Lessons from Leaders – Bryan Blair

This College Leaders segment features Bryan Blair, Deputy Athletic Director and Chief Operating Officer at Washington State University.  In the four years that Bryan and his team have been in Pullman, they’ve worked to build a culture that highlights and celebrates what is unique about Wazzou.  Bryan and David hit on hiring coaches and staff that are cultural fits, embracing your identity and taking risks to move college athletics forward.

Here are three major themes from this episode:

Communicate your vision as passionately and vividly as possible (15:25)

Strategic plans are often created, shared to the team via email, then wind up on a shelf somewhere. But when Bryan and the team at Washington State unveiled their strategic plan to the department, they treated it like a new coach announcement. There were cheerleaders throwing t-shirts into the crowd and the band playing the fight song. To galvanize your team and unite everyone around one vision, be bold. Go over the top. The more effort you put into communicating your vision, the more people will pay attention and buy-in.  

Lean into what makes you unique (18:35)

Mike Leach, Washington State’s football coach from 2012-19, is one of the quirkiest characters in college sports. Rather than hiding those quirks behind-the-scenes, Bryan and team highlighted Leach’s antics and personality in every way they could, through bobblehead nights to sell more tickets, filming him answering fan questions for more content, even having him teach a college course and flying media in to sit in on the class. As Bryan told us, “If you’ve got something unique, don’t shy away from it.  Amplify it, tell that story, and then you’ll attract the right people that are interested in your uniqueness.” With so many entertainment options today, it’s more impactful to connect deeply with a smaller group of fans than connect at the surface with the masses.  

Innovate or Die (29:23)

Bryan and his team have designed a culture where innovation is a high priority, partially out of necessity to compete with traditional industry leaders. Bryan’s belief is “If you just say ‘we’re going to do what we’ve always done,’ you’re not going to get what you’ve always got. You’re going to get less of it gradually.” Your fans’ expectations of you are only partially shaped by what you’ve offered in the past. Their expectations are mostly shaped by companies they engage with every day. Amazon has changed expectations for how fast merchandise should ship. Spotify and Netflix have changed expectations for personalized recommendations.  Disney has changed expectations for customer service. If you’re not getting better at exceeding customer needs every day, your customers will eventually leave. 

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Flip the Switch

College Leaders | Celebrating and Amplifying Your Unique Culture w/ Bryan Blair

This College Leaders segment features Bryan Blair, Deputy Athletic Director and Chief Operating Officer at Washington State University.  In the four years that Bryan and his team have been in Pullman, they’ve worked to build a culture that highlights and celebrates what is unique about Wazzou.  Bryan and David hit on hiring coaches and staff that are cultural fits, embracing your identity and taking risks to move college athletics forward.


2:31 Balancing Performance and Culture in Coaching Hires

6:21 Marrying a Coach’s Culture with the Department Culture

8:17 Defining Cultural “Fit”

11:25 Weaving Your Core Values Into Your Operation

13:56 Capturing What Works and Infusing a New Culture

15:25 Ingraining Your Purpose Statement in the Organization

16:28 Rallying Your Team Behind Your Mission

18:35 Embracing What Makes You Unique

25:41 Leaning Into NIL  

29:23 Equipping Your Team for Success

38:30 Bryan’s Billboard

For more on topics mentioned in this episode:

Washington State’s Strategic Plan

The Ride of a Lifetime by Bob Iger

How is the Culture in Your Kingdom? – Listen to this Flip the Switch episode for more from Dan Cockerell

Connect with Bryan on LinkedIn, Twitter or via email!

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Flip the Switch

College Leaders | The “Glocalization” of Sport and Immersive Fan Experiences w/ Rick Burton

A long-time sports executive, Rick Burton brings a breadth of experience and insights to this week’s podcast.  After roles in brand management with Miller Lite, a stint as commissioner of the National Basketball League in Australia and Chief Marketing Officer for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Rick has spent the last 12 years at Syracuse University as the David B. Falk Professor of Sport Management and Faculty Athletics Representative.  He’s also co-authored three books and contributes regularly to Sports Business Journal, as well as Sportico and Sport Business.  

This episode goes deep on all of Rick’s specialties – sports marketing sponsorship, the Tokyo Olympics, organizational management and leadership and ESports. 

Show Notes

(4:11)  The Digital, Global and 24/7/365 Economies

(5:23)  An Impactful Career

(9:29)  Rick’s Inspirations

(12:46)  Emerging Leaders – Skating to Where the Puck is Going

(15:40)  Proactive vs. Reactive Leadership and Exploring New Trends

(18:43)  Content Consumption – Are You Scuba Diving or Jet Skiing?

