Industry Insider: Bernard J. Mullin

By Apostolopoulou, Artemisia | Sport Marketing Quarterly, December 2011 | Go to article overview

Industry Insider: Bernard J. Mullin


Apostolopoulou, Artemisia, Sport Marketing Quarterly


Title: Chairman and CEO, The Aspire Group Inc. (2008-present)

Education: PhD in business, University of Kansas

MBA and MS in marketing, University of Kansas

BA in business studies, Coventry University, UK

Career: President/CEO, Atlanta Hawks (NBA), Atlanta Thrashers (NHL), and Philips Arena (2004-2008)

SVP-Marketing and Team Business Operations, National Basketball Association (2000-2004)

Vice Chancellor of Athletics, University of Denver (1995-1999)

President/General Manager, Denver Grizzlies (International Hockey League) (1993-1995)

SVP-Business, Colorado Rockies (MLB) (1991-1993)

SVP-Business Operations, Pittsburgh Pirates (MLB) (1986-1990)

Professor of sport management and marketing, University of Massachusetts, Amherst (1977-1986)

Q: In December 1994, Sport Marketing Quarterly published the profile of Bernard J. Mullin, President/COO of the Denver Grizzlies. What were your expectations for the sport industry at that time? Has the current state of the industry surprised you and, if so, in what way(s)?

Mullin: Wow! That's such a long time ago, I am not sure that I remember my expectations. I knew for me personally, for my career growth, that if I was going to be a major league team president/CEO I needed to gain experience overseeing the team side as well as the business side, and that's clearly what I gained the most from those two wonderful years in the IHL.

The current state of the industry has surprised me mainly with how much the size of teams' "front office" staff has grown and, of course, how much we rely on technology today for everything we do. Probably the biggest area is in performance analytics on both the sports side and the business side.

Q: Of all the positions you have held throughout your career, which one was your favorite and why?

Mullin: The Denver Grizzlies was by far and away the most enjoyable. That's because of the wonderful owners-David Elmore and Donna Tuttle, the inclusiveness of our head coach, Butch Goring, and the fact that we were truly one small and happy family with no wall separating the team from the staff. Of course going 72-20-6 and winning every trophy the league had to offer didn't hurt either!

Q: How have sport consumers evolved over the years that you have been involved in the sport industry? What do you think is the key to the heart of sport consumers?

Mullin: I believe that sports consumers are much more sophisticated and much more demanding than ever before, and no longer willing to accept "one-size" fits all. Today, we must "mass-customize" our product and our content. Handling this "oxymoron" is probably the key to sport marketing's future-produce content and experiences on and off the field/ice or court en masse but at the same time provide bespoke solutions to everyone's sport entertainment needs and demands. But in this latter respect, nothing has changed-we need to really, really listen to our fans/partners or customers (guests as we call them in the Disney parlance), and then give them exactly what they want .... within reason obviously!

Today's fan base is more fragmented than ever before, as is society as a whole, and you have to have niche products delivered on so many different platforms (digital, electronic, social, and mass media). The way to the guest's heart is the "Two Cs." Give them a connection to the players/coaches and the team brand and provide a sense of community or belonging. In my opinion, MLS is probably doing this right now better than anyone else in North America and probably including all of the rest of the world as well.

Q: Your career has been filled with numerous examples of financial turnarounds and record breaking sales performances. What is your favorite success story? What were some common themes in all those success stories?

Mullin: Oh gosh, I have been very blessed in my career-all of my assignments were fun and even though this might come across as a "cop-out," they were all my favorites. …

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