ability to want to learn. Your ability to want to make an impact and do it as opposed to, ‘Wow, look at my GPA. Look at my this and that’. I think that’s what I want to impress upon. We’re looking for people who might not have that skill set, but they want to learn. They’re smart. They can figure it out. They can identify problems. They can offer solutions. They’re not afraid to fail, but they take direction well.

As your career goes on, obviously, experience and skill sets are going to be more important and especially if you’re looking for a specific job. Again, it’s that impression that you’re going to leave upon people. It’s the same thing in sports. We learned at the trade deadline that teams were looking for people for good fits with chemistry. They didn’t want to mess up their chemistry. Some players were brought in strictly for what they could add to the team beyond playing on the field. I think it’s the same thing in the workforce. We’re looking for people that really want to be there. Sports, in some ways, it’s a thankless industry. There are so many people who want to do it. The hours are long. The pay is a little bit below what other industries are, so you’ve really got to get someone who is dedicated to the long haul and wants to be a part of it and is there for the same reasons that you are and you align that mindset.

On the challenges of recruiting talent in Silicon Valley and the West Coast…

The economics make it a little harder. If you’re giving away stock equity and free lunches everyday, that’s hard. At the same time, I can only speak for the Giants, and I know let’s look at the Warriors. They’re building a new arena down the street from us, and they’ve won three championships in four year, and the 49ers are just down the street. We have the Sharks. We have a lot of sports teams. There is still an affinity for people who want to work there beyond, like it depends I guess where you are in your career. I don’t know if it’s making it harder or not, but there’s still a huge demand to work for sports teams, and there are people where it’s kind of a passion for them.

Maybe they’re burnt out at their regular job, and they want a change. They want something they believe in. To me, the bigger change is the shift has always been, at least when I started, you’ve got to have experience in sports to work in sports. Due to just the changes of our world views, we’re looking to people outside of sports and bringing in experts from other fields or people who think differently or have experience, especially in technology.

Entry-level, I think it’s relatively the same, but it’s not easy to compete with the Facebooks of the world and the Twitters and those. Again, there’s tradeoffs to everything. Nothing is permanent. You just look for experience and just try to put the best people in place and hope that they grow and learn, and there’s always someone else out there. The economics make it a little difficult at times, especially if you live in a high-rent district, like San Francisco or Seattle, but you tend to figure those out.

On moving from initially sponsorship to digital/social with the Giants…

When I first started, the internet was in its infancy and I started on the sponsorship side, but ended up moving more toward the entertainment side. My role shifted to ballpark entertainment. Walking into the ballpark. Hearing music. Seeing the videos. The different types of entertainment you might see at arenas. It’s called the game entertainment presentation. You fast forward to where the social media started. I didn’t know that I was kind of preparing myself at the time. What I mean by that is that I took that same kind of approach with social media. We’re entertaining fans. We’re connecting with them. It was a very different way of communicating.

We were used to this one-way communication. ‘Hey, Giants are playing the Astros Monday night. 7:15. Click here to buy tickets’. Instead, we were creating a little bit of a personality. We were communicating by ways of photos and videos. There was an emotional connection. We were humanizing players. We were humanizing basically our brand and really connecting with the fans, so that kind of got me in that mindset. At the time, very few teams were doing that and grasping that. We started to do that and that kind of helped us, I think, along with winning the World Series in 2010, that helped us really connect with the fan base and really establish that this is what social media can be and now we can grow from here and start to really think of it and put it in that frame of mind.

On starting up the digital/social position with the Giants…

I left the Giants in ‘08. In 2010, I get a call. Our PR Department, Matt Chisholm, doesn’t get enough credit. Matt actually started the Twitter account with the Giants. It was very much kind of he heard about it. It was just here’s our lineups. Here’s the score. It was very information-based. Something that you definitely saw the value in it. Also, going on at that time, was kind of a proliferation of social media. Basically, our CEO and upper executives kept hearing from clients and other people, ‘Yeah, you guys have got to start doing this more. This is important’. There was this kind of wave of, ‘OK, we’ve got to do something, but we don’t know what to do’.

