By: Adam White, @FOSAdam
Front Office Sports is proud to have sat down with Brian Bowsher, the Assistant Athletic Director for Digital Strategy at The University of Miami. He is an alumnus of Xavier University where he received his degree in Sports Management. He is also an alumnus of Marquette University where he received his MBA. He was gracious enough to sit down with us and offer great insight on what it takes to succeed in a college athletic department, what digital strategy entails and what it means to "act Wizard of Oz."
What were your previous positions if any before your current position? How did those positions help you get to where you are today?
I was an intern at Xavier University where I held a number of different positions most prominently in the business office where I was in charge of helping administrators as well as coaches log in to view their budgets. I carved out a niche for myself and it helped me build equity and report with the staff as well as networking. At Marquette I was responsible for ticket sales. I made 50-60 outbound calls a day starting off trying to upsell people who had attended one game to spring for a 5 game plan or season tickets. It forced me to learn interpersonal skills and was a tremendous experience. I was then promoted to the lead the sales team after a person above me had left. I was doing well, but I got lucky as well.
For people who do not know, what is the Assistant AD for Digital Strategy responsible for?
My role is focused on revenue generating opportunities and what social media and other online technologies can do from a revenue and branding standpoint. I work closely with our ticket sales department, ticket office, Hurricane Club and fundraising units.
What is a normal day like for you?
There isn’t a normal day, that’s what makes working in sports exciting and fun. My day today will be different two months from now during the football season and then two months from then it will be different during the basketball season. Its ever changing.
How do you think digital media in sports will change over the next few years?
The use of mobile internet browsing will continue to evolve. We have seen an explosion in mobile usage from our fans. We are now over 50% of fans and users who use our site on a mobile phone. We have to reimagine how to build websites because desktops are no longer the go to for internet browsing. When building websites we have to think mobile first and desktop second.
The Hurricanes are one of the best and most active brands on social media. What sets you apart from other schools and organizations?
We really take pride in being engaging on social media. We think of Twitter as more than a one way channel and we like to focus on what the fans want and need as much as what we want and need. We want to have a two way communication on Twitter instead of blasting people with our messages. We want to be engaging and build relationships.
How has your targeted demographic changed because of social media?
As a University our target demographics are very wide, but how we address them has to be very specific. Our target demographic on Facebook is older compared to the younger target demographic on Twitter and Instagram because we have now seen an influx of an older demographic that is now commenting and liking our Facebook posts. It speaks to the time and how more people even the older demographic want to be connected. We still use email, but we want it to be a specific and crafted message to a specific set of people.
How important is networking in your eyes?
It is important, but now more than ever while you’re networking you need to demonstrate your skills in a setting that provides value to others and understanding what other people’s needs are and then delivering.
What is the best career advice you have been given so far?
Something that has stuck with me since I was a student at Xavier is I was told to “act Wizard of Oz” There is a famous line in the movie where they say pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. Act like that. Don’t beat your chest, let your work speak for yourself and be humble.
Many people think working in sports is all glitz and glamour, can you elaborate on how much work and how many hours it takes to be successful in the sports industry?
It’s rare that I leave before 7pm and that’s not even counting games. Some days I’ll work from 8am-midnight on a fairly consecutive basis. As an intern you’ll do a bunch of non-glamourous things, but the people who stick around are the people who have paid their dues and it’s a great enjoyment working with people like that.
What is your ultimate career goal?
The pinnacle of our industry would be being an Athletic Director and I would love to reach that place, but I won’t consider it a failure of a career if I don’t reach that point.