Professional basketball is a business and Anthony Macri is no stranger to the basketball or business world. Anthony started his career in basketball at the well-known IMG Basketball Academy as a Business & Sales Manager and moved to work as a Director of Business Development for Pro Training Center, a comprehensive development program for NBA & International basketball players.
When given the opportunity in 2012 to be the Commissioner & CEO of the ASEAN Basketball League, he jumped at the chance. After all, it's not every day you get to lead the first and only regional professional sports league in Southeast Asia. After a few years working on expanding the ASEAN league, he received an offer to come back to the United States as the Vice President of Partnership Marketing for the Memphis Grizzlies. Our team had a chance to chat with Anthony about his journey through basketball and gather some of his advice for individuals looking to build a similar career path.
1) Take us through a day in your role as Vice President of Partnership Marketing for the Memphis Grizzlies.
It depends on the time of year. Right now over these next few months were really locked into bringing into both new partnerships and renewing the relationships we had in place that were up for renewal. A lot of my focus is the strategic oversight of our development people, as well as doing some of my own development.
On the activation side of things right now in particular were focusing on end of year reporting. When it comes to the kind of typical day-to- day this time of year I spend about 60% of my time on new and renewal business. About 40% of my time is split between
overseeing the end of year report process and general administrative management duties for the department.
2) A few years ago you were the Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer of the ASEAN Basketball League. What were some of the key takeaways you learned from this experience?
It was a fantastic experience on the entire opposite side of the world. Basketball there is very much a niche sport. You’ve got a small but very passionate and committed fan base in many of the countries. One of the things you have to learn there is you’ve got to be able to talk about our business. We had to figure out ways to communicate about a sport that we loved and a sport that we felt strongly and passionate about in a place that had not yet developed a critical mass for love of the game.
A lot of our time was spent talking about how we mobilize this smaller subset that was very committed. A lot of it came back to educating our partners and others about the true power of sponsorship. So a lot of it was educating partners on how they develop long-term meaningful customers for life through sponsorship. You have a responsibility with sponsors for why what we do is valuable. We have a tremendous responsibility to teach them why the solutions were providing to them will be impactful and meaningful for their business.
3) What do you feel are the most important management skills to have?
First of all, you’ve got to work harder than the people that work for you. You’ve got to be more committed, always producing at a high level. You’ve got to always model what you’re looking for in the people your managing.
I’m glad to take management tidbits from great managers and this is from Richard Branson. You always got to give the people around you the tools they need to go wherever they want to go in life. The corollary to that is you’ve got to treat them so well they never want to leave. You have to be in control without being controlling. I like hiring smart people and letting them tell me what to do, rather than hiring smart people and telling them what to do.
4) What is the most unique sponsorship campaign you have worked on?
I would pick out one were doing right now and that were in the midst of. In Memphis for a longtime this was the hub for Northwest Airlines. Northwest Airlines was bought by Delta a few years ago. Over the last few years the airport has really taken a hit. We have an
underdeveloped air service in Memphis. This makes it difficult to find a partner on the airline side that makes a lot of sense.
We do have an airport in a need of attracting new flights. We have a relationship with the airport for this past season that will happen for the next two years. Were really focused on building pride in the airport. We’re providing people coming in with a sense of belonging. You don’t hear many teams having a relationship not with an airline but with an airport.
5) What do you feel are the major advantages of having jersey sponsorships?
I think the most visible piece is talking about jersey sponsors. Its not about where there putting the logo. It’s about how you can align a brand with your team in a significant and meaningful way. I think outside of naming rights on the arena the jersey patch relationship
can be the single most significant way to align with our players and with our team. It’s about how you’re going to activate around the logo and how your going to make it relevant to fans. It’s about how you’re going to showcase that relationship beyond putting a patch on the jersey.
6) If you were a college student again, what would you do differently to prepare yourself for a career in the sponsorship industry?
It’s a good question because my degrees and college experience had nothing to do with sports and business. My undergrad degree is in Philosophy and Theology and I have a master’s degree in Systematic Theology.
I’ve always felt like college and what I wanted to do then was what interested me. I applied myself in understanding what those things meant. I always felt like I could succeed in a lot of different areas. I wanted college to be an experience where I got to expand my horizons and learn about things I wouldn’t get to learn otherwise.
When I came out of college I started my career in coaching and moved over to the business side over time. I’m not sure if I would do anything to prepare differently from a college experience. When I was in college part of me now wishes I had gone to law school. The rigor of that kind of education would have helped in bringing a different critical analysis tool to my business life now.
7) What do you look for when evaluating a potential partnership and what do you feel
creates a successful long-term partnership?
We look for a match in three areas. Target market is number one and you need to have a match between who were speaking to and who has passion for the Grizzlies. There has to be a match around target market, so were talking to the same people. Second you want to find a way you can align objectives. Third we are looking for a match in attribute. That one is probably the most difficult one to find but when you do you can create amazing, inspiring campaigns.
The things that define us as a brand are similar to the things that define are partners as a brand. Ultimately what makes it successful is the ability to engage a platform in a way that adds value to both to us as a property and them as a partner, but more than anything else adds
value to the fan experience and enhances the fan experience. If were doing that together with a partnering brand we can always have success.