When I began working for the New England Patriots and the New England Revolution, I was hired as the Director of Marketing, but the reality is that ownership wanted me to produce and create events for the team that first, engaged fans, and second, generated revenue. When I was in radio, prior to joining the teams, I was in charge of marketing, but I was primarily an event marketer. I actually even contemplated starting an event company, but could not turn down the opportunity to work for an NFL team.
So when I joined the teams, I came out of the gates producing a bunch of events: draft parties, gala dinners, golf tournaments, fan interactive events, etc. Our staff was small; everyone had to roll up their sleeves to execute the events. I was very hands-on and would drag inflatables, set up tables, and hang banners just like everyone else on the staff. The first time that we produced an event I would totally throw myself into the execution of it – some would say to a point of micro- management. They would probably be right, but I felt that I needed to personally experience every detail to fully understand what went well and what we needed to improve upon.
As the event evolved and we had two or three years of experience under our belts, I backed off and just added ideas here and there. I let the folks who worked for me run the event, and I would just observe and advise as needed. But I clearly went from khakis and a team polo shirt to a suit as time went by and my title increased to VP, and then CMO. Even with the titles, I was always more involved as we kicked off new initiatives, and then backed off as the event had stability and longevity.
One year, when I was fairly removed from the set up and execution of one of the events – Patriots Experience, an interactive fan festival that occurred at training camp and pre-game – I walked through one day and noted something out of place, so I asked one of the interns to correct the issue. He jumped to the task, but was obviously tired and not as “into” the execution as I had expected. I then told the person running Patriots Experience at the time that my request wasn’t addressed to expectations.
Later, I was chatting with some of the executives on my staff, discussing what went well that day and what needed to be worked on; one thing that came back to me was the Patriots Experience example. Apparently, the intern was griping that I didn’t understand the hard work they did, and that it was easy for me to just bark orders as I was breezing by. I asked how it was addressed, and was told that it was explained to him that everything he was doing, I had previously done myself. I pushed further and asked how it was received, and learned that it didn’t seem to impress the young intern.
The next day at training camp, I went down to Patriots Experience, this time in shorts and a polo shirt. First, I addressed the staff and stated (I’m paraphrasing of course), “I know you all think you are being worked hard, and that lugging these inflatables, and setting up stuff is not what you signed up for. I want you to know that everything you’re doing I have done myself. I know what it’s like to drag these inflatables, get sweaty and dirty, and be completely exhausted when the day is over. I’ve done it, and I get what you are experiencing.” The group of young workers looked on, some in amazement, some shaking their heads. I continued, “The only way that you can get to the position I am in, is to be in the position you are in now. I understand every job in our department because I have done every job, at one point or another. You can’t fool me and say that something can’t be done, especially if I have already done it. So don’t whine and complain; I don’t want to hear it. You just have to work hard, and if you do, you will have a chance to grow in this organization. Now let’s set this stuff up.” I then proceeded to help out with the set up.
If you are truly going to master the understanding of the tasks you expect others to perform, you must have actually done them yourself. Can you get by without rolling up your sleeves? Sure. But to truly own the position and the respect that comes with it, you can’t be afraid to do yourself what you expect others to execute. When this is the case, it is hard for anyone to question your instructions or requests. To be the best at what they do, they must understand all facets of the job from the smallest detail to the largest vision. In order to master the 40,000 foot level, you have to experience the ground level. There is no substitution for the “do it yourself” sports marketing approach, no matter what industry you are in.