By: Travis Gorsch, @tgorsch3
Front Office Sports is proud to have sat down with Dawn Montgomery-Greene, Founder & Creator, Fans Favorite Fan. Dawn was gracious enough to offer up her time and insight into her transition into the sports industry as a woman, the creation of Fans Favorite Fan, and giving back to philanthropic efforts that she cares about. Dawn was also able to identify the importance of social media and relying on her team to make the organization successful.
You earned your Associate’s Degree in Business Education & Communications from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College before going on to Oglethorpe University to earn your Bachelor of Arts in Communication and Rhetoric Studies. What were your plans with your degree after graduation? When did you decide you wanted to break in to the sports industry?
I took a non-traditional route in college. Right after high school I went to Fort Valley State University. I didn’t end up going back because I found out my grandmother had breast cancer. I kind of knew I wanted to work as a journalist when I used to copy edit my grandmother’s articles for local and state newspapers in Mississippi. I started looking at universities in Atlanta that had strong journalism and evening degree programs. At the time I was a single parent. I would have to work during the day and go to school at night. I went to Oglethorpe University and did their evening program there. I wanted to write first, gain more experience while in Atlanta and see what I wanted to do from there. I was modeling at the time I started my journalistic efforts and it was picking up until I decided to go another route in life.
After I retired from the Modeling Industry, I began to look for another direction in life. People were telling me “Dawn you need to be on television. Have you thought about broadcasting?” I would always say no. I was newly married, had another child and just wanted to see where my talents would take me. My husband kept noticing I was gone from home on the weekends during football season. He recommended that I create a sports blog and journal my experiences. After my first year I found out I had extended relationships that I did not know how to network. They were looking for me on Twitter and looking to engage with me. I had been talking about sports for years now on social media even while I modeled for ten years. People started to realize I knew what I was talking about.
I built my credibility via social media on Twitter. I didn’t go to school in Sports Management and I didn’t go to a football school. I went to Oglethorpe University which is a D-III school. For me it was connecting with relationships that I had created on social media. I had to learn more about photography. I was a model in front of the camera but I didn’t know much about behind the camera. When it comes to sports you can’t just show up. You have to know who’s who, what’s going on, etc. I used to watch film with my high school football friends and all of these things built me up for my journey into the sports industry. There are a lot of single women in this industry that don’t have children. At the time I jumped in I didn’t see anyone like me.
You’re a member of several organizations including the Atlanta Association of Black Journalists, Atlanta Press Club, Kuntry Kidz Inc, and Junior League of Dekalb. How has your volunteer and philanthropic work prepared you for your leadership roles in organizations? What has driven you to give so much of your time back to the community?
Being a part of other organizations shows you how important it is to have a team. When I started out it was just me and my cousin, Gregory Molette, in an office in my house. During that time we started to plan things and throw out some ideas. Working with other organizations you see that there’s not one person that can do all the jobs. You have to invite people to come in to do certain jobs. I’m not a photographer so I rely on Itoro Umontuen to take pictures. He has experience with action shots, angles, etc. He captures what I see but in real time.
Working with other organizations taught me to take responsibility for what I can do and what I can delegate for someone else. I’m very involved with my team members. We are all doing different things in other industries. They are bringing their expertise and critique by telling me if one of my ideas may not work based on what they know. I will listen and I will take their advice. That’s been a tremendous lesson. Some people ask where I find the time to give back. I make time. That’s one thing I will always make time for because it’s important. My daily lifestyle is about giving back and helping others. Especially in the mental health field. If it’s important I find a way to make time for it.
In the sports industry we hear it a lot, you have to be passionate about what you do. Obviously you are passionate about your philanthropic work, which led you to being named the Philanthropist of the Year at the Kontrol Your Destiny Awards hosted by Kontrol Magazine. How do you integrate your passion for philanthropic work with working in the sports industry?
If you look at the nominees they were like celebrities and then you had me. A lot of people understand. I’ve been volunteering at different high school football programs to do sideline reporting and studio production teams. This past year I had the opportunity to work with the Atlanta Football Insiders. The producer of the show, Will Tolbert, told me I had a talent with this. I was able to connect with the students/production team about what I know about the industry as a fan. People don’t know how to separate knowing about the business and being a fan. We talk about the fan’s perspective during the game. I created Fan’s Favorite Fan to educate people why decisions are made. It’s important for fans to get that connection that’s organic and not forced by a big time network or media outlet. You can share how you feel about something. That’s my volunteer angle there.
As a writer you have been featured in Rolling Out Magazine, J’Adore Magazine, Atlanta Parent Magazine, and Twenty7 Magazine to name a few. What types of publications have you written? How does this help develop your personal brand/image?
Last football season, I sent the Atlanta Parent Magazine an email telling them football season was coming up. I thought it would be an amazing opportunity to show them about tailgating, lower ticket sales, fan experience, etc. That just shows that I know what I’m talking about and able to reach variety of demographics at the same time reaching the average fans. Being a wife and mother I have to create a good image because family is important. I have a husband and five kids. I have to know how I look and monitor what I say while remaining true to myself.
Twitter and social media also helps me show certain sides of my personality and what I do while being a wife and mother. I don’t believe in having balance, but I believe in making things happen according to your schedule and responsibilities. I make it happen. I’ve failed at lot and I make sure I share that as well. A lot of women think we can be all and do all. You have to have a realistic goal about where you want to be in life. A lot of people don’t think they could be married with children and do what I’m doing. Women like Rashan Ali, who works with the Atlanta Falcons and CBS Sports, is married with children and doing what I would like to do when the opportunity comes.