(22:58)  What to Expect from the Tokyo Olympic Games

(28:16)  The Role of Faculty Athletics Representative

(33:20)  The NIL Impact

(39:22)  Shifting Traditional College Athletics Mindsets

(43:36)  Traditional Sports Diversifying into Digital Worlds

(50:24)  Moore’s Law of Digital Transformation

(53:38)  The Mission of Athletic Departments

(55:09) Rick’s Billboard of Advice

For more information on the topics covered this episode:

Moore’s Law
Ready Player One

Connect with Rick via email or on Twitter

Read more from Rick

Forever Orange: The Story of Syracuse University
20 Secrets to Success for NCAA Student-Athletes Who Won’t Go Pro
The Sport Business Handbook: Insights From 100+ Leaders Who Shaped 50 Years of the Industry
Sports Business Unplugged: Leadership Challenges from the World of Sports

Sportico Guest Columns  |  Other Recent Publications 

Today’s episode was sponsored by CheckdIn.  Know exactly who’s working in your venue.

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Flip the Switch

College Leaders | Dreaming Big with DePaul’s DeWayne Peevy

Flip the Switch is all about uncovering the latest trends in sports and entertainment and the experiments organizations are running.  Working alongside college athletic departments has inspired a new series: Flip the Switch – College Leaders.  Joining David on the show will be senior leaders who are transforming the industry, setting the trends and paving new trails.  

Our first guest of the series is DeWayne Peevy, Vice President and Director of Athletics at DePaul University.  Peevy became AD in September of 2020, after 12 years at Kentucky, including the last 7 as Deputy AD.  

In this episode, DeWayne shares his experience from the first 10 months in the role, lessons from his past that have influenced his leadership style today and the vision he has for DePaul, recently announced through the department’s new “Dream Big” strategic plan.

Show Notes:

(6:41)  The First Ten Months 

(7:50)  Building the Bigger University Brand 

(10:47) NIL & Launching Legacy 

(17:22) The 5 Pillars of DePaul’s Strategic Plan 

(21:50)  Challenging Your Team to Meet Your Vision

(31:18)  What Would I Want My Leader to Do?

(37:26)  Learning through Adversity – Biggest Lessons in DeWayne’s Career 

(45:16)  Building the Circle of Trust and Transparency

(55:41)  DeWayne’s Billboard: Dream Big

Watch on Youtube:

For more information on the topics covered this episode:
DePaul’s Strategic Plan
LEGACY – An Immersive Entrepreneurship & Brand Development Program

Connect with DeWayne on Twitter or LinkedIn

Today’s episode was sponsored by CheckdIn.  Know exactly who’s working in your venue.

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Flip the Switch

Trusted Strategic Advisors in College Athletics w/ Dan Gale and Tim Rebich

For our second Flip the Switch Live episode, we are joined by Dan Gale of Leona Marketing Group and Tim Rebich of Varsity Partners.  Sharing their perspectives as third-parties in the college athletics space, this episode is more idea-based than best practices focused.  Dan, Tim and David forecast where college athletics is headed and the impacts NIL and multimedia sponsorship will have on the industry.

Show Notes

10:28 – Introducing Dan Gale and Tim Rebich

17:09 – Embracing NIL and Fair Market Value

22:49 – Creating Endemic Brand Experiences

28:08 – Changing Landscape for Multimedia Rights

36:31 – Brand Loyalty and Brand Value Alignment

40:13 – Redefining Corporate Sponsorship Assets

49:57 – Building Trust as a Third-Party Operator

56:32 – Shifting Mindsets in College Athletics

1:01:43 – Parting Advice


Connect with Dan on LinkedIn
Follow Dan on Twitter
Visit Leona Marketing Group’s Website

Connect with Tim on LinkedIn
Follow Tim on Twitter
Follow Varsity Partners

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Lessons From Leaders – Mike Farrell

Insights from our Flip the Switch podcast:

This week we sat down with Mike Farrell, Assistant AD for Broadcasting and Video Production for the University of Maryland. In the last year, Mike and his team launched “Terrapin Club+” often dubbed “Netflix for Terps.”

Mike’s passion for the project was evident through the entire interview, especially when he attributed the stories of the student-athletes and alumni as his greatest source of inspiration.

From the conversation, here are three key takeaways to reinvent your content strategy and deepen connections with your customers.

Value creation > Value capture

The concept for Terrapin Club+ was part of a larger initiative to “reinvent” the Terrapin Club, the fundraising arm of the department, and create more of a membership experience than a donation experience.  The mindset changed from “philanthropic giving” to “providing value” and giving some of Maryland’s biggest supporters a deeper connection to the student-athletes they support through their stories in the One Maryland magazine and Terrapin Club+ shows.  

If you look across most professional leagues, there is a mentality shift from being a season ticket “holder” to a season ticket “member”.  Changing one word can shift the thought process from something transactional to something relational, where the focus becomes building a long-term relationship with the fan so they are invested beyond game day.  