I kind of was in the right place at the right time. He said, ‘Bryan, you’d be really good at this because you get our brand. You get working with MLB. You can figure out the technology side. We need someone not just who gets it, but can also communicate to people who don’t get it internally. You can kind of communicate what the goals are to fans and you can help teach us as well’. It was more of a consultant-type of position. I remember when I took over the Twitter account, there were 3,000 fans on Twitter. Instagram wasn’t part of our DNA yet. We had a few hundred thousand on Facebook. It was kind of really focusing on Twitter, and we were the first team to actually have the ability to run our account because MLB was using the Twitter accounts as an RSS feed for the websites.

It was much like a Reddit account actually, and it was more automatic. We were kind of the pilot guinea pig. When they saw the success that we had, they slowly started to let other teams have it and actually started to push teams to this is what you have to start doing on Twitter. Then, we started getting more access and doing more things on Facebook. We were the first team, by happenstance, Instagram’s offices were literally down the street from us. There were four people in their office if you can believe it. I had lunch with one of them. I really wish that I said, ‘Hey, let me work for Instagram’. Don’t ask me what’s the next big thing, because I didn’t see that coming. I did think, ‘Wow, we should be on Instagram’.

If you go back and look at our first few Instagram photos, you’ll see that I completely didn’t understand it either, but I didn’t mind trying different things and pushing things out and exploring. It was really being in the right place. I think I was in this great position, because that was my sole job. Many other teams, it was like Matt. Like you’re going to have a full-time job and try social media. You really can’t be that successful because it was obviously a full-time gig. I had the resources or the time rather to build a lot of relationships, learn from others, connect with influencers, all that stuff way back in 2010. Oh, by the way, we turned out to win a World Series, which put us in the right place to take advantage of that and just continue to grow. I’ll never forget that. It was just a really exciting time. I kind of equated it to being a part of a startup. It felt like, ‘OK, we’re building something. It’s new. It’s exciting’. Everything kind of came together, but it was a different time when a few brands were on Twitter and doing stuff. Those that were on the early stages were getting success because that’s when it really started to swell.

On if he was the only person managing the Giants’ social accounts early on…

It was basically me running the Twitter account, along with our Media Relations team. We created this kind of teamwork. They would Tweet out all of the official stuff, if there was a trade or transaction or starting lineups. I was more of the fun. I was more of the the trolling people and a lot of responses and trying to have some fun and taking photos. I was kind of a like a one-man team. A lot of people didn’t even know what I was doing. They would be like, ‘What is he doing with his phone down there? What’s his Tweet?’ It was kind of chaos and confusion to some. Slowly but surely, I started to build up the equity and the fan base obviously started to grow, too. It was just a lot of trials and tribulations. ‘OK, that didn’t work. Let’s move this way’. Copying what other brands were doing and, ‘Oh, this is interesting. Let’s do this’. It just kept going.

One person for a few seasons. It was like four seasons until I started to get some help. At the same time, I always felt I was ahead because I was dedicated to social media, as opposed to a lot of other teams. It was a shift of responsibility. It was depending on where it fell in your area. Was it a PR function? Was it a marketing function? Was it a part of digital? It was kind of fun to make those connections to other teams and trade ideas on where it should go and what we were thinking and such.

On if there was an ‘Aha’ moment on the value of social for the Giants organization…

There was no like ‘Aha’ moment per se. I would put these reports together. I was like, ‘Oh my god. We were trending worldwide on this’. No one really knew what that meant. I kind of trained people. Unfortunately, they were like, ‘Hey, are we trending worldwide?’ It’s not that easy. You can’t just put something out there. That takes work and happenstance. I think it was just the continuing buzz. More and more articles were written about ‘look at what the Giants are doing’ or ‘look at the importance of social media’. It was just this groundswell that was growing and the combination of what I was trying to do.

I probably could have used some help in terms of how to present and to sell more internally, but at the same time, I felt like I don’t have time. I had to just focus on building this community and figuring things out. That’s another part of it is really focusing on communicating what you’re doing right and selling yourself. Monetizing social media is still a challenge. This is more of a branding thing. This is important for our brand. This is where the future is. This is where fans are getting information. It was more of media impressions. The equity over time of seeing more and more people in their own world seeing it and seeing their kids or their colleagues and friends and then you’re like it all kind of came together. There’s just a lot of buzz about social media. We know that we’re doing well based on what people are saying, based on your reports. We need to keep growing this and moving forward and I think it was more of a trust factor, like, ‘OK, we get it. We know this is important, but again, what does that mean? You have to help us get there’.