You founded Fans Favorite Fan with the goal to engage, educate, and share the fan experience. What has been the hardest part about creating your own organization? Can you talk about your most rewarding experience with Fans Favorite Fan?
The hardest part was figuring out what we were doing. You can't just create a website or company and go to an organization and say hey I want to cover your team. That’s not what we did. Our first season we were able to narrow our focus and show how we bring that from a fan’s perspective. The next thing was proving that the sports industry could take us seriously. There are a lot of organizations that have been around longer and they are going to get access. We have to be consistent in our coverage and we have to show value. We’ll come to a fan day event and cover it and show you an example of how we would cover it. Once we get in we will prove ourselves. Those are the biggest challenges.
The most rewarding part is when I know my team understands our mission and goals while meeting deadlines. We covered the MLS and the Semifinal Gold Cup match in Atlanta. That was a huge accomplishment because we wanted to cover as many sports as we could and add Major League Soccer to our focus. We wanted to give equal effort to the sports. The first year we really focused on football. When we got a team member that had basketball knowledge we covered that. Our photographer, Itoro Umontuen, and Social Media Curator, Krissy Davis, know all about soccer. Atlanta is getting a professional soccer team in 2017. We thought to ourselves we may as well get a jump on it now. So when we go to them in 2017 they are going to see that we have the experience covering soccer. We believe in our coverage and that is rewarding in itself
With a very small team of six people for Fans Favorite Fan what are the keys to success for operating successfully? Going in to your third year where do you see the organization five years from now?
I wasn’t thinking big at first when I started. I was focusing on connecting with different programs. Last year was our biggest year. We worked with a handful of different schools. We were credentialed which shows that teams and organizations recognized us. We talk weekly via conference call as a team. It’s important that I understand people’s schedules. My team is flexible, mobile and I respect their time. Conference calls are important so they know what’s going on. I’m very authentic. I’m a leader but I’m also a team member first. Their voice matters. If this is going to work I need to how they feel and what do we need to do in order to meet their needs & our mission. Emails and calendars are huge. That helps us a lot. Our short term goal is to work with more universities and set up internships with university students on their campuses. Long term goals will be getting credentialed by NCAA conferences and growing our team.
Fans Favorite Fan shares the fan’s experience through partnerships with universities, organizations, brands and companies. They create editorials, social media, and photography content. What does it take to establish a partnership with one of these parties? How do you decide if it’s a good fit for your organization?
That is very important. Luckily I have been able to get experience with my husband and his law firm. Relationships are huge in any industry. Working in the legal field I saw it firsthand. People are pressed for time, get your point across quickly, and deliver results. If you call on a favor are you offering to repay the favor later? What’s in it for them as well? I try to meet up and follow up with SID [Student Information Director], Athletic Directors, or marketing persons to connect or thank them for their partnership. I want to hear more about them so that I can establish relationships with these programs. I’m not asking for credentials when I do this. I want to know about their program and their fan base. Always figure out how you can establish a relationship with anyone you are going to work with and watch how they will trust you with their information and access they can give you.
After attending a sports conference, Emerging AD, back-to-back years I figured out how to use Fans Favorite Fan. I talked to people SID’s, AD’s and many other people at the D1, DII, & DIII level that were in attendance at this conference. I asked them how they are or aren’t connected with their fans. The feedback was overwhelming yet valuable. I got the answers and applied that to other situations. Put yourself in a room and go beyond a handshake and follow up email. Just ask a person when they are available and you will be surprised who will actually fit you in their schedule. I’m a people person in general and I just want them to know why I’m here and what I can do for them. Just sending a bio and three point email isn’t always going to be enough. You have to do more than that.
When you were trying to break in to the sports industry was there someone that you looked at as a mentor? What did you learn from this person?
I would say LaTonya Story would be my unofficial mentor. I look up to ACC Network sports broadcaster, Rachel Baribeau, she has been amazing. She has shared with me the ins and outs of sports broadcasting and is my mentor in broadcasting. Another person I look up to is Maria Taylor, SEC Network sports broadcaster. She has been telling me if I want to go after sports broadcasting we can talk and see what I have to do to get it done. From the business side of sports I need someone to help me understand what I need to adjust. What am I doing wrong? We are looking for angles to gain more access and bring in more money. From a business standpoint, I’ve been watching Harold Hughes from Bandwagon Fan Club and he has served as motivation to focus more on the business side of sports.
I always say “God is a way maker”. Whatever you believe in, whatever your religion is, I respect that. The universe will always give you back what you put in. Throughout my day I’m talking with my kids about what’s going on with certain athletes. I live and breathe this. I was able to rely on my faith in God that he was going to make a way regardless. Every football season since I’ve been in sports has been the roughest time personally. Something always turns it around weeks before the football season begins and it makes me ready to go. I try to make sure my effort is consistent. Focus in on what you are trying to do. No matter what we are trying to go after we have to figure out how we want to do it and how we want to execute it. God makes a way for you and your effort. The universe will accept the energy to create your opportunities. Trust your abilities.
We would like to thank Dawn for her time and insight and we wish her the best in all her future endeavors!
This interview is another edition of "Winning Edge Wednesday" in congruence with our partnership with the Winning Edge Leadership Academy. Every Wednesday we will be featuring the story of a woman or minority working in the sports business industry. If you know of a professional you would like featured, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.