Career Success With The Warriors' SVP Brandon Schneider
Brandon Schneider is in his 14th season with the Warriors organization, his second as senior vice president, business development after serving two seasons as group vice president of ticket sales & services, and three seasons as vice president, ticket sales and services. In his current role, Schneider is responsible for all strategic planning and execution related to the organization’s ticket and suite sales, services, and operations efforts. He also manages the team’s retail business both online and at Oracle Arena, and remains laser focused on continuing to improve the overall fan experience at Oracle Arena. Brandon is leveraging his experience with the team in working with architects and the design team in ensuring the Warriors execute on their plan of building a world class arena in San Francisco.
The Sponsorship Space had the opportunity to sit down with Brandon to discuss the success and journey of the Golden State Warriors while asking him a few questions about his career path and advice for young professionals.
1) The sports industry is known for people jumping from property to property in order to advance their careers, but you’ve been able to stay with the Golden State Warriors for 14 seasons. What has attributed to your loyalty and/or continued success with the Golden State Warriors?
When you say I’ve been fortunate, that is the case now. Over my first probably nine or ten years, I’m not sure if that's the word people would have used to describe working for the Warriors. We had a stretch of 18 years where we made the playoffs one time and obviously we play in a league where 16 out of 30 teams make it. What I would say - first and foremost, I love what I do. I love working for the Warriors and what I do for the Warriors. Business is the people that you work with and I’m fortunate to work with great people here. And I would also say I have been very fortunate to have the opportunity to grow through the years.
I started in Ticket Sales, my first job out of college back in 2002, and less than 2 years in I was promoted to a management role. In my 14 years, I have actually held eight different job titles. That's the thing, in this day in age with millennials, everyone wants the opportunity to grow. For me, it's being challenged on a day to day basis. No two days are the same. Every day I come to work and feel like I am learning something new, and am progressing as a professional but just as an individual, a human being as well.
2) Times are exciting with the Golden State Warriors having won the NBA Championship last year, in the midst of another record breaking season and a new stadium on the horizon– How have you seen the market respond from a sales standpoint? What surprises you the most about the response? If you had the foresight of this a few years ago, how would you have prepared differently?
It's definitely been an unbelievable run and something we definitely don't take for granted. It’s been incredible to see the response from the market. Some of the numbers, to give you a sense of what we've seen and how we've been able to take advantage of it from a sales standpoint - we have had 172 sell outs in a row, the 1st one was December 18, 2012, not that I'm counting. We are sold out of season tickets, we've got 14,500 season ticket holders and then the number that seems to resonate with people is we have over 25,000 on a paid season ticket priority waitlist. We have enough people on our waitlist to in essence fill the arena 1 or 2 more times. It is huge! And you ask what has been the most surprising - overall, we have been the most surprised by the continued fervor of our fans. This is our 4th successful year in a row on the court, 2 playoff years in a row, won the championship last year and are obviously having an incredible year here this year. When you go to Oracle Arena, every game feels like you're in game 7 of the NBA Finals.
Some other metrics to look at is the secondary ticket market, which for us is a really good measure of market demand for our tickets and our product. We continue to see larger volume and higher prices. We're seeing this year, on average, more than 6,000 tickets per game are transacting on our site through the secondary market, at prices more than double what season ticket holders paid. Prices continue to go up, fans' excitement continues to go up - it's incredible that it continues to build.
You asked if we had the foresight, but this was all part of the plan, we were well prepared.... no, I am just kidding. Through my first 10 years here, going through the ups and downs, mostly downs of on court performance - we've learned that you have to be consistent in your principles and how you run your business. For us, the key is focusing on creating a superior fan experience regardless of demand situation. Building into this, we’ve always worked so hard and we've had to make this a fun experience to go to a game at Oracle Arena. Being able to continue those principles has been huge as we talk about a 365-day fan experience. Overall, the bottom line is, if you wait until the team is good to start investing and building the foundation - by then it is too late and you sort of missed the bus. For teams, it's putting principles in place so that when the team gets good, you are ready to go.
