This interview is presented to you by the University of Nebraska - Lincoln Master of Arts in Business with a Specialization in Intercollegiate Athletics Administration
By Chase Kostellic, @kostellic
Front Office Sports is proud to have sat down with Tony Brown, Director of Digital Marketing and Design at the Louisville Bats, Triple-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds. Brown is a native of Dayton, Ohio, who graduated in 2007 from the University of Dayton with a B.S. in Sports Management. His journey is one that proves it is possible to do what you love in sports and start a family at the same time.
As a freshman at the University of Dayton, the sports management program he was in required him to have an internship in sports business. He quickly landed with the Dayton Dragons, Single-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds. He started working in catering services, serving fans in the club level seats. From there, he got in contact with the front office and got into ticket sales, where we worked during his final three years of college.
Upon graduating, he decided it was time to expand his horizons and see what another team had to offer. After sending out applications, he landed with the Louisville Bats. Little did he know, one full season of being an intern there would lead to him being hired as full-time account executive and developing a career with the team that has lasted for more than a decade.
After five years as an account executive, the Bats organization noticed that Brown was skilled in the field of marketing and digital design, and decided to give him a chance at being the Director of Digital Marketing and Design. Seeing this side of sports business as his forte, he was eager to get started and has held this position ever since then.
As the Director of Digital Marketing and Design, Brown holds a lot of responsibilities that he loves to take on every day. These responsibilities include handling all of the digital marketing, managing interns during the season, working with sponsors, helping with social media, and advertising through all the different mediums. He also still has his hand in the sales side, working with renewing season ticket holders. During games, he holds a customer service role by making himself available to fans to ensure an overall positive experience, all while overseeing the individuals who run the video board.
For Brown, his love for sports began during his youth and there was no doubt from the beginning that he wanted to work in this field.
“Growing up, I was a big fan of watching and playing sports. I used to pull out my baseball cards all the time and act like a general manager. One day my dad said, ‘you’re going to work in sports and be a general manager.’ Now, that’s of course extremely difficult, especially if you take a path that I took.”
The words from his father would hold true and those, mixed with the program and opportunities offered by the University of Dayton have allowed Brown to pursue his lifelong dream.
“From that point, I continued to fall in love with sports. I kept paying attention to what was going on, especially with the Reds. When I went into school at the University of Dayton and they presented me with the sports management program, I was introduced to the business side of things and really fell in love with it. It has led to where I’m at now and is the reason I’m doing what I’m doing.”
Working in sports requires a lot of risks and time, which is something Brown has been able to balance with his young family. It’s something that he’s proud of and keeps in mind with his current situation.
In regards to where he sees himself going, Brown stated, “It’s a little different now that I have a couple kids and a wife. Sports are unique in the fact that if you’re going to do something different, you’re most likely going to be moving. It’s something to where that really plays a major factor on whether you’re going to stick with the same place or do something with someone else.”
Although Brown is very happy working with the Bats, he is not cancelling out any future plans. He’s living in the moment and embracing every aspect of it.
“Honestly, I like working for the Bats. I think it’s great. They’re very successful in the Minor League. If I were to try to do something else, it would be something at the next level, but maybe more of a specialized role.”
Even with the idea of a specialized role being his next step, he still loves all of the different responsibilities that he’s able to have in the Minor League.
“In Minor League Baseball, you wear a lot of hats, and I enjoy it. It presents the opportunity to learn more on how everything functions. If I were to stay here, one day I’d like to be the general manager of the team or be able to run the entire organization. If I were to go to a major league team, a goal would be to be a VP of Marketing.”
Working in sports can present some very rewarding aspects. Brown has experienced these rewards on both a personal and professional level.
“I feel lucky. When you work in sports, you’re doing something where a lot of people envy you. I don’t find the fact that people envy me rewarding, but the fact that I’m in a line of work where instead of going to an office building every day, I come to a baseball park. To be able to go from the Dragons to the Bats and say that I’ve stuck with it and the baseball industry is really rewarding. To be able to raise a family and do something that a lot of people would want to be doing is a great accomplishment.”
While rewarding experiences are great, this field of work comes with challenges as well. For Brown, his challenges go hand-in-hand with his rewarding experiences.
“The one thing about minor league baseball is, again, that you wear a lot of hats. As things change, such as digital communication, there’s not a huge opportunity to get the education on those topics. You have to learn that stuff on your own, and there’s no real time to go out and learn it. It’s straight to the fire. It’s rewarding in that I’ve developed this knowledge of digital marketing, but it’s been a big challenge.”
In conjunction with trying to keep up with all the changes of sports business, Brown points out that the amount of time you spend keeping everything afloat can be an overwhelming challenge in itself.
“There are a lot of hours you spend working in baseball during the season. You don’t just go, get things done and get out. You spend a lot of time at the ballpark.”
Like many sports business professionals, Brown recommends putting a substantial emphasis on internships while in school.
“I would really recommend doing as much as you possibly can, even if it’s in a limited role. Do as much as you can while you’re in school. I get applications and resumes for my internship every year, and the one thing that really stands out, is the amount of sports experience that an individual has.”
Internships don’t come knocking at the door of aspiring sports business professionals. It’s imperative to build and grow in every way possible to help your chances of getting your desired position.
“For me, personally, the kind of person I’m looking for has an understanding of what the baseball industry is going to require. This includes knowledge of the game and the many hours you’re going to have to work. They have to understand the amount of effort it requires. If they go out there and get that experience right away, it will work in their favor. You will have an advantage if you have experience built during school. Just go out there and do it. Do as much as you possibly can.”
Brown left us with strong closing advice, noting that you can carve a great path with the right mindset and work ethic.
“Have a realistic expectation, especially going into your first job. A lot of students think they were going to make it to the big leagues immediately. You need to make sure you know how to work your way up in the sports industry. It’s going to take some internships before you’re hired on full-time. You just have to give it time. Do your best and people will realize it.”
We would like to extend a huge thank you to Tony Brown for taking the time to speak with us and share his knowledge. We wish him and his family all the best.
Brown is open and eager to answer any questions or further discuss his journey and current role. You can email him at email@example.com or connect with him on LinkedIn.
This interview was presented to you by the University of Nebraska - Lincoln Master of Arts in Business with a Specialization in Intercollegiate Athletics Administration