By: Adam White, @FOSAdam
Front Office Sports is proud to have sat down with Mark J. Burns, Operations Coordinator in Talent Marketing for CSE. In his spare time, Mark is also a Sports Business Contributor for Forbes.com and Entrepreneur.com. He is an alumnus of the University of Michigan where he received his Bachelor’s degree as well as Belmont University where he received his Juris Doctor. Named a 'Rising Star' and a Twitter 'Must Follow' by Partnership Activation, along with being Named a 30 Under 30 Award Recipient for Sports Launch Magazine, Mark is one of the up and coming professionals in the industry and he was gracious enough to offer up his time and insight about how writing helped jumpstart his career, why attending sports conferences are so important, and why a positive attitude is key for success in sports.
How has contributing for so many sports media outlets jump-started your career and helped you become a better and well-rounded sports professional?
He was very nostalgic and appreciative of his experience in writing saying, “I’ve loved writing since I was in college and I have held numerous positions since then for companies and websites such as Forbes, Sporting News and SportsAgentBlog.com.” He also credits his writing with being something that helped jump-start his career to where it is today saying, “Writing has helped me showcase my knowledge of the sports business industry. Also, I think it shows employers and hiring managers that I have my finger on the pulse on everything sports business related — whether it’s marketing, social media, technology or the agency world. And because I have been writing, I have been able to talk to people that, at my age, I probably had no business talking to. I was talking to CEOs, team Presidents, Athletic Directors, SVPs and other top-tier executives.”
He was also quick to point out, that when he was writing he was able to elevate himself and his knowledge saying, “Because I was writing for Forbes, this gave me an elevated platform to reach out to somebody. It has really given me the opportunity to connect with people in the industry, to broaden my network and to really allow me to share stories and stay updated on everything that is going on in the sports business world.”
What is a normal day like for you? What are some of your day-to-day challenges?
Like most other sports industry personnel, he noted, “There is no normal day, just because you never know what is going to occur on any given day.” Although many of his experiences are different depending on the day, he did point out that there are still similarities saying, “Some days we do a lot of research, other days we conduct lots of phone calls with clients and companies. There are usually a few commonalities between most days and that is there are always a plethora of emails to be sent and calls to be had.”
He also pointed out the fun part of his job, which, in his opinion, is going to the events, saying, “Last Saturday I had to drive to Chattanooga, Tennessee to meet with a client at a speaking engagement to make sure everything went smoothly.”Although to many, working in sports seems like all play and no work, he was quick to elucidate the fact that there are many challenges when it comes to working in sports saying, “ I always have to know what’s going on. There is so much juggling to do from the different responsibilities that come with all of the different needs of the clients and making sure they are happy. It’s common to get a text from a client at 10pm at night asking a question or just to see what you are working on for them.”
Sports have become a 24/7 industry. What are some things you like to do to make sure you have a good balance between work and your personal life?
Like many others, Mark struggles with finding a way to leave work at work saying, “I try to work out at least 4-5 days a week. I use it as a way to clear my mind from work as best I can. It’s hard to completely break away. It is just a constant battle that you’re always fighting.”
To succeed in the 21st century sports business world, what steps do you recommend students take?
When trying to break into the industry, there were a few steps Mark recommended taking. The first was to determine what you want to do ASAP because “The earlier you decide what you want to do the better. The sooner you find that out, the easier it is to move forward.”
He also suggested that you try to build relationships as often as possible saying, "Try to have one phone call or one coffee meet up with someone in sports every week or 2-3 times a month. You won’t be able to maintain all of those relationships but there will be some people who will take great interest in you and you might find a new mentor.”
Finally, he is a firm believer in attending a sports conference, saying “Go to a sports business conference every year you’re in school. There are so many great ones this time of year and many schools actually have their own. These are great ways to build your network and create relationships, and besides a good skill set, relationships and networking are the single most important aspect of sports.
If you were to hire someone today what traits would the ideal candidate need to have to succeed in today’s sports industry?
When looking for the ideal candidates, Mark was adamant about what traits a good employee would need to have saying, “Always have energy, a positive outlook and a smile on your face. He also pointed out, that you must “Bring value everyday to what you’re doing. If you bring value one day, people will appreciate it for about five minutes and then expect the same value to be brought the next day. You have to be consistent.”
What is one book you think all students today should read?
An avid reader, Mark recommended a book by well-known author Jon Gordon, going on to say that, “I really enjoyed the most recent book I read and that was “The Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work, and Team with Positive Energy by Jon Gordon. My boss recommended it to me so I decided to listen to it on the way up to Chattanooga. It’s a great book that basically outlines ways to always be full of energy and to have a positive outlook on life.”
How do you see the agency/legal aspect of sports continuing to evolve?
Since he is currently working for CSE, we decided to dabble into his current realm and ask him how he saw the evolution continuing. He responded by providing us with an answer that couldn’t be more pertinent in today’s agency landscape saying, “The one big thing would be the expectation from clients and what they expect from an agency. Even just five years ago, you would talk to your agent maybe once a week and they would do marketing deals here or there. Today you have full service agencies that can provide everything from your contract and marketing to handling different aspects of an athlete’s foundation to organizing golf outings to building a press/media plan for a specific client. Clients expect a wide entrée of services in 2015.”
"Somebody once told me that the sports industry is 3 blocks long by 3 blocks wide, but honestly it feels like it’s 2 blocks long by 1 block wide. It’s crazy how intertwined and small the sports world is."
"Bring a lot of energy to your internship, job and all aspects of your life. People feed off of that positivity."
"Look into starting a website or some place where you can write and share your knowledge about a certain area of sports business. A mentor of mine, Darren Heitner, did with this SportsAgentBlog.com almost 10 years ago, and it served as a springboard for the rest of his career. It’s not a hard concept, but it can be so rewarding. It’s amazing that more people don’t take advantage of it."
A colleague at CSE recently told me, “We don’t want you to bring 110% one day, because that means the next day, you’ll bring 70-80%. We want a consistent 100% effort everyday and if you do that, you will be successful.”
"Build strong relationships wherever you go. It is always great to have people who will advocate for you!"
"Constantly prove yourself — there are hundreds of people out there who would do your job for half your pay, make sure your employer knows they made the right choice."
"Just because you’re a sports fan, have a love for sports or you used to play sports, doesn’t mean the sports business industry is right for you. You have to have some type of skill set to work in sports. It isn’t about being a fan.”
Ask yourself, “What can I do on a daily basis to differentiate myself?”
We would like to thank Mark for his time and insight into the sports business world!