On where he sees social media fitting into the structure of an organization…

I think most teams think it’s its own area or it falls under marketing. There are a few that are still in the PR aspect. To me, social media is marketing and marketing is social media. Social media is kind of a dated term in kind of what I’m thinking. It is what your brand is now. You obviously have an advertising and marketing campaign. Teams have banners out in the city, and we have TV commercials still. We have radio commercials. There’s different parts of that. On a day-to-day basis, your social media is living and breathing. Many will argue that’s kind of due to the high consumption of mobile and digital content, that’s really where your fans or where your community is connected to you.

Is it marketing in the sense of we’re asking you to buy something? Not necessarily, so I guess you could argue that it’s kind of a newer category. There’s all these buzzwords we can go through, but I think each team is different in how they are structured. I’ve learned titles are sometimes deceiving and the startups and the technology world have come up with all these new and different titles. The sports world is still figuring out ‘OK, where do we fit into this as we evolve and advance’. You might look at someone and say, ‘Why do they report to this person?’ and not know all the details of all of that. Sports teams are still figuring out, too, like ‘Where do we go if we started here?’ and are having battles internally.

You can argue that social media is a distribution program or should it be creating the content? We kind of shifted where content is created by our video department, our creative services department and sometimes us. It’s shared, but we’re really pushing into more of a distribution channel. With all of the channels that we have, it’s understanding what’s the best time and place to put certain pieces of content. How do you sell tickets and entertain fans? What if your team loses seven games in a row? How does that affect it? It’s all of those factors taken into and understanding that.

To me, that’s all a part of the marketing world in a broader sense. We’ve seen this. I don’t want to get into it, but certain players and their Tweets have popped up. That becomes a PR issue in the sense that your social media is very connected to your communications team because any kind of statement or communication to fans, travel advisory, game time changes, transactions, crisis communication. People are going to look at your social media almost immediately or that’s what is going to get shared. I think even though I feel it’s in the marketing, it touches all aspects of your business. It’s becoming more of a evolution of things of just where we’re going as brands and understanding that the traditional advertising model is broken or changing very quickly, and that’s based on a number of factors. You’re battling for attention, and we’re lucky in sports because we have the attention of fans versus brands that don’t have that. In many ways, we’re spoiled with that. We still have to work hard to get that attention.

On the changing landscapes of social media platforms…

fan Facebook continues to change its algorithm. Instagram seems to be changing. Twitter is very bias on what’s new now. Gives you maybe 24 hours. You’ve got to understand that first. You’ve got to understand your fan base or your connection to fans. You’ve got to understand what content. I think we’re still scratching the surface with analytics, but we’ve spent some time putting together reports and understanding what was working and how do we approach that and being more strategic with it. I think that’s been really helpful, but I also think nine times out of 10, we can predict when something will do well or not do well. We get surprised at times.

It’s hard, because there is low-hanging fruit. You know certain things are going to do well, but there’s players on your team that need to be developed. There’s a growing process. Getting to know them, especially younger players. They might not get as far a reach as some of your more popular players, but there’s a process, like we need to do that. Knowing what your demographics are is important, but we have a history. We have a 60th anniversary this year we’re celebrating. To a 22-year-old fan or person, they might not care or know about certain players or our history, so those might not perform as well, but we still feel that that’s an important part of our brand, and there is a market out there. We understand that some of these posts might not do as well.

Then you talk about teams winning. Bottom line is, and we all know this, when you win, when your team is winning, everything is more fun. You get a lot more engagement with your fans. Your fan base grows. Outsiders are looking in. Things you say are a lot funnier. You have a lot more liberties to do things versus when you’re not winning. That’s just kind of the curse of sports. It’s good and bad. I think the challenge is when you’re not winning, when you’re not in the playoffs, when your team isn’t doing as well. Your temperament, you have to kind of take that into consideration and understand what is our role? Put yourself in the fans’ place. Ten percent of your fans on either side are going to love it and hate it at the same time. You’re kind of going towards the middle.

A lot of people have ideas. You talk about you can’t please everybody, but you have to have a core audience and you have to kind of go after what that core audience is and what they want to see and want to hear. Sometimes, you do what the data tells you and other times, you say, ‘We have to trust our gut here or we’re going to take some chances. Let’s try this and see if it works or not. If it doesn’t work, why didn’t it work?’