How else are you creating value for your most loyal customers? What else do they want out of the relationship with your organization? Do all fans want free t-shirts or priority entrance lines? Some might. But the majority just want access. Not sideline field access (although that doesn’t hurt either), access to the real story, who makes up the team off the field.  Maybe there’s a story that a fan can relate too. We become so much more invested when it’s personal.  

The digital transition we’ve experienced in the last year presents challenges and opportunities to personalize the customer experience. Going from paper to digital tickets might eliminate season ticket pickup events or delivering them to fans’ houses. Team posters also went digital so do you still have your major autograph events? The time you save from organizing season tickets can be used to create several small scale events for fans, like these from New York City FC. Or invite season ticket members to be the “special ambassadors” participating in existing events like Kansas City Chiefs’ Style Lounge. Treat kids like the student-athletes and mic them up at camps – you might strike content gold like West Virginia

When you create additional value, you create leverage when you need to increase ticket prices.  Disney is a prime example of this.  Ticket prices increase yearly, but they continue to increase the value proposition with new attractions, new shows and new personalized experiences that Guests don’t blink at the price increase.  

The Terrapin Club+ provides the story and the value and coupled with the work of the Terrapin Club, they’ve seen a 100% year-over-year growth in membership. 

Attention spans aren’t getting shorter.  They are getting more selective.

We’ve asked a few guests about something they’ve recently changed their mind about and Mike beat us to the punch with this answer.  

“I don’t think that attention spans are actually getting shorter. I think that there’s just a massive amount of content out there that’s decent or okay…It’s throw-away content. But if you give them something that they actually care about, that they actually will want to invest in, they’re going to watch the whole thing.”

The pandemic not only changed consumption habits – average screen time increased from just over 3 hours in 2019 to 6 hours and 59 minutes in 2020 – but also what we consumed.  People watched 12.2 billion minutes of video last year (23,211 years’ worth of content!)  Netflix viewers averaged 3.2 hours of streaming per day.  155 million people listened to at least one podcast a week, 68 million listening to more than one. You could argue we were on that path though – binge-watching series didn’t just start last year.

For years, it’s been all about content marketing.  There was such a push to meet fans on every platform they were on, which has resulted in an abundance of content.  The term “content shock” was first coined in 2015.  But it also resulted in generic content that “could” appeal to wide audiences.

The creator economy is challenging brands to think about designing content for niche audiences.  Now the question is, are you developing a content marketing strategy or a community marketing strategy? 

Community marketing is about “engaging with customers while building trust and loyalty and reaching a wider audience.”

We discussed on a recent podcast with David Meerman Scott that inherently, we’re all wired to want to be part of a tribe.

That desire for community became even more evident over the last year.   

What has made Terrapin Club + successful is the relationships they are deepening with their tribe by appealing to different groups in the Maryland fan base.  Not only were the five series designed with different audiences in mind, but the shows in the series evoke a connection with a range of long-time fans and donors who watched basketball games at Cole Field House to recent grads that might have been part of The Crew at Maryland Men’s Soccer games.  

As a result, fans are tuning in and watching the videos for an average of 6.5 minutes!  You don’t have to follow the social media guidelines of 1:00 videos and hooking people in the first 5 seconds.  The content just has to be meaningful to your audience.

The opportunities from storytelling

There will be a seismic shift once Name-Image-Likeness goes into effect and  July 1 is just around the corner.  The fear of the unknown has led to a widespread “wait-and-see” mentality.  Yes, schools have invested in new partnerships with INFLCR and Opendorse.  But, then what?

It goes back to the community marketing conversation.  People want to build connections and NIL could actually be a partnership between schools and student-athletes to build those communities.  Mike shared his unofficial thoughts to this relationship:

“We want our student athletes to be able to use the video content and the graphic content of the photography that we’re able to deliver to them to help boost their social numbers and grow their audience and really let people understand who they are, not just on the court or on the field, but as people….They can have a narrative of who they are and where they want to be already established and people and companies that want to partner with them know who they’re, who they’re going to be talking to, and the value that they’re going to be able to bring.”

Restrictions on time for official team activities can hold content teams back from asking student-athletes to participate in one more thing.  As we learned from Mike, the student-athletes wanted to tell their stories.  

There will be endorsers from NIL.  If you revisit our conversation with INFLCR’s Jim Cavale, they will be your performers.  However, the other 98% of student-athletes are producers and players.  How might you work together to share their interests in fashion, music, cooking, or growing up outside of the U.S. and produce ancillary content that can attract new fans to their brand and ultimately yours? 

