When you hear the world 'partnership' and you think of people in that space, it's kind of hard to not bring up Brian Gainor. As one of the first people to help the sponsorship industry become a little more digital media friendly, Brian has become one of the most recognizable names in the field. Starting as a freshman at the University of Florida, Brian volunteered in their Sports Information department and quickly knew he wanted to pursue sports marketing as a career path.
After creating the Partnership Activation newsletter in 2007, Brian really found a way to stick out in the industry. Not only did he provide professionals around the world with interesting and current information, he found a great way to build his personal brand and showcase his expertise in the space. Currently, Brian is the Vice President of Innovation at Chicago-based Property Consulting Group (PCG), working closely with another one of the industry's best in Dan Migala. The Sponsorship Space had a chance to sit down with Brian to really get a deeper understanding of his current role with PCG and his career journey to date.
1) Tell us about your role with PCG. What does the Vice President of Innovation overlook on a daily basis?
At PCG, we specialize in helping sports and entertainment organizations worldwide develop creative strategies that generate revenue and build fans for life. On a day-to-day basis, we provide counsel for teams and leagues as they face increasing pressures from sponsors, owners, media, and fans, and are oftentimes forced think season-to-season. We help them innovate, think differently, and develop short, medium, and long-term strategies designed to create new, sustainable revenue streams. It is such an incredible time to be working in the sports business. There are endless opportunities to help teams build their brand and fan base Internationally, better leverage digital channels (to understand, engage, and monetize their fans), and create new, non-traditional ideas that can be seen & heard by millions across the world thanks to social media. 2) Tell us about your career path and what led you to a career in sponsorship? I began my career as a freshman student volunteering in the Sports Information department at the University of Florida, getting firsthand experience helping with press conferences, writing articles, and providing media relations support at various athletics events. That invaluable experience as a student volunteer for 3-4 years led to opportunities working for the Miami Dolphins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Orange Bowl, and NFL Europe in a variety of capacities. While at the University of Florida, I realized that I wanted to pursue a post-graduate education and was privileged to have the opportunity to attend Ohio University’s Sports Administration program, receiving an MBA/MSA duel degree. My experience in the Ohio University Sports Ad program was a game changing moment for me and my career. It fueled my passion for sports marketing, sponsorship, and revenue generation and enabled me to build an invaluable network of friendships with some of the most talented, amazing people in sports. 3) What are some of the new challenges you face as you lead the Innovation team at PCG? The biggest challenges that I face at PCG on a daily basis are oftentimes the aspects of my job that I absolutely love the most. We work with a diverse portfolio of sports, entertainment, and municipality clients spanning the NBA, NFL, MLB, cricket, motorsports, collegiate athletics, MiLB, etc. and are constantly challenging ourselves and our clients to be bold, take risks, and make ourselves a little uncomfortable. This isn’t always easy but it’s the lifeblood that fuels everything that we do - designing fangagement strategies, creating new, sellable sponsorship ideas and inventory, hosting innovation workshops, and aligning teams’ internal departments to create new, long-term revenue solutions. 4) Being involved in an agency setting for a long time, can you talk about some of your favorite campaigns that you have worked on. What was so special about them? While working at GMR Marketing, I had an opportunity to work hand-in-hand with a vast number of incredible clients and world-class brands but two of my favorites included helping XFINITY develop and launch the Ultimate Sports Social Media Job contest and supporting BP with the development of its Olympic and Paralympic programs, which I consider to be the industry gold standard for supporting and empowering Paralympic athletes. What made the opportunities to work with XFINITY and BP so special was that both, while very different in nature, were meaningful, impactful, and great examples of brands truly invested in pushing the envelope in sports. Here at PCG, I’m inspired on a daily basis by the work we’ve been doing with Cricket Australia to continue to grow the Big Bash League, an entertaining style of cricket designed to attract and engage kids, families, and female fans. In just 5 years, the BBL averages 28,000 fans per match (60%+ families), with over 1 million fans tuning in for each nationally televised match (ratings up 11% YOY). The BBL has been a massive success and will continue to be a benchmark for many leagues and teams worldwide looking to attract and build the generation of fans. 5) You are the founder of the Partnership Activation Newsletter - for those that don't know about it, tell us about it. What made you start the newsletter? What influence have you seen this resource make? I launched the Partnership Activation website and newsletter in 2007 as a means to share creative sports marketing and sponsorship ideas and best practices across the globe. I saw the website and newsletter as a tremendous opportunity to differentiate myself in the industry early in my career, network with others, and share creative ideas and thought leadership. At the time, there were very few resources for sports business professionals worldwide to use to network, find, and share creative sponsorship, marketing, and fan engagement ideas. I think people really gravitated to the Partnership Activation newsletter because it was an interesting, authentic, and easily digestible. It was a resource solely intended to help sports marketers think differently and learn creative, revenue-generating ideas from other teams and leagues across the world. The newsletter has helped open up many doors and create opportunities to develop incredible relationships with thousands of sports marketers across the globe. I am excited to continue to create similar, valuable resources for sports marketers worldwide here at PCG. 6) A few years ago, you were recognized under Forbes 30 Under 30 - that must have been a special moment for you. What was going through your mind? It was an honor to be recognized by Forbes but also a huge eye opener to see the amazing impact other millennials are making across the world. Each year Forbes hosts an annual 30 Under 30 Summit and it’s remarkable to see the work single individuals are doing to save, feed, and positively impact the lives of millions across the globe. The Forbes 30U30 network inspires me to want to do more and find ways to give back and help others. 7) Lots of young sponsorship professionals are looking to make their mark in the industry - what is your advice to these promising rising stars? My best advice for aspiring sports business professionals would be to think of yourself as a brand, identify and act on your core strengths and passion points, gain as much experience as fast as you can, network and learn something new every day, and do all the little things that make a big difference. I look to hire individuals who are passionate, eager to learn, reliable, humble, and honest. It’s important to have a vision for where you want to be in 10-15 years and a plan for how to get there. Hopefully my next hire will be a young, aspiring professional reading this article that will become our next rising star at PCG!