We did a Tasty video last year, which I thought was great. These Tasty videos about recipes and what not. It didn’t perform that well, but I kind of said it was new for us. It’s different. It hits a new audience. There was a tie-in with one of our players, and we wanted to encourage let’s not be so reactive because it didn’t do well. There’s other lessons that can be learned here. I think all of that is taken into account. When you’re looking at something to tell a story, you have to understand there’s data, there’s the context and then there’s the learning curve as well, so it’s all part of it.

On the innovative culture of the Giants…

I think just overall and I’ll give credit to our CEO and Larry Baer and just the Giants’ culture. We’re not necessarily a Silicon Valley company, but I think that culture of, ‘Hey, don’t be afraid to try new things’. Beyond technology, there’s a lot of things in our organization we hang our hat on. The first ballpark stadium to have WiFi way back before smartphones. The first team to do variable pricing, dynamic pricing in the ticket office. There are things that we’ve done that have been encouraged. That attitude is obviously very relevant with my world and social media.

I think, yeah, you talk about Vine and when that first came out. OK, you get six seconds. Here you go. There’s no manual with it and you just kind of say, ‘OK, we’ve got two options. We can jump in and do it, or we can just sit back and watch and see what sticks. What other celebrities are doing. What other teams are doing’. I don’t know if there’s a right or wrong. You can make arguments for both. There are companies and brands out there that are OK with saying, ‘Let someone else try it first, and we’ll come up with the 2.0 version when we know if it’s going to stick or not’. We know there’s the argument that how do you know if it’s going to be there or not? Vine is a good example. It kind of came and went. I feel that there is in our world you don’t know what tomorrow holds, but you can right now tell where everybody is at. You know what some of the trends are. You have that option of can we jump in here? Can we try this? Can we be one of the first people and do it? If we fail, if it doesn’t work out, what are the costs of that? If it’s just time, if it’s money, whatever that is, you weigh those. If everyone agrees at the risk assessment that there’s a small risk and a high reward? Why not? Let’s do it.

Obviously, time and resources are usually your biggest challenge. That’s always the biggest question. How do you have time to figure out new stuff when you’re already overloaded trying to do content? That’s the question. I think, professionally, we all want to grow. We all want to do what’s next. I think you’ve got to keep your eye on where that is going. If you’re not the first to try it, you keep an eye on, like OK, well strategically not in our best interest, but we’ll keep an eye and see what we’re doing over here.

The (social media) cafe was another one of those ideas. We didn’t really know, but we thought this could be potentially a really cool thing. There was a sponsorship opportunity, which it ended up getting sponsored at the time. We just thought the timing was right. There was an opportunity to turn that spot into something. There was no blueprint for it, so we just kind of created what we thought and from there, we went for it. I think it’s more of that idea, and you’ve got to have buy-in from the top, obviously, but you also have to have those honest conversations. Is this working and measure it and talk about it. The real risk is that you do something and because you did it, you feel like we’ve got to keep doing it if it’s not working because you put yourself out there as opposed to it’s working or it’s not. If it’s not working, let’s cut our losses and move on or determine what’s the downside if we keep doing this with little to no regard. If it’s just a testing spot.

There were some teams that did a really good job really taking (Vine) to a new level. The 49ers did some really cool stuff. Scott Kegley, it was his idea. He’s now at the Vikings. He’s kind of taken that with him, creating these shorts. What we really saw we missed out on was comedy became really popular and these comedians that became popular on Vine. How could have we have taken that and done comedy bits and done things? We tried little things here and there. It never stuck with us, but I think we used it in a very safe way. I still see Vines on YouTube once in a while. That’s gone away, but I think the idea was really people were saying, ‘How could you do anything in six seconds?’ I think now we’re all saying, if you can get someone’s attention for six seconds, we’d be thrilled. To have undivided attention for six seconds, you can do a lot in six seconds. It also tested your creativity. How could you do a lot in less? I think that also tested the norms.

Our video team is still figuring out what’s short video. Now, we’ve got IGTV. There’s your new one. It’s vertical-form video, and it’s up to an hour. What’s the right play there? Is it what you would put on YouTube? Taking current videos and cropping them? Is it making videos specifically for that? We’re testing that right now, but we also understand that’s where eyeballs are going, and that’s where we’re are going. People who are listening right now, that’s where they can help. That’s their generation. They’ve grown up on this. They are native to this. They’re not adapting. This is the world they’ve been brought up in, and this is the first generation raised on pure digital. That’s who we’re trying to go after and understand. If you’re in that age range where that’s you, you’re going to be very valuable if you can communicate and help brands understand that.