From there, what can you offer them beyond tickets to a game?  Would they have an interest in one-of-a-kind shoes you design with your equipment provider?  Do you offer the right merchandise in your team store to match the latest spending trends? Could you find new artists to promote your brand around town or perform at your street festival or halftime show? 95 percent of fans will never attend a home game of their favorite team. Their lifetime value to your organization can still be impactful.

For more on our conversation with Mike Farrell, listen to the full episode here.

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Flip the Switch

How Maryland Created ‘Netflix for Terps’

This week’s guest is Mike Farrell, Assistant AD for Broadcasting and Video Production at University of Maryland.  As part of Maryland’s 75-year Terrapin Club “Reinvented” campaign, Mike and his team created Terrapin Club +.  Often referred to as “Netflix for Terps”, the subscription service is the first of its kind in college athletics and features five shows to create additional value for Terrapin Club members and share the stories of Maryland current and former student-athletes. 

We go in-depth on content strategies and deepening ties with your tribes in this episode.

6:30  Terrapin Club “Reinvented” and Terrapin Club +

8:17 Creating Membership Value Over Donor Programs

11:10 Biggest Production Surprises and Challenges

14:56 The Student-Athlete Perspective

16:30 Content Strategy and Distribution Strategy

25:06 Authenticity vs. Production Quality

28:08 Diving in on the Terrapin Club + Five Series

38:11 The NIL Impact

43:30 Measuring Success

47:46 Maryland’s Sources of Inspiration

50:24 Rapid Fire Questions

     Books Inspiring Mike

     A Life-Changing Perspective

     Mike’s Billboard

*SLIGHT CORRECTION* – Since the launch of Terrapin Club +, the Terrapin Club has seen a 100% year-over-year growth, rather than the 100% growth mentioned in the show.


Check out  Terrapin Club+   |  YouTube

Follow Mike
Twitter  |  Instagram

Additional References
Errol Morris Documentaries

Michael’s Favorite Books
This is Not a T-Shirt by Bobby Hundreds
Winning the Story Wars by Jonah Sachs
True Story by Ty Montague

Shout out to all those who produce and support Terrapin Club + 

Haley Timple, Jonah Haas, Tony Price, Jarred Belman, John Bartman, Josh Clayton, Alex Gross, Thomas Mason, Jason Yellin, Patrick Fischer, Taylor Smyth, Jordan Looby, Brian Ullmann, Carrie Blankenship, Kendall Butters, Jake Rose, Andy Wray, Alex Grant


Today’s episode was sponsored by CheckdIn.  Know exactly who’s working in your venue.

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Flip the Switch

Building Athlete Brands and Priming for NIL with Jim Cavale

This episode covers everything from leadership and building a company, to NIL legislation and empowering student-athletes.  Today’s guest is Jim Cavale, Founder and CEO of INFLCR.  With NIL legislation set to go into effect this summer, college athletic departments are facing so many unknowns. Jim and his team recently launched INFLCR Verified and INFLCR Plus, initiatives to help athletic departments and student-athletes proactively prepare for this change and provide them the tools to capitalize on their brand power and voice.

Jim Cavale Show Notes

4:20     Giving Athletes a Better Brand and Voice – Genesis of INFLCR

6:32     Leveraging Relationships and Forging Connections

10:37   Evolution of INFLCR and Partnership with Teamworks

21:31   Inception of INFLCR Verified

27:43   Building an Internal Creative Agency

30:44   From “Athlete Brand Building” to “Name Image Likeness”

33:10   Performers, Producers and Players

37:36   Combating Legislation Paralysis

40:31   Model of Leadership – SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey

43:50   Four Domains of Personal Balance


Additional References
Wake Up Warrior

Connect with Jim
Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Instagram  |  LinkedIn


Today’s episode was sponsored by CheckdIn.  Know exactly who’s working in your venue.

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Flip the Switch

NIL & NFTs w/ Luka Garza

In today’s episode, David is joined by Luka Garza, starting center for the Iowa Hawkeyes,  AP College Basketball Player of the Year, and winner of the 2021 Naismith Trophy. They discuss name, image, and likeness, the launch of Luka’s new NFT company and how Luka hopes to provide opportunities for college athletes to monetize their brand, and the importance of college athletes being able to control their own brand.

Show Notes:

5:11 Digital Engagement Fan Support during 2020-21

6:56 Breaking into the NFT game

10:11  The Experiential Component of NFTs

11:02  The Role of NFTs in NIL

13:38  Launch of

15:10 Takeaways from Luka’s first NFT

17:44  Future partners of 

19:16  Leveraging partnerships to boost student-athlete brands

20:45 The student-athlete perspective on NIL

22:54  Turning NIL from a Zero-Sum game to a Win-Win situation 

Additional Notes:

Follow Luka Garza – |  Instagram  |  Twitter

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