When the Right Path is a Circus

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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: Justin Mears, @jmears26

Mark Fine, Senior Director of Marketing for the New York Mets

If Mark Fine, senior at American University and PR intern with the Baltimore Orioles, could peek into the future and see where present day Mark Fine was, he would be thrilled. The lifelong baseball fan would find himself as the Senior Director of Marketing for the New York Mets, coming off of a National League pennant season, and living out his dream of being a senior level executive for a MLB team.

However, if you explained the path that led him to this position, 22-year-old Mark Fine’s excitement would quickly fade. There was a time when he thought that the only way to become a senior level exec in baseball was to spend his career working in baseball. After finishing up his internship with the Orioles and graduating from American, the need for a job that paid actual money sent him to the MLB winter meetings where he was offered a position as the Director of Public Relations for the Frederick Keys, the Single-A Advanced affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles.

At first, Fine was simply excited to be working in baseball. But after awhile, the renaissance-man nature of minor league baseball that saw him do everything from wearing the mascot suit at team appearances to cleaning up the stadium after games to spending afternoons in the local Sam’s Club parking lot handing out pocket schedules, forced him to find other intrinsic motivators to keep him engaged.

The team was in the process of transitioning ownership to Comcast Spectacor, and this provided Mark with the ability to also make a transition. After three and a half years working for the Keys, Mark was moved to Philadelphia to work at the Wells Fargo Center, then known as the Wachovia Center, as a marketing manager in charge of any event that was not the Sixers or the Flyers. The lifelong baseball man became responsible for marketing events like the circus, Sesame Street, and random concerts.

As Mark describes that time, he points out that, “It wasn’t something I grew up thinking I wanted to do, but I went with it and I’m really glad I did, because it really taught me how to be a marketer. I really grew to enjoy marketing to families in particular.” It became his, “training ground”, and he knew that he would have to learn the ropes quickly and be prepared to move on to another arena.

After just under two years, Fine was sent to Norfolk, Virginia to work for Old Dominion University (ODU) as the Director of Marketing for the Constant Center. Mark worked at ODU for two years, and at that point, after seven and a half years working for Comcast Spectacor, he took a job as a Senior Director of Marketing for the Harlem Globetrotters. He would work there for four and a half years, becoming a Vice President for Live Event Marketing, before he received a phone call from Turnkey Sports about an opening with the New York Mets.

Mark credits the relationships he had built over the years with people at Turnkey, including Carolyne Savini, the Senior Vice President and General Manager of Turnkey Search, that ended up allowing him to be a contender when the Mets Senior Director of Marketing position became available.

Mark pointed out, “It’s important to establish those relationships. Turnkey is one of the bigger recruiting agencies in sports for sports executives, and I was able to connect with Carolyne and it was great. She was able to explain to the Mets that what I was doing in entertainment marketing for the Globetrotters could match up with assisting the Mets and providing what the Mets wanted.”

For Fine, the road to New York may not have been the one he originally envisioned, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I’m glad I went the path I did because it gave me more experience to learn how to be a marketer and to learn how to be a business executive and professional. I was very fortunate. I didn’t see that at 22-years-old. I quickly realized what a great opportunity it was to work for a company like Comcast, to grow with them, to learn how to be a marketer and to really cut my teeth.”

“It brought me back eventually to the sports side and to a baseball team. I don’t think I would have gotten here had I just stayed on as an intern. I’m glad I got to experience minor league ball and what it was like to market a show like the circus or Sesame Street Live or the Globetrotters because it was hard. You had to learn to be a good marketer. The Globetrotters are a great brand, but you had to market; you had to sell. This wasn’t a Billy Joel concert that just sells itself. This is something you really have to hone in on and sell.”

All of the experience and challenges he faced while trying to market the Globetrotters and the circus prepared Mark for how he approaches his current position with the Mets.

“I feel like when I came in here it was no different. You need to think beyond wins and losses on the field. We think about the experience and being able to control what we can control. We put together a lot of things before the team went to the World Series and now, because those brands are in place, we are able to take advantage of the success on the field.”

“You have to get creative. You have to dig deeper to sell a ticket to a live event, no matter what that live event is. It’s a different age in live event marketing. It’s a lot different than it used to be. Everyone will ask me if our main competitor is the Yankees. I tell them our competitors are all the other entertainment outlets out there that would prevent someone from coming to a live event at a baseball stadium.”

“So, we have to get beyond the wins and losses on the field and provide that incredible experience because you and I both know that attending a game in person is far better; it’s just at what cost in terms of price, time, efficiency, etc. I feel like my experiences before coming to the Mets allow me to think a little deeper. In the end, you just never stop. You keep going until every ticket is sold.”

In reaching back to give his younger self some final words of wisdom, Mark said, “You have to be open to everything. I didn’t grow up dreaming of marketing Sesame Street Live, but I really liked it and I think you need to be open to those things. Be open to where your career takes you.”

“When Comcast approached me, my only experience out of school was with a minor league baseball team and I could have said no. I could have said I want to be a baseball guy, but I’m really glad I was able to do something that was out of my wheelhouse because I was able to learn and grow. When a company gives you an opportunity to learn and grow, you have to take it and learn as much as possible. Even if you think you won’t like it, you’ve got to be willing to learn and grow, and that is my life lesson.”

Mark can be reached on LinkedIn here.

This interview was presented to you by the University of Nebraska — Lincoln Master of Arts in Business with a Specialization in Intercollegiate Athletics Administration