On prioritizing resources in the digital space…

SFG Productions is a fantastic resource for us. There’s a lot of young, talented people in there, and it’s kind of getting buy-in and understanding and learning with them, like OK, here’s IGTV. Here’s what we think it is. What do you guys think? Just getting them to shoot specifically for it. That being said, that creates just more for them to do. We’re trying to figure out as you start budgeting and planning for the future, do you have specific people just for social or do you have a person do scoreboard videos? I think that’s what teams are trying to figure out. That’s really the investment. When you have dedicated people or are you going outside and getting those people? I think it’s a little bit of both right now. Where do we want to dedicate? What is important to you? Is it Instagram? Is it Twitter? Is it Facebook? Is it video? Is it photo? Is it motion graphics? All of those things and kind of prioritize with your resources.

On teams that stand out to him on social right now…

The Miami Dolphins get a lot of recognition for the video content that they’ve created. They’re really an example of kind of taking emotion and video and music, which isn’t easy to do, and bringing that to the forefront. Close to us, up the road is the Sacramento Kings. Even though the team isn’t playing well, and they don’t have the fan base that the Warriors do, I think they do a really good job, and I think they get recognized within their own NBA circles. They have a real keen eye for humor, for connecting with their fan base and even though their team performs below par, they haven’t made the playoffs for like 20-plus years, they still have this young base of talent on their team. They’re trying to connect and make them exciting and interesting.

I think they’re a good example of what you can do even with a poor product on the court. I think they’re potentially growing into something. I think that’s where they’re at now. It’s kind of like get on this and watch us build and grow, and there’s a lot of excitement there. Before that, it’s just been hard. It’s just hard to be in social media and have a poor product, especially in the NBA, that is all about social media. We talk about pro teams. College teams have really stepped up in many ways and are leaders. University of Auburn. They do a great job. Clemson does a great job. There’s a lot out there that I can’t think of off the top of my head, but obviously, each sport has interesting types of ways that they use the different platforms.

We’re always looking and observing and in many ways, trying to keep up. We’re like ‘OK, we did that before and now they’re taking it to a new level’. I think that’s the coolest part about social media. The work is out there. It’s easy to compare. To borrow ideas. To really look and say, ‘Wow, look at that’. Every once and a while, something catches your eye and everyone talks about it. Those are the ones that come to mind. There’s a lot. … You can look at every team and find something that they do really, really well. It’s exciting to see.

On a platform he thinks is flying under the radar on the social/digital media scene…

We haven’t used it to its advantage, and there’s reasons beyond our control and no one really talks about it in terms of social media, and I don’t know if it is social media, but I think YouTube continues to be something that we haven’t really fully maximized. YouTube is something that has a longer lifespan in terms of archives and things that can be evergreen, and we’re really digging deep into how do we better strategize with all the video content that we have and move forward. I think there’s a lot of teams that do a great job with YouTube, but there’s a lot that are kind of like us. It’s just they don’t have the time to really put into it.

I think the other thing is Facebook continues to change. Facebook Live versus the video format. Understanding that and IGTV is new. Reddit is another one. I spend a lot of time on Reddit. Just for news and information. I think that it’s hard to gauge how impactful it is, but I think that’s another one that really flies under the radar for a lot of teams. At the very least, it’s one way I can stay connected to what I think is important. I can get a sense of what is a trending topic in any particular topic. If I go to Giants, I know what are people talking about. What players they’re talking about. What promotion they’re talking about. Is that something I need to pay attention to regardless if it’s social media or not? It’s a good way to crowdsource what is trending in your particular world. Those are some that I think are kind of under the radar, but again, it’s just about how you’re structured, how your time sets up and what’s important to get content out. In no way am I saying we’re doing a great job on all of those. I think we’re doing an OK job, but we’re trying to improve on all of those platforms.

On Twitch and the future of esports…

We do not have an official Twitch channel, but some of our players do, and they talk about them. Everyone talked about Drake and Ninja, but Hunter Pence had Steph Curry on playing with him. Hunter has a cafe, a coffee esports place in Houston. I think it’s going to be something that is going to be really cool to see as that grows. He had Steph Curry, and they were playing games together and Derek Holland has a Twitch account. He plays some games. … We always talk about, ‘What do they say on Twitter?’ but some of these guys are engaging with people, having conversations and playing on Twitch, which is hitting lots of different demographics and different groups of fans that might not necessarily be sports fans but are of Fortnite or PUBG or whatever these games are they’re following. That’s another interesting angle. We haven’t even really talked about that yet, but it’s interesting to keep an eye on.

