Jorge Mas is very clear about the collective goal is for Inter Miami CF when it launches in MLS next season.
“Our vision for our franchise is that it becomes MLS’s global brand,” said Mas, the Miami-born businessman who is the managing owner and CEO of the club. “We’re different and we’re here to change the game – we’re not here to do things that are status quo.”
While it has been a slow build towards MLS dating back to the 2013 announcement that David Beckham would be leading the group’s efforts, that process has been jump started since Mas, his brother Jose and SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son all joined the ownership group in 2017. Miami was officially announced as MLS’s 25th franchise in January 2018.
With a scheduled 2020 launch date, the club is building itself from within faster than ever. It has signed its first three players, is expected to name a head coach in the next few weeks, and announced a deal this week with its first corporate partner, Heineken.
That has also extended to the Inter Miami’s front office, which continues to grow at a rapid pace while following the vision that Mas and his fellow owners have charted for the club.
“When you have a blank canvas, it is extremely important that we bring in people that share our vision and who have experience, but also share the same enthusiasm that we have for this opportunity,” Mas said.
That process got off the ground running last fall, when Inter Miami secured two key hires – Atlanta United Vice President of Soccer Operations Paul McDonough as its sporting director overseeing building the roster, and Concacaf Chief Commercial Officer Jurgen Mainka as chief business officer leading all non-soccer operations. It also added Dennis Sprenkle, who had been director of Human Resources at Orlando City SC, as Vice President in the same department.
Mainka, who had previously served in a variety of communications roles in MLS for the New York Red Bulls, Colorado Rapids and New England Revolution, has been tasked with building out all of the club’s business departments, ranging from marketing to commercial partnerships to ticketing and sales.
“As we thought about how we wanted to build the front office, we decided that everything we did needed to fall back on the core elements of the brand we are trying to build,” Mainka said. “We want to be a club that embodies a city and community like South Florida, acting as a reflection of who we are – ultimately our aspiration is to be the most inclusive club in the world.”
Mainka said that focus has led the club to hires that are have a mixture of experience; some who have begun their careers in MLS, to some that have never worked in sports before – but who could all help “challenge the status quo,” he said.
For example, the club’s vice president of communications Jacklyne Ramos joined Inter Miami after serving in senior PR roles at both Orlando City SC and NASCAR. Gabriela Otto, who is the club’s director of brand and marketing, had spent her career in the corporate brand side, most recently at Anheuser-Busch.
Juan Manuel Jimenez, who joined Inter Miami as vice president of content, digital and broadcast after serving as chief commercial officer of sports streaming startup OZ, said being on the ground floor of what the club is aiming to be was a huge allure for him and many other staffers.
“I’ve been involved in many different companies, from startups to very successful long-term ones, and I’ve had a chance to see my work be represented globally, but it didn’t have a local impact,” Jimenez said. “If you look at the history of some of the most famous clubs around the world from Arsenal to Barcelona to Club America, these are things that have become part of the fabric and a building block of their communities that will last hundreds of years long after any of us are alive – to be able to build something that not only is a soccer club, or has a new stadium or gives people a destination but is a new vertical in the community that provides people belonging and a purpose? The opportunity is incredible.”
On the content side, Jimenez said that means Inter Miami needs to “tell the story of the city, dialing into the culture, dialing into the style and doing it in a holistic way when we’re speaking about music, food and lifestyle – it’s about what does it mean to be from Miami, and what attracts people to Miami and to stay in Miami.”
Currently, Inter Miami has 25 staffers, and Mainka said the goal is to reach between 70 and 80 when the season begins. There are still some key positions to be filled, such as stadium general manager, as well as other support roles. The club is also working with agencies to help supplement its existing staff. One such partnership is with Elevate Sports Ventures, who is helping with premium sales and ticketing.
Other new members of the front office staff that report directly to Mainka and lead their respective departments include: Chris Allen, vice president of community engagement; Erik Rask, vice president of commercial partnerships; Rob Zuer, vice president of ticket sales and service; and Roy A. Tewell, III, senior director of ticket sales. Inter Miami has also hired Vincent Wiskowski as senior manager of digital, Ted Brooks as senior manager of content, Ben Silver as manager of commercial partnerships, Alexandra Gonzalez as staff accountant and Paloma Esteban as marketing coordinator.
“We see ourselves as MLS 3.0, and we expect to gain interest from an international audience, sponsors and partners, so we want a front office that reflects that,” Mainka said. “My goal is to create an environment where people can bring their best of their specialties and skills and grow from there, which we think will bring the club to that next frontier.”