This interview is presented to you by the University of Nebraska — Lincoln Master of Arts in Business with a Specialization in Intercollegiate Athletics Administration.
By: Travis Gorsch, @tgorsch3
Pat Gallagher is one of the most well respected senior executives in the Bay Area, widely known for his 33-year tenure with the San Francisco Giants. Before he was a Giant, he was somewhat of a small fish in a big pond. Gallagher grew up in San Diego, CA, where he held a job at Sea World. After graduating from high school, he attended San Diego State and Humboldt State for three years working towards an Art degree.
“I really had no grand plan at all. I always thought I wanted to be an artist and possibly teach art in high school or college. Sea World was a place I began working in high school, sweeping up popcorn, directing traffic, driving buses and doing crowd control at shows.”
His summers were spent as an hourly Park Operations employee before he finally got called up to the big leagues at Sea World. He ended up moving almost all the way across the country when he took a job at Sea World of Ohio. He was eventually offered a full-time position in sales. Gallagher realized that his prospective job opportunities as an artist were somewhat limited. As a result, he made the decision to discontinue school with hopes of returning to finish later on. To his disappointment, he never went back to school, which Gallagher said is his one regret.
“In several years, I became an operations supervisor and, after spending a summer as the Operations Manager at Sea World of Ohio, I was offered a full time job in sales; this turned out to be my big break. I was at a crossroads in life. Should I become a starving artist or go into sales? I decided to quit school temporarily, I thought, to take advantage of the opportunity.”
A move back to the West Coast was in order when he was recruited to be the Sales and Promotions Manager at Marine World/Africa USA, a marine-life/African land animal theme park located on the San Francisco peninsula. This is where his career really took off as he developed a reputation for creative marketing campaigns, which added almost a million in annual attendance to the theme park.
This set him up favorably when the San Francisco Giants were looking to hire a Director of Marketing in 1976. Gallagher was hired by the new Giants owner, Bob Lurie, who had bought the Giants saving them from being bought by a Canadian brewery and moved to Toronto. At 27 years old, Gallagher would be hired as the Giants first Director of Marketing, despite only having attended three Major League Baseball games in his life up to that point. The Giants Front Office wasn’t what it is today when Gallagher joined the team. At the time there were a total of 30 people. Today, that has increased drastically to almost 300 people.
“Looking back I was very fortunate to get into professional sports before the term ‘sports marketing’ was even referred to. At that time, teams did little more than print the schedule and put tickets on sale. I was hired to figure out how to ‘put butts in seats’ and generate revenue any way I could. We did promotions, sold sponsorships, and created giveaways to highlight certain games. We used creative advertising, added music, entertainment and figured out ways to make it more fun. I could define it any way I wanted. What could we possibly do to make it more fun at the ballpark? When I came on the scene in 1976, annual attendance was less than 700,000 at the cold and windy Candlestick Park. By 1978, annual attendance had grown by over a million people per year.”
Gallagher gradually was given more responsibilities over the coming years and was named VP of Business Operations in 1981. He spearheaded legendary promotional campaigns featuring the “Croix de Candlestick” to make fun of the often frigid Candlestick weather, “Crazy Crab” the anti-mascot, post-game concerts, and many more zany promotions.
Several campaigns to build a new ballpark in San Francisco and San Jose ultimately failed and the Giants again were up for sale. The team was sold and almost moved to Tampa/St. Petersburg in 1992 but were saved for the Bay Area by an investment group of local civic and business leaders who came together at the last hour. Gallagher was one the few executives asked to stay to make the best of things at Candlestick, while figuring out how to finally solve the new ballpark problem.
“When the new owners took over in 1992, they quickly realized the Giants were hemorrhaging money every year at Candlestick and a new ballpark, even with the significant risk of privately financing it themselves, was the only answer.”
In 1996, a new plan featuring a privately-financed ballpark on a site on San Francisco Bay was unveiled. The key to the plan was figuring out how to finance the proposed $319 million project. Gallagher and his team sold the 20-year naming rights to Pacific Bell for $50 million, secured major sponsorships from Coca-Cola, Visa, Chevron, Old Navy, Anheuser-Busch, Schwab, CHW Healthcare, to name a few.
They also created a new twist on personal seat-licenses and premium seating called Charter Seats, which featured the lifetime rights to the seats. This had never been done to finance a major league baseball park. His team eventually sold 15,000 of them, along with suites and club seats which generated over $75 million in funds devoted to building the park. It was enough to secure financing and break-ground on the new ballpark, which was set to open in April of 2000.
“We created the new ballpark plan but still had to operate the ball club at Candlestick while it was underway. They were challenging and certainly exciting times. To make Candlestick better for fans, we improved customer service, upgraded food and beverage offerings, introduced family-pricing on tickets and certain food & beverage items. We hired the first full time woman PA announcer, put bleachers in left field to make the park seem smaller, introduced the fog horn for home runs, added senior citizen Ball Dudes instead of young girls, and created the Giants Community Fund and Junior Giants program. We tried to make Candlestick Park as friendly as possible while figuring out the new ballpark plan.”