3) People are all in on the Golden State Warriors - What have you implemented that differentiates your fan experience from the rest of the industry? How will that change/be enhanced with the new stadium?
Within sport and within the NBA in particular, we're really fortunate because we have 29 other NBA teams that do the same thing that we do - but we are not competitors. We are on the court, of course, but we're not competing with the Minnesota Timberwolves or Memphis Grizzlies to sell tickets, suites or even really corporate partnerships. We’ve been able to learn from what other teams have done and make it our own.
For us, it's been a huge investment on the fan experience - dollar investment, time and attention to detail. I have been to probably 15-16 other NBA arenas over the past few years as we gather information to build ours, and I've been fortunate to compare what we do to what other teams do. For instance, the pregame introduction - if you go to a Warriors games, you are ready for the night based on our announcement of players, national anthem, intro video, corporate partner integration, fireworks going off in the arena - it's an incredible experience that sets that stage. The financial investment has been huge too, that even though we are building a new arena, we put in a new scoreboard a couple of years ago, we built two new club areas, we built two new suite products this past year. Every year we have invested 7-figures to continue to create the best possible fan experience.
From the standpoint of having an impact in the community - it goes beyond our Warriors Foundation and our community relations group, which both do a great job, but we've worked with them to turn a season ticket holder event into a charity event. We invited all season ticket holders, the team, the coaches, the Front Office and prepared 20,000 lunches to be distributed through #LunchBag. All guests were asked to bring gifts to donate and we had the team store open, with 20% of all proceeds going back to our Foundation. We created a scenario where fans feel like they are part of what we are giving back to the community too, which has been huge as well.
4) Of all the employees you’ve worked with throughout your career – What characteristics impress you the most about individuals you admire, whether they report to you or you report to them?
The first thing that comes to mind is passion - when we are looking to hire somebody, or even the people you want to be around building the business, people that love what they do and put their heart and soul into every day, those that will run through a wall for the Warriors - those are the kinds of people I want to be around and we are fortunate to have a lot of those people here. I'd also mention teamwork and collaboration. From a collaborative standpoint, the idea is that it doesn't matter whose idea it is. If all of the decisions are coming from me, then someone help us, we have major problems. If all the ideas are coming from our management group, that's a little bit better but not great. It needs to be from A-Z, everyone has a voice and everyone has a perspective, so creating a culture where everyone has a voice to be able to shape strategy, direction and what we are doing on a day to day basis is huge. When I say teamwork - everyone wants to make money, grow their career and think about their own situation - but for people that are genuinely acting with the best interest of the organization in mind at all times, that’s something I respect a lot and that is crucial to our success.
5) Working in the sports industry is can be a grind regardless of your department – How have you been able to stay engaged in your career and avoid burnout?
I have missed ten home games in the last fourteen years. When you talk about games, I have been to quite a few. The first time I met Jerry West, he said "if you find something you love, you will never work a day in your life" [I think he stole that from someone else by-the-way]. I couldn't agree with that more and it is spot on. Loving what you do and constantly pushing to improve and add more value to the organization. What I do evolves over time, day to day and month to month.
A lot of it is mindset - you can think of it as a grind, you can look at the glass half empty or you can look at it half full. You wake up every day, what is the mindset you're in when you're coming to work? I come in - I am in a good mood, I am ready to rock and roll, positive & optimistic. Those are the kinds of people you want to be around professionally and clients want to deal with sales people that are positive, glass half full people.
6) Having grown your career in sports, what advice do you have for sports industry colleagues looking to get to the next step in their career?