On advice for students looking to work in the sports industry…

I think the first thing you always say is you have to have patience and perseverance. You just can’t apply for a job and get it. It’s easy for me to say, ‘Get an internship and work your way up the ladder’. It doesn’t always go that way. I think the first thing is get as much advice and exposure as you can. Try to email people and say, ‘I follow you on LinkedIn or Twitter, and I have one question I want to ask you or is there a book you’re reading?’ I’m a big book reader, too. Read as many books as you can in and around any subject areas as you can. Just to stay relevant in your mindset and your ideas and have the ability to have these conversations in real time.

Don’t just connect with someone on LinkedIn, because a lot of people don’t even do that anymore. If there’s someone who has a career path that you’d like to meet or get to, even if it’s not someone you follow, it’d be great to connect with them and ask them a question and stay connected to them and understanding everyone has a different path. There’s no blueprint. Find as much information as you can. Blogs are obviously another big thing. We’re in this age of I’m not so much into self promotion, but I think there is the ability for people to get discovered or at least put their ideas out there, whether it’s a blog, whether it’s Twitter, whether it’s video. I’m not saying that’s the way to get discovered, but I think your job is to get experience, to get information, to really learn about whatever particular area you’re looking to do.

Let’s say it’s digital and sports. There’s obviously a lot of different angles now. It’s not just sports teams, when I was looking. We talked about esports. The Players’ Tribune. Uninterrupted. There’s a lot of media outlets. I’m going to give a plug to The Relish, which I’m an advisor for. It’s female-based. We’re starting to have all these niche areas. There is so much opportunity out there, and I think that people are looking for help and finding that right niche. Let’s take a step back. Understand the landscape. Understand what’s out there. Do research. If you ever do talk to someone or a company, I mean I would spend a week researching and understanding them whatever company or industry. Someone is going to be impressed by the questions you ask. Not so much what you have to say. It’s the curiosity factor. If you’re ever in an interview, a lot of times they don’t care what you have to say. It’s the questions you ask. If you just ask basic questions or the cliche ones, you’re not going to stand out. It’s the curiosity. It’s the understanding.

In terms of what you need to prepare for, it’s hard to say. It depends on what you’re interested in. We’re obviously moving into this video, motion graphic, graphic, photography content era. If you can make content, that’s great. Writing is always going to be a strength skill. If you can write, if you can communicate, you’re hired. We need that. We need people that are smart. We need people that can communicate. We need problem solvers. If I was to hire someone right now, I would want someone who maybe doesn’t have all the answers, but understands everything that is out there. Understands where trends are. They’re connected to pop culture. They’re connected to social and digital media. They know the landscape. They know who are the leaders. If I say, give me three campaigns that were great. They’re connected. They know what’s going on. Use your time wisely.

Connect yourself to smart people. Networking is not just, ‘Hey, I’m looking for a job’. It’s asking questions. It’s offering advice. It’s just being around people that are in the positive space you’re looking for. If you’re a self promoter, then go for it. If you’re not, find out what it is that you can do to get your name out there to be connected in terms of right place, right time and those opportunities. I look at what’s coming in and around. What events are coming here. WWE announced the XFL is coming and I saw someone in my network that said, ‘I’m proud to call that a client now’. He found out that opportunity, and he’s doing something with them. If I was someone I would connect with that person and say, ‘Hey, I’d love to help out with that. That sounds like a really cool opportunity. You might need help’. That would be an area. Boy, what can you do with that space? A growing area that’s football and digital and kind of a startup.

Esports is obviously one that I’m really bullish on. That continues to grow in different communities. It’s trend-spotting. It’s understanding where this is moving. What markets are growing. MLS seems to continue to grow with young people, and they’re moving in a new direction, too. There are just so many opportunities out there. I think that’s the other advice. Just don’t think of your local sports teams. Think globally. Think nationally. Look at your base and think about how you can find the right people to connect with. It’s exciting if you really are interested in doing it. There’s a lot out there. You’ve just got to really hustle and be authentic. Be who you are. Don’t try to be someone else. Don’t try to be (Gary Vaynerchuk) or anyone else out there. Just be yourself and good things will happen to those who work hard.

About Mark J. Burns

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