In late 1999, with the ballpark set to open in the next spring, Gallagher became President of Giants Enterprises, a newly created subsidiary to develop profitable non-baseball uses for the soon to open new ballpark. Giants Enterprises held major concerts with the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Dave Matthews Band and other headline acts were set. Amateur and professional football with the East/West Shrine Game, San Francisco Bowl and XFL along with motor sports, ski/snowboard jumping, ice shows, AVP Pro-Beach Volleyball and other spectator events filled the park on non-baseball dates. A thriving non-baseball event business brought high-end events and convention gatherings to fill the rest of the calendar. In 2000, the Giants innovated with the first technology powered secondary ticket market, the ‘Double-Play Ticket Window’ allowing season ticket holders to redistribute their tickets, which eventually became the forerunner to StubHub. In 2009, the ballpark (now named AT&T Park) and the Giants were named Sports Business Journal’s first Sports Facility of the Year.
Gallagher served as President of Giants Enterprises from 1999 until 2009. The Giants not only succeeded in creating what many consider to be one of the best ballparks in America for baseball, but also created an entirely new revenue-generating business in Giants Enterprises, which became the model for many sports organizations to follow. In those 10 years at the helm the Giants hosted over 1,000 non-baseball events netting annual profits of between $1 million and $5 million each year to help make the overall financing plan work.
“There was no example to follow. We just made it up as we went along. As long as what we did would still allow us to play major league baseball at the park, everything else was fair game. It was an entirely new business and it has grown beyond expectations. If anybody had dared dream that the Giants, who almost left the area twice in previous years could privately finance their own ballpark, eventually win three world championships and sell out over 450 consecutive games, they would be considered crazy. The San Francisco Giants story proves that impossible dreams can sometimes come true.”
Gallagher’s work on Super Bowl 50 wasn’t his first experience with football. He was a co-founder of the first Bay Area college football bowl game The San Francisco Bowl (now known as the Foster Farms Bowl), brought the East/West Shrine Game, and the XFL to San Francisco.
“All of my previous experience came into play to help put together a bid for a Super Bowl. A small group of all volunteers put together the bid package, put together the plan, and raised pledges of almost $30 million to convince the NFL owners in May of 2013 to award Super Bowl 50 to the Bay Area. Then we had to figure out how make it happen.”
He traded his Bid Committee Development chairman board hat to become San Francisco Bay Area Super Bowl 50 Host Committee’s EVP of Marketing, Partnerships, & Communications in December of 2013.
“Helping redefine how a Super Bowl would be presented by the Bay Area community was one of the greatest experiences of my career. Raising the necessary partnership funds, assembling the dedicated and talented staff, and helping them develop and execute the overall plan was my reward. I am very proud of what we all delivered together, especially the $13 million awarded to local non-profits. No Super Bowl has ever done that. We set the bar high and working together to clear it with room to spare.”
The 10+ University of San Francisco Sport Management students that worked on the Host Committee as associates flocked to his office. His door was always open unless there was someone in there, which there often times was. Even since the Host Committee has disbanded several of us including myself have continued to meet with him. He even made the introduction for a former Marketing Associate with the Host Committee to go to New York City for an internship with Lead Dog Marketing Group.
“I really didn’t have one mentor, but always appreciated the wisdom and support of the many more experienced people I came in contact with in my early years in the business. I’ve found that the people who are willing to share their experiences and help make certain things in the business less mysterious are the ones worth talking to. I always appreciated it and vowed many years ago to make the time to help others coming up in the business. The people who are too busy to help are usually not worth talking to anyway in my experience. Sometimes the visibility and trappings of success, either real or imagined can make people forget where they came from. This is supposed to be a fun business and part of the fun is helping others.”
“I think you can always learn and the best ideas often come from unexpected places. I like to associate with people I trust, admire and respect and I’ve learned to listen to them. I judge people by my experience with them. I tend to gravitate towards people who I like to call ‘problem solvers’ versus spending too much time with ‘problem creators’.”
In today’s world it’s easier than ever to find information online about someone in a position you may aspire to be like some day. In Gallagher’s opinion there’s no excuse not to stay in touch after the initial contact. However, Gallagher still believes that nothing can replace the human element of a relationship.
“Now being in the digital age, staying in touch is easier than ever. Developing and nurturing your network of colleagues, clients, and those you have interviewed with is a valuable resource. Put energy into staying in touch with people just to see what is happening or when you notice a promotion or job change. Also, as someone who didn’t have the benefit of technology earlier in my career: there is no substitute for face-to-face or voice-to-voice connections. Email, and digital social tools will never be as effective as real, sincere, human contact.”
Finding the right people is one thing but finding the right opportunities is another. Gallagher shared some of the things he looks for in a professional and some things to avoid.
“Opportunities tend to find the people who can either lead or be a part of a team, depending upon what is needed. Being energetic, with a positive attitude and dedicated to making it happen are qualities I look for. Those who let their egos get in the way, with poor work habits and a need to be the center of attention are people I avoid. Sometimes it is good to listen more and talk less.”
“Try to stay current with newspapers such as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and industry publications. There are too many books to recommend but stay inspired by good fiction and non-fiction. Also, watch as many Ted Talks as you can find. They always leave me with something to think about.”
“There are things I have failed at despite good planning, but I always learned something in the process. No failures have been fatal yet.”
Front Office Sports is proud to have sat down with Pat. We would like to thank him for his time and insight and we wish him the best in all his future endeavors. You can follow him on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn.
This interview was presented to you by the University of Nebraska — Lincoln Master of Arts in Business with a Specialization in Intercollegiate Athletics Administration