Updated: Feb 16
Anthony Pardo is a lifelong baseball fan who always envisioned that he’d become a big-time baseball writer. But after completing his bachelor’s degree in Journalism, he pivoted to a career in sponsorship at the Office of the Commissioner of Major League Baseball. Now a 14-year league veteran, Anthony is currently the Director of Partnership Activation in the sponsorship group. He also serves as co-President of the MLB SOMOS Business Resource Group and was recently recognized as one of Prospanica New York’s 20 Top Latinx Leaders of 2020.
The Sponsorship Space had the opportunity to speak with Anthony to learn about his professional journey, the shifts within MLB and their partnerships during 2020, and how these changes will continue in years to come.
Q: When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up? Did you always know you wanted to work in sports?
For as far back as I can remember, I always wanted to become a baseball writer. I majored in journalism in college with eyes on becoming the next Buster Olney or Peter Gammons. While in college, I got to write and cover local sports for a newspaper in the area, New York Newsday, and it was an amazing experience. However, despite all the bylines I collected, the experience made the lightbulb go off for me and I realized that though I still wanted to be in sports, specifically in baseball, I didn’t want to become a sportswriter. The question was how?
As fate would have it, my first job out of college landed me at MLB. I started out in the mailroom, which, for someone unsure of what my career path would be, was the best opportunity I could have asked for in order to understand the organization. I interacted with practically everyone in the league office and learned about the organization as a whole and its composition of varying business functions. This role ultimately afforded me the opportunity to make tons of relationships and about a year later, I moved to the marketing and brand advertising group where I spent three years before moving into sponsorship.
Q: Tell us more about your role as Director of Partnership Activation?
As Director of Partnership Activation, I oversee the day-to-day management for some of our key partnerships such as Gatorade, Lysol, and Google to name a few. I also oversee some of the media partnerships across MLB.com and MLB Network, and some of the digital media campaigns for our 30 clubs. In addition, I help lead our overall Jewel Event activations with the host clubs during All-Star Week and during the Postseason. Lastly, I supervise part of a team of more than 20 partnership activation coordinators and managers. The role is robust and I’m super appreciative of the opportunity to touch on so many different parts of our business.
Q: Tell us about your role in MLB’s new long-term strategic partnership announced at the start of the Postseason with Lysol and how it was the right fit.
It’s been exciting to work on this partnership with Lysol, particularly because it’s a very timely one. Given the newfound importance to promote and reinforce disinfection protocols across baseball, the partnership with Lysol came at the right time when we were entering the Postseason bubble. It is the first of its kind partnership and integrating them into the baseball family during the grand stage of October couldn’t have been better scripted.
Q: How did partner activations and communication with partners adapt this past season?
Obviously, the pandemic affected sports and partnerships everywhere in 2020. From a communication standpoint, there wasn’t too much of a change because we frequently touch base with partners, but it was more so ensuring that we frequently communicated updates during this time. We had more Zoom calls than ever before, which really helped in terms of maintaining that human element to the client relationship.
From the activation end, we pride ourselves on being nimble, and with a shortened season that’s exactly what we tried to do. We went from 162 to 60 games, so we worked with our partners to find new ways to activate their partnerships in light of the changes. We put a major focus on leveraging our digital platforms to help give our partners significant exposure during an exciting but truncated season.
Q: MLB has a chance now to become even more involved in the fight for racial justice in America. How do you see yourself playing a role in moving the needle forward with the league’s commitment to diversity and inclusivity in the partnership space and beyond?
I currently serve as the co-president of our Latinx business resource group (BRG), SOMOS, which stands for “we are”. The BRGs mission is to create relevant programming to optimize the employee experience at the league office and to serve as a focus group for any business function targeting the Latinx audience. In that role, I have become very passionate about promoting the inclusive environment that MLB has already established and is trying to grow even further. We are constantly trying to have these difficult and important conversations to educate and fortify our place as a leader in diversity and inclusion both internally with our employees, and externally as a sport.
As it relates to our partnerships, we see Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion as a major priority for many brands and we are ready to work with any of our partners in that space. As we continue to have these conversations with partners, we are trying to have them intentionally. By intentionally, I mean not just because this conversation is timely, but with the intention of continuing to move MLB forward as a social institution creating change and when applicable, creating that change in partnership with our brands.
Q: Having the first-ever neutral-site Postseason/World Series, how did you manage and execute new activation opportunities with MLB Partners and agencies?
This was definitely a Postseason unlike any other and a year to remember in so many ways.
The bubble format challenged us to create unique signage opportunities for our partners in spaces that we had previously not used. This helped them gain additional exposure, such as the virtual signage behind the pitcher’s mound. We were pleased with our ability to execute these new camera visible locations during an October that featured an expanded Wild Card round, a pair of 7 game League Championship Series, and a thrilling World Series.
Additionally, whether it was a home run or defensive plays, we found new ways to incorporate partners in new highlight-based content series that captured the essence and excitement around the Postseason and lived across all our digital platforms.
Q: MLB historically attracts an older fan base. How do you hope to connect with younger fans through partner activations?
As a league, we have worked hard to change that narrative over the last few years. From a social standpoint, we are always trying to find new ways of engaging our fans with content that highlights exciting moments and our young stars. We tap into our partners to align themselves with this content across all our social channels in reaching this audience.
From an MLB.TV prospective, which brings games to fans on their preferred devices, our partners constantly have a presence in the product so they’re reaching millions of fans during a period when fans are streaming games at an all-time high.
Additionally, our new MLB Originals YouTube content series saw 81% of its viewers were 34 and under. Putting out this content on a platform like YouTube, where that younger demographic is going to consume it, created another vertical where our partners can have a seat at the table to help us continue to reach that younger demo
Q: To date, what is one of your proudest accomplishments professionally?
This past October, I participated in a virtual panel discussion that was hosted by the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month. The panel celebrated the work and accomplishments of Latinx individuals working in baseball. It was truly an honor to participate and talk about my career, how I got to where I am, and the work I'm doing both in my day-to-day role and the BRG. It was a cool experience and now I’m permanently a part of the Smithsonian’s digital archives.
Another accomplishment I’m proud of was also this past October when I was named one of Prospanica New York’s 20 Top Latinx Leaders of 2020. Prospanica NY is an organization that advocates for advancing diversity and empowering Latinx leaders in business to excel in their respective fields. It was humbling to be recognized for my accomplishments as a leader for my work at MLB and I’m proud that I’ve been able to achieve further representation of Latinxs in my industry.
Q: If you could tell a young Anthony Pardo who was starting out his career one piece of advice, what would it be?
I’d tell my younger self that patience and relationship management will take you where you want to go.
I’d tell myself how essential it is to be patient as opportunities present themselves. To work at a pace that is optimal for my performance, not just to be the fastest to get things done. To be patient in not only how to approach the day-to-day job but also patience in continuing to grind as all the hard work eventually pays off.
I’d tell myself that relationship management is key to driving successful partnerships as well as building internal and external relationships with key stakeholders. The element of building relationships and making sure you continue to cultivate them as time goes on is so important.
Q: What is one of the first things you are eager to do again post Covid-19?
Well, that's obvious, it would be attending a baseball game with friends! The other is to go on vacation as I was planning to go back to Europe this year and it got postponed due to the pandemic, so looking forward to when I’m able to get that trip back on the books!