When I started here, we didn't have Inside Sales, so I was a ticket sales account executive. I knew I wanted to grow and knew I didn't want to do that job for the rest of my life, but I didn't really have it pinpointed as to what my next step looked like to get promoted. It was more living in the moment. I didn't have a sense of entitlement; I came in every day, did the absolute best I could, everything that was asked of me and more, and just worked to the be the very best at what I did. We had a sales board in our area that every time they sold something, they updated the board. And I could feel someone at the board every time and every time someone else made a sale, it was pushing me. I was hell-bent on being the #1 sales person. Live in the moment and do the best you can at what you are doing. Don't get caught up in "oh I need to be promoted in X amount of time". Do everything you can do to put yourself in that position. The other thing I hear sometimes is "where am I going to go? XYZ is never leaving and there will never be an opportunity". What I tell people is that if you wait until there is an opening, a clear opportunity, it is too late.
Also, have the right mentors - work for the right people. If you can put yourself in a position where you are learning from great people, that is huge. And network! Get to know as many people within sports as you can. It's a small industry and there are only so many teams and spots per team but getting to know more people will make you better at your role and keep you apprised of opportunities to grow in the future.
7) You have accomplished a lot in your career. - What’s your proudest accomplishment?
When the Warriors won the 2014 Sports Business Journal Team of the Year - that was pretty amazing. It was a testament to all of the hard work and dedication that we had put forth as a team. We took a franchise that had been near the bottom of the NBA and we are in a place now where we are so well respected both on and off the court. Also being able to say I’m part of a championship organization both on and off the court is pretty awesome!
8) For someone that has climbed the corporate ladder so quickly, I can’t imagine you’ve reached the pinnacle of your career - What haven’t you achieved that you’re still trying to? How do you plan for this?
I have so much to achieve, I feel like I am just getting started. For me, I strive every day to get better - as a professional and a human being. I feel like I have so much to learn and am fortunate to work for such a great organization. I try to be as much of an asset for the organization as I possibly can. How you plan for this? It's working to be the best that you can be every day. You never know what the next opportunity is going to be - so becoming as well rounded as you can, learning as much as you can, and helping the organization in as many different ways as possible will put you in the best position.
9) In an industry that everyone is either looking to get into or get promoted within, what would you say is your differentiator?
The first thing that comes to mind is work ethic. When we interview people, everyone likes to talk about how hard they work. But when it comes down to it, only certain people are willing to really commit themselves. For me, and sometimes to a fault, I put this above all else. I will do whatever it takes to succeed. Something Joe Lacob said the first time he spoke with the staff was "I am looking for people that are 365, 24/7"; I smiled because that's how I do it. I would never say to someone I don't have the bandwidth for that or the time to do that; that's never a consideration.
Also, having an analytical mind; analytics is such a buzzword in sports now-a-days. Everyone wants to talk about analytics. Lots of teams are hiring huge analytics teams. But what it comes down to us how you actually use the data and analytics to drive business. For the Warriors, there is not a decision we make without using data and analytics to help us form and make the decision. Some people say data is driving decisions, which I think is close. I like to say data informs decisions because I don’t think data gives you the answer, but it helps does you get to the right answer. With us, we have been leaders within the industry on using data when it comes to pricing tickets. Pricing tickets is such an underrated, but probably one of the most important things that you do as a company. Optimizing prices to create the right experience for the fans but also to maximize prices.
I have a relentless drive to always learn and get better. I am never satisfied with where I am. I love what I do, I love my current job. But I am always working to take on more and become more of an asset for the organization
10) You are an owner in the expansion MLS team in SoCal, Los Angeles Football Club. How do you envision your industry expertise adding value to what LAFC is building in the City of Angels?
I am excited to help LAFC as much as I can, and as much as they want me to. I think about the relationship - we have 35 owners with the Warriors, and I have been able to get to know all of them. All great people and all willing to help us. I think about what that dynamic looks like for us as I think about what that looks like for LAFC. We are in the process of designing, building a new arena in San Francisco, obviously LAFC is going through that same process. There are a lot of synergies there, where I can help with similar experiences that we have had. I came up with the ticket group with the Warriors, oversee suites, retail; so working a lot with Corey [Breton] and Jamie [Guin] on things like building a wait-list scenario, sales planning, timing, logistics, pricing, staffing, all those sort of things, how to manage up to ownership and get the resources that you need. I am someone who can kind of play both sides of the fence.